Researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and colleagues have found that, given over a six-week period, the artificial sweetener sucralose, known by the brand name Splenda, worsens gut inflammation in mice with Crohn’s-like disease.

The new findings, recently published in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, revealed increases in the numbers of Proteobacteria, a large phylum [group] of microbes, in the intestines of mice drinking water supplemented with Splenda. Half of the mice studied, belonging to a genetic line that suffers a form of Crohn’s disease were more affected than the remaining half of mice, which belong to a healthy mouse line. Splenda produced intestinal overgrowth of E. coli (a member of the Proteobacteria group) and increased bacterial penetration into the gut wall, but only in Crohn’s disease-like mice.

The researchers also found that Splenda ingestion results in increased myeloperoxidase activity in the intestines of mice with the bowel disease, but not in the healthy mice. Myeloperoxidase is an enzyme in leukocytes (white blood cells) that is effective in killing various microorganisms. The inference is that the increased presence of E. coli intensified the myeloperoxidase activity in the bowel as the body sought to fight off the invader. The findings suggest that consumption of Splenda may increase myeloperoxidase production only in individuals with a pro-inflammatory predisposition, such as Crohn’s disease or other forms of inflammatory bowel disease patients. As part of this process, inflammation and its attendant consequences could exacerbate the symptoms of Crohn’s disease.

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