DEC 09, 2020 12:04 PM PST

Natural Sugar Alternative Stevia May Cause Gut Bacteria Imbalance

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Governments are keen to create regulations to reduce sugar intake. As such, companies are increasing their usage of artificial sweeteners, including stevia, a natural sweetener. There is, however, still some debate on whether these alternatives are necessarily healthier than sugar. And now, researchers from Ben-Gurion University in Israel have found that stevia may cause a microbial imbalance in the gut. 

Stevia is a sweetener and sugar alternative derived from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant found in Brazil and Paraguay. Between 200 and 300 times sweeter than table sugar, it contains practically no calories and is an increasingly popular alternative for sugar in both food and beverages. Moreover, it has generally been considered a healthy alternative for sugar, especially for those with diabetes. 

New research now proves this may not be the case. In the study, researchers investigated the effects of different strains of stevia on the microbiome. In particular, they examined their impact on signaling molecules via quorum sensing pathways, known to play a key role in regulating gut microbial activity. 

In the first of their experiments, they investigated the effects of a commercially available stevia supplement. In doing so, they found that while the sweetener did not kill off bacteria, it tended to inhibit certain microbial communication pathways. Meanwhile, in testing purified stevia extracts, they found that the sweetener may have interrupted Gram-negative bacterial communication. 

"This is an initial study that indicates that more research is warranted before the food industry replaces sugar and artificial sweeteners with stevia and its extracts," says Dr. Karina Golberg, lead author of the study.

To further confirm the sweetener's safety, the researchers say that further in vivo studies are required. While they do not necessarily warn people to stop using stevia, they ask people to be aware that the sweetener may pose a risk to gut health and that researchers are still unsure how this may translate into health issues later on. 

 

Sources: Medical News TodayNeuroscience NewsMoleculesThe Media Line

 

About the Author
University College London
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets. When she's not writing, she is COO of Xeurix, an HR startup that assesses jobfit from gamified workplace simulations.
You May Also Like
MAY 02, 2022
Cell & Molecular Biology
Pipette Matchmaker: Tip Compatibility Like Never Before
MAY 02, 2022
Pipette Matchmaker: Tip Compatibility Like Never Before
Article Written by John Winsor All lab workers have to do it, shifting countless stacks of indiscernible boxes to f ...
APR 20, 2022
Drug Discovery & Development
Vitamin E Stimulates Dendritic Cells, Boosts Immunotherapy Effectiveness
APR 20, 2022
Vitamin E Stimulates Dendritic Cells, Boosts Immunotherapy Effectiveness
Dendritic cells play an important role in the immune system. Specifically, they help gather up antigen-presenting cells ...
APR 28, 2022
Drug Discovery & Development
Keto Molecule Shows Promise for Treating Colorectal Cancer
APR 28, 2022
Keto Molecule Shows Promise for Treating Colorectal Cancer
A molecule produced when on low-carbohydrate ketogenic diets suppresses the growth of colorectal tumors in the lab. The ...
MAY 13, 2022
Drug Discovery & Development
Promising New Treatment for Cat Litter Parasite T. Gondii
MAY 13, 2022
Promising New Treatment for Cat Litter Parasite T. Gondii
Researchers have discovered a promising therapy for those suffering from toxoplasmosis, a disease caused by a parasite l ...
MAY 19, 2022
Neuroscience
The Unconscious Brain at Work
MAY 19, 2022
The Unconscious Brain at Work
A study published in Neuron revealed how different cell types in the cerebral cortex change their activity during genera ...
JUN 19, 2022
Drug Discovery & Development
Math Model Predicts Anti-inflammatory Drug Efficacy Post-heart Attack
JUN 19, 2022
Math Model Predicts Anti-inflammatory Drug Efficacy Post-heart Attack
Researchers created a mathematical model that can predict drug combinations that may one day help treat heart attacks. T ...
Loading Comments...