Sunday, October 12, 2014

Your Artificial Sweeteners, Your Bacteria, and Your Health

It seems like one cannot help hearing about this paper throughout the microbiome and related fields.  The paper "Artificial Sweeteners Induce Glucose Intolerance by Altering the Gut Microbiota" was recently published in Nature, and it has had a lot of press.  Interest in the paper is partially due to its focus on two hot topics: the influence of food on the gut microbiome and aspects of obesity, as well as artificial sweeteners, which have long been a topic of debate.  I presented this paper at our student microbiome journal club a couple of weeks ago, so I wanted to go over it here too.

The big three artificial sweeteners. <Source>
First let's get the media hype out of the way.  This paper has been oversold by the media as a reason to stop eating artificial sweeteners, and the results do not actually support this claim (we will get to this below).  Furthermore, to be honest, the title of the paper oversold itself a bit too.  The results don't quite support the bold title, which also contributed to some of the perceived hype surrounding the paper (we'll get to this below too).  But beyond the hype, this is a pretty great and interesting paper and worth discussing in more detail.