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Are sugar substitutes better?

Too much sugar is not good, but are sugar substitutes better? First of all, let's look at why too much sugar is not a good thing for health...

Sugar can alter the make up of the microbiome and lead to dysbiosis, or imbalanced bacteria, and candida or fungal overgrowth. According to this study, when in balance, the intestinal microbiota protects against the development of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and pre-diabetic phenotypes by inducing commensal-specific Th17 cells (Kawano, Y et al). These cells reduce the absorption of pathogenic fats from our intestinal epithelial cells, reducing inflammation. Th17 cells are produced from bacteria in our guts, and Th17 cells, and the bacteria that produce these cells, are depleted with sugar intake.

(Kawano, Y et al)

Our gut bacteria do so much for our health! The above study shows that the bacteria in our gut, when in balance, protect us from obesity and metabolic syndrome and lower inflammation throughout our bodies. A high fat, high sugar diet promotes gut inflammation and metabolic syndrome while a high fat, low sugar diet has protective effects against inflammation. Read more about fats here.

So what about sugar substitutes?

There are many variations of artificial sweeteners...

  • Non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS) such as acesulfame K, aspartame, cyclamate, saccharin, neotame, advantame, and sucralose.

  • Natural sweeteners (NS) such as thaumatin, steviol glucosides, monellin, neohesperidin dihydrochalcone, and glycyrrhizin.

  • Nutritive sweeteners such as polyols or sugar alcohols.

So, is consuming sweeteners a good thing?

Not all sweeteners have deleterious effects on the microbiome and health. In fact, some sweeteners, like xylitol, have been shown to increase bifidobacterium in humans which is a good thing as bifidobacterium are a benefical type of bacteria. Xylitol can be used as a biofilm breaker especially in the formation of dental plaque i.e. gum that contains xylitol can prevent cavities. This study shows, xylitol is eff