Study Finds Artificial Sweetener Can Cause Healthy Gut Bacteria To Become Diseased

Recent research published in Frontiers in Nutrition found that neotame, a newer artificial sweetener, can harm the human gut by altering healthy bacteria and damaging the epithelial barrier, potentially causing serious health problems like colon syndrome irritable and sepsis. This study extends previous findings on artificial sweeteners, highlighting the need for further research into their safety and health impacts. Credit:

Neotame, a new artificial sweetener, harms gut health by damaging bacteria and epithelial cells, increasing the risk of diseases like sepsis and irritable bowel syndrome.

New research has found that neotame, one of the next generation artificial sweeteners, is capable of damaging the human intestine and causing disease.

The study is the first to show that neotame can cause previously healthy gut bacteria to become sick and invade the intestinal wall – which could lead to health problems including irritable bowel syndrome and sepsis – and also cause a rupture of the epithelial barrier, which is part of the intestinal wall.

The research, published today (April 24) in the journal Nutrition Frontiers and was carried out at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), demonstrates that neotame can damage the intestinal epithelium directly, by causing epithelial cell death, and indirectly, by damaging bacteria commonly present in the intestine.

THE in vitro The study identified a range of pathogenic responses following exposure to E. coli (Escherichia coli) and E. faecalis (Enterococcus faecalis) to neotame, found in drinks, foods and chewing gum, including biofilm formation and increased cell adhesion and invasion by diseased bacteria.

Some of the newer artificial sweeteners taste 1,000 times sweeter than sugar, reducing the amount needed to add to foods and drinks. Despite the smaller quantities used, neotame’s impact on the epithelium-microbiota relationship can potentially lead to poor gut health, which could lead to metabolic and inflammatory diseases such as irritable bowel disease or

Insulin is a hormone that regulates the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood. It is produced by the pancreas and released into the bloodstream when blood glucose levels rise, for example after a meal. Insulin helps transport glucose from the bloodstream to cells, where it can be used as an energy source or stored for later use. Insulin also helps regulate fat and protein metabolism. In people with diabetes, their bodies do not produce enough insulin or respond properly to insulin, leading to high blood sugar levels, which can lead to serious health problems if left untreated.

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This new research into neotame builds on previous work by Dr Havovi Chichger of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), who found that saccharin, sucralose and aspartame, some of the most widely used artificial sweeteners, could cause similar damage in the intestine.

Artificial sweeteners may play a role in aiding weight loss and helping people with glucose intolerance and type 2 diabetes. However, this new study, led by Dr Aparna Shil, of Jahangirnagar University in Bangladesh, and Dr Chichger highlights the need for further research into the toxic effects of some of the more recently developed artificial sweeteners.

Dr Chichger, Associate Professor of Biomedical Sciences at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) and lead author of the study, said: “There is now growing awareness of the health impacts of sweeteners such as saccharin, sucralose and aspartame, with our own precedent of work demonstrating the problems they can cause to the intestinal wall and the damage to the ‘good bacteria’ that form in our gut.

“This can lead to a range of potential health problems, including diarrhea, intestinal inflammation and even infections such as sepsis if the bacteria enters the bloodstream. Therefore, it is important to also study sweeteners that have been introduced more recently and our new research demonstrates that neotame causes similar problems, including gut bacteria illness.

“Understanding the impact of these pathogenic changes occurring in the gut microbiota is vital. Our results also demonstrate the need for a broader understanding of common food additives and the molecular mechanisms underlying potential negative health impacts.

Reference: “The artificial sweetener neotame negatively regulates intestinal epithelium directly via T1R3 signaling and indirectly via pathogenic changes in model gut bacteria” by Aparna Shil, Luisa Maria Ladeira Faria, Caray Anne Walker and Havovi Chichger, April 2, 2024, Nutrition Frontiers.
DOI: 10.3389/fnut.2024.1366409

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