Sickly Sweet

Are sugar-free alternatives a SWEET idea for your gut?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Think of your stomach as a mine. Deep down, the miners — your gut bacteria — work to break down food into nutrients you can use. Things go smoothly when you eat healthy. But what if your body has to break down something unfamiliar — like artificial sugars? 

Aparna Shil and Havovi Chichger from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge investigated.

In the lab, they measured how well common gut bacteria grew when fed with artificial sweeteners. They also tested how human intestine cells handled these modified bacteria. 

And? Some bacteria grew more BIOFILM — sticky substances linked to medical conditions like acid reflux. Some bacteria grew at least TWENTY percent more biofilm — think extra slimy stomachs! These sugar-free microbes also invaded and killed human cells!

The researchers think artificial sugars cause bacteria to grow more biofilms, which could lead to digestive issues. 

Your sweet tooth tingling?… maybe reach a banana!

Reference: Shil, A., & Chichger, H. (2021). Artificial Sweeteners Negatively Regulate Pathogenic Characteristics of Two Model Gut Bacteria, E. coli and E. faecalis. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 22(10), 5228.