Artificial sweeteners are used in many foods without consumers knowing where they are. These are substitutes for sugar and have been proposed to tackle obesity. At present, there is no consensus among health experts about their health consequences as they have not been fully explored.
However, consumption of artificial sweeteners has been associated with certain side effects in some studies using experimental animals such as cancer, metabolic disorders, type 2 diabetes, impaired hepatic function and alteration of beneficial bowel bacteria. Surprisingly, a study showed that artificial sweeteners cause more weight gain than sugary soft drinks. In addition, artificial sweeteners have been identified as emerging environmental pollutants as they are resistant to sewage treatment processes and can be found in water, even in drinking.
During the study, the researchers exposed various bacterial strains in artificial sweeteners. Digestive bacteria encountered toxicity when exposed to artificial sweetener concentrations of just 1 mg per ml.
The six toxic artificial sweeteners were:
Aspartame (aspartame). Used in thousands of products. Its sweetening power is 180 to 200 times greater than that of sugar.
Sucralose. It is made from sugar by chemical treatment, resulting in a substance with a sweetness that exceeds 600 times that of sugar.
Saccharin. The strongest toxic effect was observed with saccharin, which is the oldest substitute for sugar and one of the most controversial food additives. It is prepared by oxidation of phthalic anhydride and is 300-400 times sweeter than sugar.
Neotame (neotame). It has a similar structure to aspartame but with a much higher sweetening power. The substance is at least 7,000 times sweeter than sugar.
Advantam. It is made from a mixture of aspartame and vanillin, a component of vanilla. It’s about 200 times sweeter than sugar.
Potassium acesulfame (acesulfame k or ace-k) or potassium acesulfame. It is one of the most commonly used sweeteners in the world. It’s about 200 times sweeter than sugar.
These six sweeteners are most often consumed by athletes who care for their diet. There are electrolyte drinks and dietary supplements.
Professor Ariel Kushmaro of the University of the Negev, who led the study, said “… the consumption of artificial sweeteners adversely affects intestinal microbial activity, which can cause a wide range of health issues.” And he added: “The results of this study can help to understand the relative toxicity of artificial sweeteners and the potential for negative effects on the bacterial bowel community and the environment.”