It’s a little-known fact that artificial sweeteners have been shown to induce glucose intolerance by altering gut microbiota. Research led by Eran Elinav of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, first showed that mice fed artificial sweeteners developed glucose intolerance after 11 weeks. They then revealed that altering the animals’ gut bacteria influenced their glucose response.

Specifically, when they transplanted feces from glucose-intolerant mice consuming saccharin to mice with sterile intestines, the latter group developed glucose intolerance, “indicating that saccharin was causing the microbiome to become unhealthy,” Scientific American reported. Perhaps the most revealing part of the experiments came when the researchers tested artificial sweeteners on people. 

In particular, diabetics tend to have fewer firmicutes and more plentiful amounts of bacteroidetes and proteobacteria compared to nondiabetics. A positive correlation for the ratios of bacteroidetes to firmicutes and reduced glucose tolerance has also been found.

A researcher in Amsterdam, Dr. Max Nieuwdorp, has published a number of studies looking at changes in the microbiome that are characteristic of Type 2 diabetes. In one trial, he was able to reverse Type 2 diabetes in all of the 250 study participants by doing fecal transplantations on them. Remarkable as it may sound, by changing the makeup of the gut bacteria, the diabetes was resolved, so it’s not a stretch to think that the opposite could also hold true.

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