Synthetic Sweeteners may Promote Resistance to Antibiotics: Study

Medical researchers have recently discovered that synthetic sweeteners can promote the spread of antibiotic-resistant genes in the intestine.  The study found that the sweeteners saccharine, sucralose, aspartame, and acesulfame potassium all promoted horizontal transfer of the genes between bacteria in both environmental and clinical settings.  The medical research team says the findings provide insight into the spread of antimicrobial resistance* and point to the potential risk associated with the presence of these sweeteners in food and drink.

*Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) represents one of the most significant global threats to public health and biosecurity in the coming decades. Currently, 700,000 people worldwide die from infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria every year. It is estimated that 10 million people will die from such infections by 2050 if action is not taken immediately. The emergence of ARGs that give rise to resistant bacteria is generally attributed to the misuse or overuse of antibiotics.

Other health problems associated with synthetic sweeteners

in scientific/medical studies:

-In vitro studies have shown that the sweeteners saccharin (SAC), sucralose (SUC), and aspartame (ASP) can induce the formation of urinary bladder tumors.

-These sweeteners are also associated with glucose intolerance, which is thought to arise through alterations in the gut microbiota.

-Studies have also provided evidence that SAC, SUC, and ASP, as well as acesulfame potassium (ACE-K), cause DNA damage in bacteria. The researchers say this is likely to activate the DNA damage response system (SOS response).

-Furthermore, evidence suggests that conjugative ARG transfer may be related to the SOS response.

-Studies have also recently demonstrated that the use of SAC, SUC, and ASP is associated with shifts in the gut microbiota that resemble those caused by antibiotics.


Journal Reference: Yu Z, et al. Nonnutritive sweeteners can promote the dissemination of antibiotic resistance through conjugative gene transfer. The ISME Journal, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41396-021-00909-x, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41396-021-00909-x#Sec18

Summary