Over the course of many years the role of sugar in our diets has been a hot topic of debate. Much research has been done and much has been published on the effects of sugar on the human body. In the effort to reduce sugar and calories in the diet in hopes of combating obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, many have and are turning to sugar substitutes and artificial sweeteners.
The widespread use of artificial sweeteners found in both drinks and foods can have a profound effect on your gut’s microbiota. They in fact may cause certain gut bacteria to induce glucose intolerance and metabolic disease, which are strongly associated with promoting inflammation based diseases such as obesity and diabetes.
According to the research, artificial sweeteners, once promoted as aiding in preventing diabetes and weight loss, can disrupt the composition and function of the body’s gut microorganisms and thus triggering metabolic changes. Despite being “sugar -free” they have a powerful effect on the body’s ability to utilize glucose. Glucose intolerance is the initial step that leads to metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes ( adult-onset).
Gut microbes are essential and must be in the right balance for optimal health. Plentiful and thriving microbiome supplies us with critical nutrients, helping us fight off toxic pathogens, keeping our immune system in balance and helps modulate our weight and metabolic function by releasing energy and calories from the food we consume.
The researchers believe that certain bacteria in the gut of those individuals that develop glucose intolerance reacted to the chemical sweeteners by secreting substances that create an inflammatory response analogous to a sugar overload, which directly impacts the body’s ability to breakdown and utilize the sugar.
Take away: Do not use sugar substitutes. Stay away from Splenda, Equal, Sweet’N Low, Agave Nectar, Xylitol, and Erythritol.
Ok to use in small amounts are Stevia and Raw Honey.
One Note on Agave – Once touted as a healthy natural alternative has a high level of fructose. High amounts fructose can elevate your cholesterol, increase glycosylated hemoglobin ( a precursor to Type 2 diabetes), elevate your blood pressure, lead to insulin resistance and has been implicated in memory loss. Depending on how it is processed the amount of fructose in agave can be as high as the levels found in high fructose corn syrup!