We all now know that sugar has a hugely detrimental effect on health, including gut and dental health. In an effort to have our cake and eat it too, a lot of us have turned to artificial sweeteners so we can still enjoy all of our favourite things.
But, is artificial sweetener just as bad, and if not worse than actual sugar?
Let’s look at how guilt-free sweeteners are affecting our gut and dental health.
Artificial Sweeteners and Gut Health
A collaborative study founded that six popular artificial sweeteners – suclarose, saccharine, neotame, advantame, acesulfame potassium-k and aspartame – and 10 sport supplements containing these sweeteners indicated relative toxicity.
The toxicity occurred when digestive system bacteria were exposed to just one mg./ml. of the artificial sweeteners of the listed artificial sweeteners. Even FDA-approved artificial sweeteners and sport supplements had a toxic effect on digestive gut microbes. The findings were reported in a paper published in Molecules by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
The problem with this toxicity is that it can be hard to avoid artificial sweeteners, as they are found in countless food and beverage products that have a reduced sugar content. That means you could be consuming this toxic substance without even knowing. Perhaps even more troubling is that these sweeteners have been identified as an environmental pollutant, and have been detected in drinking and surface water, as well as groundwater aquifers.
Artificial Sweeteners and Dental Health
In addition to offering the promise of sweetness, products with artificial sweeteners are also thought to bring sweetness without prompting decay and cavities like real sugar does. Unfortunately, this is another lie.
In fact, a study by Oral Health CRC found that artificial sweeteners were as damaging to teeth as real sugar.
The University of Melbourne scientists working on the study identified that sugar-free drinks could soften dental enamel by 30-50%. The test on 23 different types of sports and soft drinks found that low pH levels and acidic additives were the cause of this damage.
“Many people are not aware that while reducing your sugar intake does reduce your risk of dental decay, the chemical mix of acids in some foods and drinks can cause the equally damaging condition of dental erosion,” says Professor Eric Reynolds AO, Melbourne Laureate.
“Dental erosion occurs when acid dissolves the hard tissues of the tooth. In its early stages erosion strips away the surface layers of tooth enamel. If it progresses to an advanced stage it can expose the soft pulp inside the tooth. “
When teeth are eroded, they are more prone to bacterial growth and therefore decay. The problem with artificial sweeteners is that they don’t protect teeth from the acid in the drinks. So, while the sweeteners don’t fuel the production of bacteria like sugar does, the sugar substances contain acidic ingredients that are as, if not more, harmful than the sugar itself.
The Link Between Dental Health and Gut Health
So, we’ve seen how artificial sweeteners can be detrimental to both our teeth and gums, as well as our gut. But, there are far more links than that between your teeth and gums. As a holistic dentistry, we are always interested in our patient’s digestive health because it’s a good sign into their oral health.
The link comes down to the simple fact that the mouth is part of the gut microbiome and the location of the oral microbiome. These enzymes, nutrients and microbes pass through to your gut, and each gut has a unique microbiome. These two microbiomes interact with one another, meaning digestive health problems affect your oral health and vice-versa.
Your oral and digestive health are inextricably linked, so to take care of one, you need to take care of the other. In fact, nourishing your gut is vital, because it controls so many organs and processes in your body.
That’s why thinking about what you eat, or drink, is so important. Artificial sweeteners may not make you gain weight, but they do have a significant and adverse effect on your gut and oral health.
In fact, if you love soft drink, fruit juices and any other high-sugar items you’re far better off enjoying the full sugar versions as a treat, rather than indulging in the artificial-sugar versions regularly. The same goes for foods, opt for sugar as a treat rather than thinking you can get away with eating the sugar-free versions daily.
Artificial sweeteners don’t need to be part of your diet, and if you are going to include them it’s important you know that these are not healthy options, and you’re still damaging your gut and oral health.