Disruption in the gut microbiota is now recognized as an active contributor towards the development of obesity and insulin resistance. This review considers one class of dietary additives known to influence the gut microbiota that may predispose susceptible individuals to insulin resistance - the regular, long-term consumption of low-dose, low calorie sweeteners. While the data are controversial, mounting evidence suggests that low calorie sweeteners should not be dismissed as inert in the gut environment. Sucralose, aspartame and saccharin, all widely used to reduce energy content in foods and beverages to promote satiety and encourage weight loss, have been shown to disrupt the balance and diversity of gut microbiota. Fecal transplant experiments, wherein microbiota from low calorie sweetener consuming hosts are transferred into germ-free mice, show that this disruption is transferable and results in impaired glucose tolerance, a well-known risk factor towards the development of a number of metabolic disease states. As our understanding of the importance of the gut microbiota in metabolic health continues to grow, it will be increasingly important to consider the impact of all dietary components, including low calorie sweeteners, on gut microbiota and metabolic health.
Keywords: Glucoregulation; Insulin resistance; Low calorie sweetener; Microbiota; Non-nutritive sweeteners.
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