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Artificial sweetener neotame has shocking effects on gut health

Artificial sweeteners are appealing to those who want a sweet taste without the calories or health concerns associated with sugar. Yet, emerging research continues to uncover potential gut harm caused by sugar substitutes, such as neotame.

A new study from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) sheds light on neotame, a relatively newer artificial sweetener, and its shocking effects on the gut.

How neotame wrecks havoc on the gut microbiome

According to the research, neotame directly harms the gut’s protective lining and changes the behavior of good gut bacteria. This can weaken the gut barrier and disrupt the gut microbiome. These changes affect digestion, immune health, and can lead to various health problems.

Neotame’s impact on epithelial cells in the gut

Research indicates that neotame has the capacity to directly induce cell death in the epithelial cells that line your intestinal walls. The exact mechanism by which this occurs is still being investigated but might involve the disruption of essential cellular functions.

The epithelial lining of the gut plays a crucial role in maintaining a physical barrier between the contents of your digestive tract and your internal systems.

This barrier is essential for both nutrient absorption and for protecting your body from harmful toxins, pathogens, and other substances found within the gut. Neotame’s ability to kill these cells directly undermines the integrity of this barrier.

Neotame’s disruption of gut microbes

Your gut is home to trillions of microorganisms, including bacteria like E.coli and E. faecalis. In a healthy state, many of these bacteria contribute to digestive processes and play a role in immune system support. However, exposure to neotame appears to induce negative changes in these bacteria.

Neotame can cause normally beneficial gut bacteria to become harmful. This includes increased adherence (sticking) to the gut wall, the ability to invade the gut lining, and the potential to break through the gut barrier and enter the bloodstream.

If harmful bacteria escape the confines of the gut and reach the bloodstream, this can cause sepsis – a life-threatening condition where the body has an extreme inflammatory response to infection.

Consequences of a Neotame compromised gut

Your gut is often called the “second brain.” It’s home to trillions of microorganisms, collectively known as your gut microbiome, that have a profound influence on your overall well-being. Here’s what might happen when neotame disrupts your delicate gut ecosystem:

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

As discussed, damage to the gut barrier can lead to increased intestinal permeability (often called “leaky gut”). This allows unwanted substances to pass through the gut lining and into the body, potentially triggering inflammation and immune responses that exacerbate IBS symptoms.

Research suggests that people with IBS often have altered gut microbiota compared to healthy individuals. An imbalance between beneficial and harmful gut bacteria can contribute to digestive distress, including abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation.


A compromised gut barrier allows harmful bacteria to potentially escape from the digestive tract and enter the bloodstream. This translocation of bacteria can trigger a severe systemic inflammatory response known as sepsis.

Sepsis is a medical emergency. When not promptly treated, it can progress to septic shock, leading to multiple organ failure and death.

Metabolic and inflammatory disorders

The gut microbiome plays a significant role in regulating various metabolic processes, including energy harvesting from food and blood sugar control. An altered gut microbiome can contribute to metabolic dysregulation, leading to issues such as insulin resistance (a precursor to type 2 diabetes).

Disruptions in the gut microbiome from neotame can promote low-grade, chronic inflammation throughout the body. This sustained inflammation is a key contributor to the development of numerous chronic health conditions, including metabolic disorders, cardiovascular disease, and possibly even some forms of cancer.

Neotame’s place among other artificial sweeteners

This isn’t the first time artificial sweeteners have been under scrutiny. “There is now growing awareness of the health impacts of sweeteners such as saccharin, sucralose and aspartame, with our own previous work demonstrating the problems they can cause to the wall of the intestine and the damage to the ‘good bacteria’ which form in our gut,” said study senior author Dr. Havovi Chichger.

For people struggling with weight control, diabetes, or glucose intolerance, artificial sweeteners can be a tool. But the research on neotame and other sweeteners paints a complex picture. While they reduce sugar intake, the long-term consequences of their effect on the gut remain a significant health concern.

Things to consider

Before using any artificial sweetener, consider the following:

Moderation is key

  • Small amounts if needed: If you decide to incorporate artificial sweeteners into your diet, it’s crucial to do so with extreme caution. Using them sparingly minimizes potential exposure and reduces the risk of negative effects on gut health.
  • Retraining your palate: Our taste preferences are adaptable. Gradually reducing your intake of artificial sweeteners and highly sweetened foods allows your taste buds to adjust. Over time, you’ll appreciate and enjoy the subtle sweetness of naturally occurring sugars found in fruits, vegetables, and some dairy products.

Read food labels

  • Ingredient awareness: Scrutinize ingredient lists carefully. Artificial sweeteners like neotame, sucralose, aspartame, and others can appear in a surprising variety of products, including diet drinks, processed snacks, chewing gum, and even seemingly “healthy” bars or beverages.
  • Hidden names: Artificial sweeteners can go by many names. Be vigilant in spotting them on food labels to make more informed choices about what you consume.

Natural alternatives

  • Stevia and monk fruit: These plant-derived sweeteners have little to no impact on blood sugar levels, making them potentially safer options. However, some individuals may find they have an aftertaste or digestive sensitivities to them.
  • Use with caution: Even natural sweeteners shouldn’t be consumed in excess. The goal is to reduce your overall reliance on overly sweet flavors and to appreciate the inherent sweetness of whole foods.

Talk to your doctor

  • Personalized advice: Seeking guidance from your doctor or a registered dietitian is essential, especially if you have underlying health conditions like diabetes or any digestive issues.
  • Individualized approach: They can help you develop a dietary plan that addresses your specific needs and concerns while taking into account potential risks associated with artificial sweeteners.

The evolving understanding of the complex relationship between artificial sweeteners like neotame and gut health underscores the value of a whole-foods based diet. This recent research on neotame is another reminder that what we put into our bodies has far-reaching effects beyond simple taste and metabolism.

Prioritizing healthy, unprocessed foods is the best way to support your gut microbiome and your overall well-being for the long term.

The study is published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition.


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