Study Finds Artificial Sweetener Toxic To The Gut

Recently published in Molecules, a collaborative paper by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore concluded several artificial sweeteners and supplements, approved by the FDA, were lethal to digestive gut microbes.

Found in an abundance of low-calorie and reduced-sugar food products, many individuals may not be aware they are imbibing these potentially harmful products. Additionally, artificial sweeteners are more often being found in water supplies making them an increasingly troublesome pollutant.

The relative toxicity of six artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, saccharine, neotame, advantame, and acesulfame potassium-k) and 10 artificial sweetener-containing sport supplements were specified in this study. Results showed that when microbes in the gastrointestinal tract were exposed to concentrations of only 1 mg/mL of the artificial sweeteners they became toxic.

“We modified bioluminescent E. coli bacteria, which luminesce when they detect toxicants and act as a sensing model representative of the complex microbial system,” explains Prof. Ariel Kushmaro, John A. Ungar Chair in Biotechnology in the Avram and Stella Goldstein-Goren Department of Biotechnology Engineering, and member of the Ilse Katz Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology and the National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev.

According to Prof Kushmaro, one benefit of the tested bioluminescent bacterial panel is the possibility to test for artificial sweeteners in the environment. While more research is warranted, this study offers a constructive step in understanding the toxicity of artificial sweeteners to the gut microbiome.

Our thoughts? This research is interesting, however, it doesn’t mean that artificial sweeteners are toxic to humans. Firstly, the study was done in “modified” bacteria. Secondly, the “toxic” dose was found to be 1 mg/mL, which is much higher than what is typically observed in drinks and consumable products. This also doesn’t mean that there is no side-effects from consuming artificial sweeteners. We simply need more research and data. It is clear that these compounds impact the bacteria of the gut. But “How” is the question.

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Emerging Contaminant PFAS Discovered In Parchment, Michigan

PFAS Content In Textiles. Source:

A crisis in Michigan late last year was a catalyst for many states now reviewing standards for Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water. In August of 2018, The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) announced that high-levels of PFAS were discovered in the municipal water of Parchment, MI. Three wells that provide water to the municipality were found to have levels around or above the federal advisory level (70 ppt) with one well 26 times over the threshold currently recommend by the EPA.

PFAS are manufactured chemicals used in numerous industries and found in products such as textiles (see graph above), pizza boxes, cookware, and stain-repellents. Humans can gain exposure to PFAS through the usage of products containing them or through contaminated food and water sources. Exposure to these PFAS can build up in the human body, which cannot break them down, and has been linked to high cholesterol, cancer, low infant birth weights, as well as kidney and liver disease.

The state is currently investigating the source of the contamination, which may be related to the city’s industrial history. Parchment is known as “The Paper City” and currently houses a closed paper mill and landfill within its limits. These sites are a potential source of the contamination due to the common use of PFAS in paper production. Results from analysis of well water retrieved from near the landfill site are pending.

Immediately following the discovery, affected residents were supplied with clean bottled water for drinking. The state continues to look for a permanent solution and plans to link Parchment’s system to nearby Kalamazoo for the immediate future until the contamination is controlled.


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What Causes Déjà Vu? Science May Help Explain This Eerie Phenomenon


Déjà vu, meaning “already seen” in French, is a commonly experienced phenomenon. Deja vu occurs when an experience we objectively know to be unfamiliar feels instinctively familiar. It is often described as if one is re-living the same moment for a second time or remembering a premonition.

The cause of déjà vu has been widely speculated and scientists offer numerous explanations as to its etiology. However, studying déjà vu in an experimental setting can be problematic since experiences are hard to predict, subjective, and difficult to measure. Therefore, the exact cause remains a mystery but there are some leading theories among experts.

Neurological explanations support the idea that our brain is playing tricks on us. Spontaneous brain activity occurring in the area related to memory may cause a feeling of familiarity. Similarly, another hypothesis suggests a delay in the speed of information transmitted from one area of the brain to another could be responsible for producing incorrect memories of an experience.

Memory explanations suggest that you may have experienced a similar situation in the past but do not consciously remember the experience distinctively from the present moment. Single element familiarity is a hypothesis that déjà vu can be triggered by a single familiar element within an encounter, like seeing your neighbor in a foreign country.

Gestalt familiarity is a more easily tested hypothesis that suggests a familiar arrangement of objects within a scene can provoke a déjà vu experience. For example, walking into a room you have never seen before that has a similar layout to one you are familiar with may cause the feeling of déjà vu.

Whichever hypothesis is correct will require more research to determine; although each hypothesis discussed suggests a momentary glitch in cerebral function resulting in the false feeling of familiarity. For now, scientists need to design more studies to directly measure and examine the causes of déjà vu.


Mysterious Rise in Polio-Like Illnesses

via “Chase Kulakowski, now aged 3, developed acute flaccid myelitis in October 2016. Surgery and physical therapy has given Chase use of his arm again.”

Public health officials are concerned with the cause of a rare polio-like disease, acute flaccid myelitis (AFM). AFM effects the central nervous system producing weakness in one or more limbs. It principally affects children and may lead to paralysis – like polio. Dissimilar to polio, AFM does not have a vaccine, and there are no known proven effective therapies.

Cases of AFM spiked for the first time in 2014 with a record high of 124 confirmed cases. In 2018, an increase from 67 to 90 reported and 127 to 242 suspected cases have been seen over the last month announced the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on November 13.

While parents are desperate for answers, the CDC continues to investigate the etiology of AFM.  Tests of cerebral spinal fluid, the clear fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord, produced pathogens in only two of the confirmed cases this year.

Historically, since 2014, cases of AFM have rarely produced pathogens in tested cerebral spinal fluid samples. However, scientists do suspect a hidden viral infection to be the most likely culprit. The CDC continues to explore other potential causes including environmental toxins, genetic disorders and Guillain-Barré syndrome.

What is known from examining the confirmed cases is that AFM often presents as fever or respiratory symptoms three to ten days before limb weakness. At a recent news conference, Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases in Atlanta, stated “this time of year, many children have fever and respiratory symptoms [and] most of them do not go on to develop AFM. We’re trying to figure out what the triggers are that would cause someone to develop AFM later”.


New Jersey Becomes The First State To Regulate PFNA In Drinking Water

Published Sept. 4 by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in the New Jersey Safe Drinking Water Act rules, New Jersey became the first state to set a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) in drinking water. New Jersey’s new standard for PFNA in drinking water is 13 ppt. However, municipalities will be given anywhere from six to eighteen months, depending on their size, to reduce their PFNA exposure to comply with the new standard.

PFNA is a man-made chemical that falls under a class of synthetic compounds called Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These are chemicals used in food production and packaging, textiles, and many other forms of manufacturing. Persistence of PFAS in the body and environment has been linked to adverse health effects in humans. Build-up of PFAS exposure may be related to high cholesterol, cancer, kidney disease, impaired immune function, pregnancy complications, and liver damage.

This ground-breaking act comes in response to an ongoing issue with PFNA contamination along the Delaware River. This contamination is largely resulting from previous releases of PFNA from a specialty polymer plant. Currently, 37 public New Jersey Water Systems fall above the new standard.

Additionally, in the new act, New Jersey has adopted a MCL for 1,2,3-trichloroproprane of 30 ppt. 1,2,3-trichloroproprane is another potentially harmful chemical that is released into the environment as a result of manufacturing practices.

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U.S. Senate Meets For The First Time To Discuss PFAS Contamination in Water

The Senate held its first-ever subcommittee hearing on Sept 26th to discuss the presence of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water. Recent findings of toxic levels of these chemicals found in multiple sites across numerous states have led to this monumental hearing. Many community leaders feel decisive action must be taken by the Federal Government to ensure safe drinking water for our communities.

PFAS are synthetic chemicals manufactured and used in an abundance of industries across the world. PFAS have been used in the United States since the 1940’s and are found in products including food packaging machines and materials, water-repellent fabrics, teflon cookware, and chrome plating.

PFOA and PFOS, the most researched of these chemicals, have been found to persist in the environment and in the human body. Humans are exposed to PFAS in a variety of ways, most commonly from contaminated food and water sources. Unable to be break-down, they can build up over time. Evidence exists that the accumulation of PFAS can have many potential adverse human health effects, such as increased cholesterol, development of tumors, and liver or kidney damage.

Despite testimony from community representatives affected by contaminated water and eight senators, the US EPA is “not planning currently to update our drinking water and health advisories for PFOA and PFOS,” according to Peter Grevatt, on behalf of the Groundwater and Drinking Water division of the EPA.

Grevatt reports that the EPA is exploring designating PFAS as a hazardous substance, which would allow local governments to initiate clean-ups and reprimand polluters. However, this reclassification could take years to execute.

As for now, each state is left to take action on its own. Many have begun implementing different policies with Vermont making a statement by lowering its standard to 20 ppt for five PFAS compared to the EPA standard of 70 ppt.

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Dietician Kristin Kirkpatrick tries the ketogenic diet for 30 days. Here’s what happened.

Courtesy of Kristin Kirkpatrick

I tried the ketogenic diet for 30 days. Here’s what happened.

“I’ve never put a patient on a diet I haven’t tried myself, so I knew I needed to experience the ketogenic diet personally.”

In an article published on, dietician Kristin Kirkpatrick describes her experience with a ketogenic diet. She’s a dietician by trade, and never puts any of her clients on a diet that she has never tried. One day, one of her clients expressed an interest in the ketogenic diet. So she gave it a shot.

The overall gist? She had some trouble adjusting to the diet at first (this is typically experienced with people when they transition from high-carb to low-carb, and is called the “Keto Flu” or “Low Carb Flu”). However, after this initial transition period, “the cloud lifted” and she felt great, lost weight, and curbed her constant hunger cravings 🙂

Check out her article to read more about her journey with the ketogenic diet.

Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, R.D., is the manager of wellness nutrition services at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute in Cleveland, Ohio. Follow her on Twitter @KristinKirkpat.