Low-Dose Stevia (Rebaudioside A) Consumption Perturbs Gut Microbiota and the Mesolimbic Dopamine Reward System
Stevia is a natural low-calorie sweetener that is growing in popularity in food and beverage products. Despite its widespread use, little is understood of its impact on the gut microbiota, an important environmental factor that can mediate metabolism and subsequent obesity and disease risk. Furthermore, given previous reports of dysbiosis with some artificial low-calorie sweeteners, we wanted to understand whether prebiotic consumption could rescue potential stevia-mediated changes in gut microbiota. Three-week old male Sprague-Dawley rats were randomized to consume: (1) Water (CTR); (2) Rebaudioside A (STV); (3) prebiotic (PRE); (4) Rebaudioside A + prebiotic (SP) (n = 8/group) for 9 weeks. Rebaudioside was added to drinking water and prebiotic oligofructose-enriched inulin added to control diet (10%). Body weight and feces were collected weekly and food and fluid intake biweekly. Oral glucose and insulin tolerance tests, gut permeability tests, dual X-ray absorptiometry, and tissue harvest were performed at age 12 weeks. Rebaudioside A consumption alone did not alter weight gain or glucose tolerance compared to CTR. Rebaudioside A did, however, alter gut microbiota composition and reduce nucleus accumbens tyrosine hydroxylase and dopamine transporter mRNA levels compared to CTR. Prebiotic animals, alone or with Rebaudioside A, had reduced fat mass, food intake, and gut permeability and cecal SCFA concentration. Adding Rebaudioside A did not interfere with the benefits of the prebiotic except for a significant reduction in cecal weight. Long-term low-dose Rebaudioside A consumption had little effect on glucose metabolism and weight gain; however, its impact on gut microbial taxa should be further examined in populations exhibiting dysbiosis such as obesity.
Nutrients . 2019 May 31;11(6):1248. doi: 10.3390/nu11061248.