Effect of Non-Nutritive Sweeteners on the Gut Microbiota

Nutrients. 2023 Apr 13;15(8):1869. doi: 10.3390/nu15081869.


The human gut microbiota, a complex community of microorganisms living in the digestive tract, consists of more than 1500 species distributed in more than 50 different phyla, with 99% of bacteria coming from about 30-40 species. The colon alone, which contains the largest population of the diverse human microbiota, can harbor up to 100 trillion bacteria. The gut microbiota is essential in maintaining normal gut physiology and health. Therefore, its disruption in humans is often associated with various pathological conditions. Different factors can influence the composition and function of the gut microbiota, including host genetics, age, antibiotic treatments, environment, and diet. The diet has a marked effect, impacting the gut microbiota composition, beneficially or detrimentally, by altering some bacterial species and adjusting the metabolites produced in the gut environment. With the widespread use of non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS) in the diet, recent investigations have focused on their effect on the gut microbiota as a mediator of the potential impact generated by gastrointestinal-related disturbances, such as insulin resistance, obesity, and inflammation. We summarized the results from pre-clinical and clinical studies published over the last ten years that examined the single effects of the most consumed NNS: aspartame, acesulfame-K, sucralose, and saccharin. Pre-clinical studies have given conflicting results for various reasons, including the administration method and the differences in metabolism of the same NNS among the different animal species. A dysbiotic effect of NNS was observed in some human trials, but many other randomized controlled trials reported a lack of significant impacts on gut microbiota composition. These studies differed in the number of subjects involved, their dietary habits, and their lifestyle; all factors related to the baseline composition of gut microbiota and their response to NNS. The scientific community still has no unanimous consensus on the appropriate outcomes and biomarkers that can accurately define the effects of NNS on the gut microbiota.

Keywords: acesulfame; aspartame; gut microbiota; non-nutritive sweetener; saccharin; sucralose.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Non-Nutritive Sweeteners* / analysis
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Saccharin / pharmacology


  • Non-Nutritive Sweeteners
  • Saccharin