What is neotame? New artificial sweetener could damage human intestine

Posted on Diet

By John Anderer

Artificial sweeteners are a controversial product when it comes to health. While some studies suggest these substances are safer than consuming sugar, others warn that these chemicals carry their own health risks. With that in mind, neotame, one of the newest artificial sweeteners to hit the market in recent years, is capable of both damaging the human intestine and causing illness, according to researchers from Anglia Ruskin University.

This project, published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, is the first ever to show that neotame causes previously healthy gut bacteria to become diseased and invade the gut wall. That can lead to further health problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and sepsis, as well as a breakdown of the epithelial barrier, which makes up part of the gut wall.

Researchers say their work reveals how neotame can damage the intestinal epithelium in a direct manner by sparking the death of epithelial cells and indirectly by damaging bacteria commonly found in the gut.

The test tube study identified numerous pathogenic responses following exposure of E. coli (Escherichia coli) and E. faecalis (Enterococcus faecalis) to neotame, which is currently found in many drinks, foods, and chewing gums. Pathogenic responses included biofilm formation and increased adhesion to and invasion of cells by diseased bacteria.

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Some of the newest artificial sweeteners on the market feature a 1,000-fold sweeter taste in comparison to sugar, which means far less has to be added to foods and drinks to gain the same taste. Still, despite the smaller quantities, the impact of neotame on the epithelium-microbiota relationship may cause poor gut health. This can lead to metabolic and inflammatory diseases like irritable bowel disease or insulin resistance.

This study builds on previous work by Dr. Havovi Chichger of Anglia Ruskin University. Earlier studies found that saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame (some of the most widely used artificial sweeteners) may result in similar damage in the gut.

To be fair, artificial sweeteners can play a positive role in helping with weight loss and helping individuals with glucose intolerance and Type 2 diabetes. However, this latest work, led by Dr. Aparna Shil of Jahangirnagar University in Bangladesh and Dr. Chichger, stresses the need for further research into the toxic effects of some of the newest artificial sweeteners.

“There is now growing awareness of the health impacts of sweeteners such as saccharin, sucralose and aspartame, with our own previous work demonstrating the problems they can cause to the wall of the intestine and the damage to the ‘good bacteria’ which form in our gut,” says Dr. Chichger, an associate professor in Biomedical Science at ARU and senior author of the study, in a media release.

“This can lead to a range of potential health issues, including diarrhea, intestinal inflammation, and even infections such as septicemia if the bacteria were to enter the blood stream. 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 becoming diseased.”

“Understanding the impact of these pathogenic changes occurring in the gut microbiota is vital. Our findings also demonstrate the need to better understand common food additives more widely and the molecular mechanisms underlying potential negative health impacts.”

Source: Study Finds

Born blue in the face, John has been writing professionally for over a decade and covering the latest scientific research for StudyFinds since 2019. His work has been featured by Business Insider, Eat This Not That!, MSN, Ladders, and Yahoo!

Studies and abstracts can be confusing and awkwardly worded. He prides himself on making such content easy to read, understand, and apply to one’s everyday life.

Image: Unsplash

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