Ex-vivo study finds potential impact of low-no-calories sweeteners on gut microbiota


Low-no-calories sweeteners may have an impact on gut microbiota and metabolite production.

Photo © iStockphoto.com/Maksud_kr

Photo © iStockphoto.com/Maksud_kr

A recent ex-vivo study1 investigated the impacts of low-no-calories sweeteners on human gut microbiota of both healthy subjects and those with type-2 diabetes. A range of sweeteners were studied, namely tagatose (TA), maltitol (MA), sorbitol (SO), stevia (ST), sucralose (SU), and acesulfame K (ACK). The researchers used faecal samples from 12 donors, which were composed of six pairs of co-living human adults, with one donor each pair having been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and the other being healthy. The co-living adults lowered the potential risk of introduced variation through differences in long-term diet. Cryptobiotix’s cutting-edge SIFR (“cipher”) technology was used to recreate the gut environment outside of the human body.

Results showed that ACK and SU did not have an impact on microbial composition and metabolite production. On the other hand, TA, SO, ST, and MA did increase bacterial density and short chain fatty acid production in a product-specific manner. For example, SO increase acetate, while MA and ST increase propionate. TA had less specificity, increasing butyrate for healthy subjects, while inceasing propionate in type 2 diabetic subjects.

“In this study, the low and no calorie sweeteners we have assessed are shown to have either no impact on the gut microbiota or to offer potential health benefits beyond their established sugar and calorie reduction benefits,” said Davide Risso, MSc, PhD, Tate & Lyle’s head of nutrition research, and one of the study’s authors, in a press release. “Human clinical trials will be required to confirm the potential health benefits. At Tate & Lyle, we’re committed to advancing understanding around the role of low and no calorie sweeteners in the diet and sharing knowledge in this emerging field as a purpose-led, science-driven company.”

"Cryptobiotix was founded with the ambition of providing accurate insights into the impact and behavior of ingredients in relation to the gut microbiome. This study provides much-needed evidence to consider the potential benefits of sweeteners individually, rather than as a uniform whole,” stated Pieter Van den Abbeele, PhD, Cryptobiotix’s Chief Scientific Officer and study author. “The robustness and validation work that went into the SIFR® technology used, allowed us to pinpoint specific health-promoting pathways in relation to specific low and no calorie sweeteners."


  1. Abbeele, P.V.; Poppe, J.; Deyaert, S.; Laurie, I.; Gravert, T.K.O.; Abrahamsson, A.; Baudot, A.; Karnik, K. Risso, D. Low-no-calorie sweeteners exert marked compound-specific impact on the human gut microbiota ex vivo. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition. 2023, 74 (5), 630-644. DOI: 10.1080/09637486.2023.2240037
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