The team was also able to prove that the effect was causal by implanting samples of the sweetener’s gut microbiome from human subjects into mice, which also became glucose intolerant.
Professor Elinav said the effects of sweeteners will vary from person to person due to the unique makeup of each person’s microbiome.
“We need to raise awareness that non-nutritive sweeteners are not inert to the human body as we originally thought,” he added.
“We must continue to seek solutions to our sweet tooth cravings, while avoiding sugar, which is clearly the most harmful to our metabolic health.”
The latest figures suggest around 2.2million people in Britain use artificial sweeteners four or more times a day. In addition to being used as an alternative to sugar, they are also found in drinks, desserts, ready meals, cakes, chewing gum and toothpaste.
Previous research has suggested that artificial sweeteners may have an appetite-stimulating effect and, therefore, may play a role in weight gain and obesity, but there have been conflicting reports.
“Avoid consuming excess sweeteners”
Commenting on the research, Dr Sarah Berry, a senior lecturer at King’s College London, said many people are unaware that artificial sweeteners are used in processed foods.
“A lot of people don’t even know they’re consuming sweeteners because they’re in such a wide range of foods.
“Therefore, these results are relevant for a large part of the population, especially for those who choose low-sugar foods and beverages as a healthy alternative.
“Evidence from this new research and other studies shows that sweeteners are not inert and although they are a better option than whole sugar alternatives, my recommendation would be to try to avoid consuming them in excess. .”