Artificial sweeteners have been controversial for a while, although sometimes that controversy has been junk science. But more and more evidence is starting to pile up that artificial sweeteners may just be very, very bad for you.
A new paper in Nature has been tracking how artificial sweeteners affect the bacteria in your gut. You need these little guys on your side if you want to be healthy; they help you break down food, absorb water, and a whole bunch of other stuff. So any change to them is going to have a pretty strong effect on your health, and, well, guess what?
Artificial sweeteners saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame alter the gut bacteria to the point where you might develop “glucose intolerance,” which you might remember is one of the early warning signs that point to developing diabetes. Oh, it’s also a mortality factor, too, just in case that didn’t suck enough for your liking.
This is a huge problem for a number of reasons. First of all, artificial sweeteners have been given a tenative all-clear from groups like the American Diabetes Association, something that — if this study holds water — will have to be reconsidered. There have been red flags about artificial sweeteners for a while, but this whole “sets you up for a horrible chronic disease” thing is going to give doctors pause.
By the way, if you were wondering how serious this might have the potential to be, the Coca-Cola Corporation sold nearly a billion cases of Diet Coke in 2010. Might be time to switch to water, kids.