Plausible Biological Interactions of Low- and Non-Calorie Sweeteners with the Intestinal Microbiota: An Update of Recent Studies
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology II, School of Pharmacy, University of Granada, 18071 Granada, Spain
Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology “José Mataix”, Center of Biomedical Research, University of Granada, Avda. del Conocimiento s/n., 18016 Armilla, Granada, Spain
Instituto de Investigación Biosanitaria IBS.GRANADA, Complejo Hospitalario Universitario de Granada, 18014 Granada, Spain
LMU–Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich, Division of Metabolic and Nutritional Medicine, von Hauner Children’s Hospital, University of Munich Medical Center, 80337 Munich, Germany
Institute of Epidemiology, Helmholtz Zentrum München–German Research Centre for Environmental Health, 85764 Neuherberg, Germany
Department of Cell Biology, School of Sciences, University of Granada, 18071 Granada, Spain
RG Adipocytes and metabolism, Institute for Diabetes and Obesity, Helmholtz Diabetes Center at Helmholtz Center Munich, 85764 Neuherberg, Munich, Germany
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Nutrients 2020, 12(4), 1153; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12041153
Received: 8 April 2020 / Accepted: 15 April 2020 / Published: 21 April 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Nutrition, Microbiota and Noncommunicable Diseases)
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.