Last year a very important study showed how eating artificial sweeteners could actually increase risk of obesity and diabetes due to a microbiome-mediated response. Based on this study, researchers from George Mason University investigated the microbiome differences between folks that eat artificial sweeteners, like aspartame and acesulfame-K, and those that do not. They published their results in the journal Annals of Epidemiology.
The researchers surveyed 31 adults and gave them a questionnaire regarding their eating habits over the previous four days. Then, on the 5th day the scientists measured the bacteria and the genes those bacteria expressed in each subjects stool. The scientists learned that the microbiomes did not vary substantially between the two groups, but there were statistically significant differences in the overall diversities of the groups. In addition, there were no significant differences in the genomes of the bacteria, again suggesting the microbiome is not considerably affected by the ingestion of these sweeteners. Unfortunately, the authors did not comment on which differences they perceived as being important.
This article suffered from many flaws in its analysis, so we take the results with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, epidemiological studies in humans like this one are important in supporting the conclusions of studies that demonstrate effects in mice. The cost/benefits of eating artificial sweeteners versus regular sucrose are still being evaluated, so in the mean time we encourage our readers to eat lots of veggies.