A high-sugar diet not only increases the risk of diabetes, overweight and chronic inflammation, but also acts on the gut, by deteriorating the protective barrier, promoting the growth of bad intestinal bacteria at the expense of the good ones and increasing the risk of developing colitis. This is what emerges from a very recent research published in the journal Science Translational Medicine by an American team from Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas (Khan et al, Sci Transl Med, 2020).
Colitis is an inflammation of the colon that causes abdominal pain, diarrhea and swelling with also repercussions on the quality of life. More and more people suffer from this disease with the data indicating the number of people diagnosed with colitis in sharp growth, going from 2 million in 1999 to 3 million in 2015, considering only the American population. For the first time, colitis is also being observed in children, who, until now, were not subject to this type of inflammation. The reason is to be found in the Western-style diet. Certainly, as has been observed in previous studies, a diet rich in fat promotes colitis, but what can be said about sugars? It is precisely on this aspect that the researchers focused, trying to understand the impact that sugars, in particular glucose, fructose and sucrose that are abundant in drinks, juices and snacks, can have on intestinal health. To understand this, the scientists gave to a population of mice a solution of water and 10% of a sugar, in particular glucose, fructose or sucrose. After seven days, the mice that were genetically predisposed to developing colitis had developed it and with much more severe symptoms than those who had not received the sugar. Not only that, the scientists were also able to observe that the intake of sugars had led to a change in the intestinal microbiota. In particular, the protective barrier of the intestinal mucosa was thinned. In addition to this, the number of bacteria that produce enzymes that degrade the intestinal mucosa was also increased and, at the same time, the number of good bacteria, such as those of the Lactobacillus type, was decreased. This was observed following the ingestion of all three types of sugars but the most damaging effect was due to glucose.
Therefore, limiting foods containing sugars is a healthy choice with multiple benefits, including the health of the gut and microbiota. This is particularly important because today we know that the health of the microbiota affects the health of the whole organism, including the efficiency of the immune system.