Recent research has shown that artificial sweeteners can make healthy bacteria in the gut turn into diseased cells and invade the gut wall. This could potentially lead to serious health problems.
The study was published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences. It is the first to demonstrate the pathogenic effects of artificial sweeteners – saccharin and sucralose – on two types of gut bacteria: E. coli (Escherichia coli), and E. faecalis.
Previous research has shown that artificial sweeteners can alter the type and number of bacteria in the gut. However, this molecular research by researchers at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) has revealed that sweeteners can also make bacteria pathogenic. These pathogenic bacteria can attach to, invade and kill Caco-2 cells (epithelial cells that line wall of the intestine).
It is well-known that bacteria like E. faecalis can cross the intestinal wall and enter the bloodstream. They congregate in lymph nodes, liver and spleen and cause a variety of infections, including septicaemia.
The new study found that all three artificial sweeteners, at concentrations equivalent to two cans diet soft drinks, significantly increased adhesion of E.coli and E.faecalis cells to intestinal Caco-2 cells and differentially increased formation of biofilms.
Biofilm-forming bacteria is less susceptible to antimicrobial resistance treatment. They are also more likely to produce toxins and express viruses, which can cause disease.
All three artificial sweeteners, except saccharin, caused pathogenic bacteria to invade Caco-2 cells in the wall.
Senior author Dr Havovi Chichger, Anglia Ruskin University Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences (ARU), stated: “There is a lot to be concerned about artificial sweeteners. Some studies have shown that sweeteners can alter the layer of bacteria that supports the gut, also known as the gut Microbiota.
“Our study is the first that shows sugars found in foods and drinks – sucralose, saccharin and aspartame- can cause normal and healthy gut bacteria to become pathogenic. These pathogenic changes include increased biofilm formation and greater adhesion and invasion by bacteria into human intestinal cells.
These changes could result in our gut bacteria invading our intestines and causing damage. This can lead to multiple-organ failure, infection, and sepsis.
We know that sugar overconsumption is a major contributor to the development of diabetes and obesity. To better understand the effects on our health, we need to learn more about artificial sweeteners and sugars.
Related Journal Article: https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/22/10/5228