By now, we all know that your gut microbiome plays a huge part in your overall health. It can affect your mental health (the gut-brain axis is real, people), it can change your entire mood, and yes, it widely influences your metabolism. But when it comes to what influences your gut health, it seems we’re finding new information each week. Healthy gut habits can help in maintaining a good level of gut bacteria (you want those — that’s a positive thing!), and we know that vegetables and fermented foods are some of the prime foods you should be eating on the daily in order to keep your gut in check. But on the flip side, researchers just added one more ingredient to the “bad for your gut” list.
According to a study published in the journal Molecules, artificial sweeteners like the ones present in diet soda, can wreck havoc on your intestinal system.
For years, doctors, dentists, and nutritionists alike have all warned us against artificial sweeteners. They lead to weight gain, can affect your fertility, and even leaves you bloated. Read: nothing good here. And now, you can add gut damage to its long list of negative effects.
“The results of this study might help in understanding the relative toxicity of artificial sweeteners and the potential of negative effects on the gut microbial community as well as the environment,” says Ariel Kushmaro, who worked on the research.
In the study, six different artificial sweeteners (and 10 sports supplements they were hiding in) were all cleared by the FDA. Unfortunately, the researchers determined that when they completed exams with mice, all of the tested artificial sweeteners (namely: aspartame, sucralose, saccharine, neotame, advantame, and acesulfame potassium-k) were toxic to the gut microbe.
The most immediate effect, researchers warned, was that these sweeteners would cause a glucose intolerance and would slow down the metabolism, keeping you from properly processing and digesting your food intake.
But the worst part, researchers warn, is that these artificial sweeteners are not always obvious. Yes, they’re in diet soda, but they’re also loaded into other foods and drinks that are labeled as “low sugar.” The truth is, they’re highly likely to be in foods even without your knowing. Your best bet? Read that ingredients list and know what you’re looking for, and protect your gut so it can work for, not against, you.