Artificial sweetener may damage gut health

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New findings indicate that neotame, a modern artificial sweetener, might be harmful to gut health, potentially causing serious illnesses.

This groundbreaking research was recently published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition and conducted at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU).

The study reveals that neotame has the potential to turn healthy gut bacteria into harmful ones.

These transformed bacteria can then invade the gut wall and disrupt its protective barrier, leading to health problems such as irritable bowel syndrome and sepsis.

The research specifically looked at how neotame affected the intestinal epithelium—the layer of cells forming the lining of the gut. It was found that neotame could kill these cells directly and harm the beneficial bacteria in the gut indirectly.

This laboratory study exposed two types of bacteria, E. coli (Escherichia coli) and E. faecalis (Enterococcus faecalis), to neotame. Results showed increased formation of biofilms by these bacteria and heightened adhesion to and invasion of the gut cells.

These findings are significant because neotame is commonly found in various consumables like drinks, foods, and chewing gums, and despite its potency—being 1,000 times sweeter than sugar and therefore used in smaller quantities—the negative impact on gut health could be profound.

This study builds on previous research led by Dr. Havovi Chichger from ARU, which found that other popular artificial sweeteners like saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame could similarly damage gut health.

Dr. Chichger, a senior author of the current study and Associate Professor in Biomedical Science at ARU, emphasized the growing concerns over the health impacts of sweeteners.

He mentioned that earlier work demonstrated how these substances could harm the intestinal wall and disrupt the beneficial bacteria that reside in the gut.

Such disruptions could lead to various health issues, including diarrhea, intestinal inflammation, and infections such as septicemia if the bacteria enter the bloodstream.

Given these potential risks, the latest research underscores the necessity for more in-depth studies on the toxic effects of newer artificial sweeteners like neotame.

Dr. Aparna Shil from Jahangirnagar University in Bangladesh and Dr. Chichger jointly led this study. They stress the importance of understanding the pathogenic changes these sweeteners can cause in the gut microbiota.

Their work highlights the broader need to explore common food additives and the underlying molecular mechanisms that could have negative health implications.

If you care about nutrition, please read studies about how Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and the best time to take vitamins to prevent heart disease.

For more information about nutrition, please see recent studies that olive oil may help you live longer, and vitamin D could help lower the risk of autoimmune diseases.

The research findings can be found in Frontiers in Nutrition.

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