Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes. They help in adding sweetness to food and drinks without giving any extra calories. They are found in almost all the processed foods like candy, chewing gum or soda. They were thought to be safe earlier, but the long-term use has brought questions about the safety of consuming these on a regular basis.
Artificial sweeteners, when ingested, pass through the digestive system untouched. This was the reason scientists thought that the artificial sweeteners might not have any effects on body, although, recent studies have found that there is a change in the gut bacteria. It is seen that artificial sweeteners change the constitution of animal gut. Few animal studies have shown that saccharin diminished the number of the beneficial gut bacteria. More research is needed to determine the effects of artificial sweeteners in human intestine.
The gut flora present in the intestine is essential for many of the processes in the body. They act as prebiotics and protect against infection and inflammation. If there is an imbalance in the bacteria that are present in the gut (dysbiosis), there can be higher risk of gut problems like celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Artificial sweeteners can be a sugar substitute for diabetics and those who are looking forward to losing weight, but they have been linked with risks of obesity, dementia and type 2 diabetes. Extensive research is required to determine the link between artificial sweeteners and the risks of developing these diseases though.
As for the short-term use, artificial sweeteners may be preferred over sugar consumption as high sugar consumption is related to higher risks of dental cavities, poor mental health & increased risk of heart diseases and diabetes. However, it is best to go sugar-free without the consumption of any artificial sweeteners or cane sugar, as high doses of artificial sweeteners are linked with diabetes in the long run.
Consumption of artificial sweeteners is safe only for a short period of time as they may help in reducing the overall calorie consumption per day. On a long term, it is best to avoid artificial sweeteners and cane sugar, if you are glucose intolerant or diabetic. Additional to this, artificial sweeteners reduce the number of good bacteria in the gut. Therefore, a sugar free diet is the best option, to make sure that you are leading a healthy lifestyle and to lose weight.