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Commonly-used artificial sweetener could damage gut health, study finds

Recent research has unveiled concerning effects of neotame, a newer artificial sweetener, on the human intestine, potentially leading to illness.
Recent research has unveiled concerning effects of neotame, a newer artificial sweetener, on the human intestine, potentially leading to illness. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)


Recent research has unveiled concerning effects of neotame, a newer artificial sweetener, on the human intestine, potentially leading to illness.


The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition and conducted at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), reveals that neotame can disrupt the balance of healthy gut bacteria and compromise the intestinal barrier, paving the way for conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and sepsis.


 
 

The investigation observed that neotame directly harms the intestinal epithelium by causing cell death and indirectly affects gut bacteria commonly present in the digestive system.


Schematic to show the direct (T1R3-dependent) and indirect (bacteria-dependent) impact of the artificial sweetener neotame on the intestinal epithelial cell.
Schematic to show the direct (T1R3-dependent) and indirect (bacteria-dependent) impact of the artificial sweetener neotame on the intestinal epithelial cell. (CREDIT: Frontiers in Nutrition)


Experiments conducted in vitro demonstrated various adverse reactions in Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Enterococcus faecalis (E. faecalis) following exposure to neotame, including the formation of biofilm and enhanced adhesion to and invasion of cells by diseased bacteria.


 
 

Despite the small amounts required for sweetening, the impact of neotame on the relationship between the intestinal epithelium and gut microbiota could lead to compromised gut health, potentially contributing to metabolic and inflammatory diseases such as irritable bowel disease and insulin resistance.


This latest study on neotame builds upon previous research led by Dr. Havovi Chichger at ARU, which revealed similar harmful effects of saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame, widely used artificial sweeteners, on gut health.


 

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While artificial sweeteners can aid in weight loss and assist individuals with glucose intolerance and type 2 diabetes, the findings underscore the necessity for further investigation into the potential toxic effects of newer artificial sweeteners.


Dr. Aparna Shil of Jahangirnagar University in Bangladesh, co-leading the study with Dr. Chichger, emphasizes the importance of understanding the health implications of these compounds.


 
 

Dr. Chichger, Associate Professor in Biomedical Science at ARU and senior author of the study, highlights the emerging awareness of the health impacts posed by artificial sweeteners. She notes that previous research has shown the detrimental effects of sweeteners like saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame on the intestinal wall and beneficial gut bacteria.


Neotame causes epithelial cell death and disruption of the intestinal epithelial monolayer. Caco-2 cells were exposed to neotame at a range of concentrations for 6 h and 24 h.
Neotame causes epithelial cell death and disruption of the intestinal epithelial monolayer. Caco-2 cells were exposed to neotame at a range of concentrations for 6 h and 24 h. (CREDIT: Frontiers in Nutrition)


These effects can lead to gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea, intestinal inflammation, and potentially life-threatening infections like septicemia if bacteria breach the intestinal barrier.


 
 

The study underscores the critical need to comprehend the pathogenic changes occurring in gut microbiota due to sweeteners like neotame. Dr. Chichger stresses the necessity for a deeper understanding of common food additives and the underlying molecular mechanisms contributing to their potential negative health effects.



Learn more about Neotame


Neotame is a high-intensity artificial sweetener, similar to aspartame, but much sweeter. It's about 7,000 to 13,000 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar), so it's used in very small amounts. Due to its high sweetness potency and stability, it's often used in food and beverage products, especially those that require sugar reduction or calorie control.


 
 

Here are some food and drink brands and types that may utilize neotame:


Soft Drinks: Neotame may be used in various diet soft drinks and sodas to provide sweetness without adding calories.


Sugar-Free Candy: Neotame can be found in sugar-free candies and confectioneries, providing a sweet taste without the added sugar content.


Chewing Gum: Many sugar-free chewing gums use neotame as a sweetening agent to provide a sweet taste without contributing to tooth decay or calorie intake.


Yogurts and Dairy Products: Some low-calorie or sugar-free yogurts and dairy products may contain neotame as a sweetener.


Baked Goods: Neotame may be used in certain baked goods, such as cakes, cookies, and pastries, to reduce sugar content while maintaining sweetness.


 
 

Ice Cream and Frozen Desserts: Neotame can also be found in some low-calorie or sugar-free ice cream and frozen dessert products.


Packaged Foods: Certain packaged foods, such as snacks, cereal bars, and meal replacement products, may contain neotame to reduce sugar content.


Condiments and Sauces: Some sugar-free or reduced-calorie condiments and sauces may use neotame as a sweetener.


Instant Beverages: Neotame can be used in instant beverage mixes, such as powdered drink mixes and flavored water enhancers.


Sports and Energy Drinks: Some sugar-free or low-calorie sports and energy drinks may utilize neotame to provide sweetness without adding extra calories.



 
 

These are just some examples of food and beverage products that may contain neotame. It's important to check the ingredient labels if you're specifically looking to avoid or consume products with neotame.






For more science news stories check out our New Discoveries section at The Brighter Side of News.


 

Note: Materials provided above by The Brighter Side of News. Content may be edited for style and length.


 
 

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