Plausible Biological Interactions of Low- and Non-Calorie Sweeteners with the Intestinal Microbiota: An Update of Recent Studies

Nutrients. 2020 Apr 21;12(4):1153. doi: 10.3390/nu12041153.


Sweeteners that are a hundred thousand times sweeter than sucrose are being consumed as sugar substitutes. The effects of sweeteners on gut microbiota composition have not been completely elucidated yet, and numerous gaps related to the effects of nonnutritive sweeteners (NNS) on health still remain. The NNS aspartame and acesulfame-K do not interact with the colonic microbiota, and, as a result, potentially expected shifts in the gut microbiota are relatively limited, although acesulfame-K intake increases Firmicutes and depletes Akkermansia muciniphila populations. On the other hand, saccharin and sucralose provoke changes in the gut microbiota populations, while no health effects, either positive or negative, have been described; hence, further studies are needed to clarify these observations. Steviol glycosides might directly interact with the intestinal microbiota and need bacteria for their metabolization, thus they could potentially alter the bacterial population. Finally, the effects of polyols, which are sugar alcohols that can reach the colonic microbiota, are not completely understood; polyols have some prebiotics properties, with laxative effects, especially in patients with inflammatory bowel syndrome. In this review, we aimed to update the current evidence about sweeteners' effects on and their plausible biological interactions with the gut microbiota.

Keywords: gut microbiota; nonnutritive sweeteners; sweetening agents.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aspartame / pharmacology
  • Diterpenes, Kaurane / pharmacology
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects*
  • Glucosides / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Non-Nutritive Sweeteners / pharmacology*
  • Polymers / pharmacology
  • Saccharin / pharmacology
  • Sucrose / analogs & derivatives
  • Sucrose / pharmacology
  • Thiazines / pharmacology


  • Diterpenes, Kaurane
  • Glucosides
  • Non-Nutritive Sweeteners
  • Polymers
  • Thiazines
  • polyol
  • stevioside
  • Sucrose
  • trichlorosucrose
  • Saccharin
  • acetosulfame
  • Aspartame