The Playbook For The Modern Man

Study Shows ‘FDA Approved’ Sports Drinks Are Really Not Good For You

Stick to sugar, guys…

Artificial sweeteners are not just a cruel way to insult to your barista: they are also a great way to poison yourself. Despite their cute names like “Sacharine” and “Aspartame”, a recent study has shown FDA approved artificial sweeteners and sport supplements are toxic to your digestive gut-microbiomes.

The investigation measured the toxicity of six artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, saccharine, neotame, advantame, and acesulfame potassium-k) and 10 sport supplements containing these artificial sweeteners. The bacteria found in the digestive system became toxic when exposed to concentrations of only one mg./ml. of the artificial sweeteners, making the current approved “acceptable daily intake” of artificial sweeteners—which (for the average adult), is 3,409 milligrams a day—look quite bizarre (for perspective, a 12-ounce can of diet soda contains around 200 milligrams).

The experiment was conducted by modifying bioluminescent bacteria, which glow when they detect toxicants and act as a microscopic ‘canary in the coal mine’. When exposed to artificial sweeteners like Aspartame, they duly lit up. In ‘light’ of this, professor Ariel Kushmaro, John A. Ungar Chair in Biotechnology in the Avram and Stella Goldstein-Goren Department of Biotechnology Engineering, concluded, “This is… evidence that consumption of artificial sweeteners adversely affects gut microbial activity which can cause a wide range of health issues.”


Artificial sweeteners are used in countless food products and soft drinks with reduced sugar content (think diet coke, Powerade, store-bought muffins etc.). As such, many people consume this added ingredient without their knowledge. Moreover, as reported by Science Daily, “Artificial sweeteners have been identified as emerging environmental pollutants, and can be found in drinking and surface water, and groundwater aquifers.” Yikes.

“The results of this study might help in understanding the relative toxicity of artificial sweeteners and the potential of negative effects on the gut microbial community as well as the environment,” (Science Daily).

The test also revealed that bioluminescent bacteria can be used for detecting environmental pollutants—but if you’re a coffee addict with a sweet tooth you don’t care about that. You care about getting your fix. Well, here’s the good news: real sugar tastes even better, and is probably no worse for you! Alternatively; try honey, cinnamon, vanilla extract, cocoa powder, maple syrup, will power.

RELATED: We Discover How Many Cups Of Coffee A Day Is Good For You 

  • Ryan Roberts

    Stick to sugar, so you get diabetes? There are companies out there that are making healthy sports drinks with natural, healthy sweeteners. Sugar and artificial sweeteners should be avoided, but Stevia, Erythritol, Monk Fruit, and Palatinose provide great alternatives. If you are looking for a sports drink, the later is the best option. Palatinose is a slow-release carb, so you get healthy AND functional…it’s even beneficial for diabetics. Kill Cliff (an Atlanta based company) has “ENDURE” that has been a game changer for me. Whatever your choice though, avoid sugar (organic or otherwise) and artificial sweeteners. The more you know…

  • Norman Reason

    I’m skeptical of this study as the article presents it. They say these bacteria light up when they “detect toxicants”. What does that mean? Do they light up when they’re being killed? If so why don’t they say that? Or do they light up when they detect certain chemicals, proving nothing about the toxicity of these chemicals, just their presence which is not in dispute?

    I don’t see how this method can prove the danger of anything, just the presence of chemicals. The aim of the study is to prove these chemicals are toxic, but all I see is that it proves these bacteria light up when exposed to artificial sweeteners. Their conclusion is based on the definition of artificial sweeteners as “toxicants”, which cannot be used to prove these chemicals are toxic. This is a clear logical fallacy. All I can see is proof that the experimenters believe these chemicals cause harm, not that they’ve proved this is the case.

    Also the statement “gut bacteria become toxic” makes no sense. Become toxic to what? Or do they die? Do they get sick? Or is this another example of the jump between the assumption that these sweeteners are toxic and the statement of fact that exposure to them is harmful, and therefore becoming toxic really just means being exposed to artificial sweeteners?

    I’m perfectly willing to believe these chemicals are bad for you. But bad studies, or lazy reporting of proper studies don’t convince anyone willing to think beyond their own assumptions, and this is bad for the cause as it is quite easy for anyone to deconstruct them. Probably in a more articulate way than I did…

    I just found something else. The reporter is confusing concentration with dosage. The bacteria swimming in a solution composed of 1 mg / ml of aspartame is not the same thing as what happens to a persons gut when they consume 200 mg of aspartame. So 200 mg per 12 oz, or 355 ml, ~.6 mg / ml, below the concentration the reporter mentions. So it’s alarmist and incorrect to compare the numbers 1 with 200 without the proper context. A Diet Coke is not as strong a solution as the one the study uses, in the study concentration is almost twice as potent.


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