Dr. Hanover

Zero-Calorie Sweeteners During Pregnancy Can Impact Offspring’s Microbiome

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: Since sweeteners are known to be passed on in small amounts via the placenta and breast milk, we asked whether metabolic and microbiome changes occur in offspring following maternal sweetener intake. We fed mouse moms one of three sweetener solutions throughout pregnancy and lactation, and analyzed the effects on their pre-weaned pups. The solutions contained a mixture of sucralose and acesulfame-K at the ‘acceptable daily intake’ (ADI), double the ADI, or a control (water). The ADI is the maximum consumption deemed safe in humans based on toxicology studies. 

While the pups’ exposure was low, we  found significant metabolic changes in both the ADI and 2xADI groups versus the control group. Specifically, these changes indicated impaired liver functioning in clearing toxins from the blood, and a dramatic shift in bacterial metabolites in the gut. In both sweetener groups, for example, we observed the loss of a major beneficial species of gut bacteria, Akkermansia muciniphila. Similar microbiome alterations in humans have been linked to type 2 diabetes and obesity.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: The perinatal period is a critical developmental stage for the microbiome and emerging detoxification systems in the rodent and human neonate alike, and our study defines potentially adverse consequences of early exposure to sweeteners. Therefore, based on our findings, zero-calorie sweeteners warrant further investigation in humans in this critical developmental window.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: We are following up these studies to examine the long-term metabolic effects on the offspring of sweetener-exposed mothers.  The microbiome changes and metabolic changes may render this population very susceptible to metabolic diseases such as obesity and type-2 diabetes.  Such a study is hard to conduct in human populations.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: No disclosures.  Our laboratory continues to study the means by which organisms adjust to nutritional cues across generations. 


Front. Microbiol., 20 June 2019 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2019.01360

Maternal Exposure to Non-nutritive Sweeteners Impacts Progeny’s Metabolism and Microbiome

Stephanie Olivier-Van Stichelen, Kristina I. Rother and John A. Hanover

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Last Updated on July 3, 2019 by Marie Benz MD FAAD