Artificial Sweeteners Really Mess up Your Gut…

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These past few years, there’s been a lot published on the gut microbiome, or the health of the friendly bacteria in your digestive tract. We know that many medications including antibiotics can mess up that delicate balance. However, recent research shows that because of “Splenda side effects”, artificial sweeteners should also be added to the list.

Artificial sweeteners are a modern free lunch concept. You get all of the sweetness of sugar to satisfy your sugar addict cravings, but none of the baggage. However, research has begun to make clear that artificial sweeteners have some real issues. For instance, eating sucralose (Splenda or the yellow packets) causes your response to eating sugar to be worse in terms of insulin secretion. As a review, over secretion of insulin in one of the major health risks in the U.S. today leading to diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. In addition, unlike real sugar, artificial sweeteners leave your hormonal hunger switches in the “on” position leaving you feeling hungry when you shouldn’t be.

Your gut has loads of friendly bacteria integral in keeping you alive. They help defend your body and act as a second immune system, killing off bad bacteria. They also help control your weight, as these bacteria also consume calories. At the most extreme, patients can get very sick in hard to treat diseases like C. Difficile Colitis. Amazingly, patients can be rescued literally from death’s doorstep from this disease by transplanting the bacteria from a healthy person into their gut.

The new study looked at the microbiome (the totality of friendly bacteria that live in your digestive system) with the consumption of artificial sweeteners. They found that these fake sugars mess up the balance of the good bacteria, leading to an inability to process real sugar in the correct way. This altered gut bacteria can lead to the hyper-insulin secretion seen in many modern developing and first world nations and this issue causes metabolic syndrome (pre-diabetes). The research group not only demonstrated this in mice, but also found the same pattern of altered gut bacteria in humans that commonly consumed artificial sweeteners.

The upshot? Fake sugars are no free lunch, they do the opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish by dieting by causing you to feel more hungry and not less. Messing up your gut microbiome is a big problem, especially when it makes you react to real sugars like a early stage diabetic. So the next time you reach for that “Diet” Coke, realize that there ain’t nothing diet about it!

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Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications. View Profile

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