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The #1 Best Sweetener for Your Gut, Says New Research

Science may have created a new healthy sweetener.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

You might have heard that sweeteners aren't good for you. That's because they're either sources of added sugar and empty calories or they may consist of artificial ingredients. Generally, they're not the healthiest foods you can eat. Typically, avoiding sugary products may help with weight management and metabolic diseases, as well as other aspects of your health. However, if you have a sweet tooth, the last thing you want to do is cut out sweets completely.

If you've ever been caught in the middle between avoiding sweets and indulging in them, then you might want to listen up. Scientists have created a new sweetener that may actually support your health.

According to a new study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers reported that they've developed a low-calorie combination of ingredients that tastes as sweet as table sugar but also helps your gut.

For these results, researchers studied both low-calorie and extremely sweet substances from natural sources. They discovered a couple of different ones. For starters, they took a look at galactooligosaccharides— low-calorie sugars with a prebiotic activity. Researchers believed they could be a source of energy that benefits gut microbes: gut bacteria that have several important functions such as breaking down food, manufacturing vitamins, and training the immune system. However, the prebiotics weren't sweet enough on their own to replace the taste of table sugar.

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Researchers also took a look at extracts from the fruit, Luo Han Guo, also known as monk fruit. The fruit contains mogrosides: compounds that are 200 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar. Eaten alone, these extracts may have flavors that taste funky. However, enzymes can remove the extracts.

Once researchers discovered the benefits and downsides of both substances, they decided to take the best aspects of both and combine them to create something extraordinary. They used enzymes to modify the mogrosides, and also produced galactooligosaccharides to combine them for a brand-new low-calorie sweetener.

When the combination was complete, a trained sensory panel reported that the new combination had a sweetness similar to table sugar. Furthermore, in test tube experiments, the new sweetener increased the levels of multiple beneficial human gut microbes. The addition of bacteria-produced metabolites, such as acetate, propionate, and butyrate, also showed that the mixture may also have a prebiotic effect on the gut microbiome.

Pouring sugar into cup

This new sweetener holds potential for future use. However, the researchers still have to study the substance's impact on human gut health more closely.

"While I think the study found positive findings, I do think more research is needed before recommending it," says Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, and author of Finally Full, Finally Slim and The Portion Teller Plan. "While I'm not a fan of table sugar, and this is better than table sugar, I still am not a fan of sugar substitutes."

Dr. Young also expresses some concerns about relying on a new sweetener in regards to helping develop a healthy gut. Instead, she recommends consuming plenty of vegetables and other better-for-you foods." As for gut health, a whole-food diet composed of assorted plant foods is good for gut health," she says.

Kayla Garritano
Kayla Garritano graduated from Hofstra University, where she majored in Journalism and double minored in Marketing and Creative Writing. Read more about Kayla