Steviol glycosides Reb M and Reb D do not negatively affect the human microbiome, new research shows

March 4, 2019

Do sweeteners, such as artificial sweeteners, negatively impact the human microbiome once consumed? It’s a question circulating these days in some scientific and popular media. Amidst this debate, stevia ingredient supplier PureCircle (Chicago) sought to show that its next-generation steviol glycosides, Rebaudioside M and D, do not negatively impact microbiome health in humans of all ages.

The company says that it recently completed an unpublished in vitro study that showed that the presence of steviol glycosides did not affect the distribution or stability of gut bacteria in adult males, adult females, and children. The study was conducted in collaboration with Biopharmaceutical Research Inc. (BRI; Vancouver, BC, Canada) and examined how microorganisms and enzymes in the colon digest, or hydrolyze, the steviol glycosides. The study observed the distribution of gut bacteria both in the presence and absence of stevia leaf ingredients over a 72-hour period. Researchers say they plan to submit the study for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Sidd Purkayastha, PhD, global head of scientific and regulatory affairs for PureCircle, explains that the researchers sought to look at what happens “when steviol glycosides are present in the colon and they are broken down into the metabolite steviol, whether they have any impact on the stability or distribution of microorganisms. And we found there was no impact on that.” Importantly, he said, their research also showed that steviol glycosides are metabolized similarly by adults and children.

The aim of this study is to address any concerns related to stevia and the microbiome specifically. Purkayastha points out that when public forums question the impact of sweeteners on the microbiome, stevia sometimes gets “lumped together” with other sweeteners, and so PureCircle sought to study the effects of stevia specifically.