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Zero-Calorie Sweeteners: Good or Bad?

I hate to break it to you, but aspartame and other non-caloric sweeteners affect your health, and not in a good way. In addition to being known carcinogens (known to cause cancer), many zero-calorie sweeteners can cause disease and inflammation through the gut.

Years ago, researchers found that zero-calorie sweeteners had an adverse effect on the gut microbiome in mice. But what about now?

120 healthy adults were included in a randomized controlled trial, published by the journal Cell 2022, that has confirmed its findings.

Here are the key details of this study:

  • Before the study began, all participants strictly abstained from artificial sweeteners.

  • For two weeks, individuals were supplied with saccharin, sucralose, aspartame and stevia sachets in dosages lower than the daily recommended intake. These participants were then compared to a control group.

  • All of the sweeteners affected both the microbiome of the mouth and gut differently, with sucralose having a particularly pronounced impact.

  • Both sucralose and saccharin had an adverse effect on glucose tolerance (blood sugar control).

  • It was established that modifications to the microbiome were directly associated with fluctuations in blood sugar regulation.

  • Each individual experienced the impacts differently.

The conclusion?

Despite being devoid of calories, sweeteners are not entirely inactive; they could potentially disrupt blood sugar levels due to their effects on the microbiome.

However, be aware that this does not equate to an open invitation to overindulge on sugar! Excess amounts of the sweet stuff are associated with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and a vast array of other health problems.

Let's use this as a reminder to get back to consuming natural, unprocessed foods with minimal additives and sweeteners. In this previous blog post, Sugar Substitutes 101, we go through all the sugars & which ones are best.


Suez J, Cohen Y, Valdés-Mas R et al. Personalized microbiome-driven effects of non-nutritive sweeteners on human glucose tolerance. Cell. 2022. [link]


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