A new study out of the University of Alberta suggests short-term increases in sugar
consumption could increase the risk of inflammatory bowel disease
and have a significant impact on our health.
The study published in Scientific Reports
, mentioned that the researchers found that mice had an increased susceptibility to chemically induced colitis
and more severe symptoms after only two days of a high-sugar
diet compared with those eating a balanced diet.
Dr Karen Madsen, who specializes in diet and its effects on inflammatory bowel disease
, said the results echo what many patients with colitis
have been saying for a long time: small changes in their diet can make their symptoms flare up.
Dr Karen Madsen who led the study told Thailand Medical
News, "It's been previously shown that the type of diet that you are on can change your susceptibility to disease. We wanted to know how long it takes before a change in diet translates into an impact on health. In the case of sugar
, it only took two days, which was really surprising to us. We didn't think it would happen so quickly."
The answer as to what could drive such a significant change in such a short time turns out it's all about gut bacteria and the impact food has on them.
Typically, fibre-rich foods act as fuel for the "good" bacteria that live in the gut and produce short-chain fatty acids, which are critical for an efficient immune response. Eating high-sugar diets and decreasing intake of fibre feeds "bad" microbes, such as E. coli, that are associated with inflammation
and a defective immune response.
Dr Madsen's study showed that the mice on the high-sugar
diet had greater intestinal tissue damage and a defective immune response. These issues were alleviated when their diet was supplemented with short-chain fatty acids normally produced by good bacteria.
Dr Madsen explained, "Surprisingly, our study shows that short-term sugar
consumption can really have a detrimental impact, and so this idea that it's OK to eat well all week and indulge in junk food on the weekend is flawed."
Further studies could pave the way to possibly using short-chain fatty acids as dietary supplements, she noted.
Dr Madsen added, "Changing someone's diet is one of the hardest things to do, even if you tell them that it will fix their health problems. People want to eat what they want to eat, so short-chain fatty acids could possibly be used as supplements to help protect people against the detrimental effects of sugar on inflammatory bowel disease
Dr Madsen and her colleagues also showed that just two days on the high-sugar
diet and the absence of short-chain fatty acids caused an increase in gut permeability, opening interesting avenues of research on how diet may affect the bacteria in our gastrointestinal
tract and brain health.
Dr Madsen explained, "There is an increasing amount of evidence that suggests there's a link between the bacteria present in our gut and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Because our study showed that gut permeability increased quite dramatically in the mice on the high-sugar diet which means that bacterial products are free to move from the gut, where they normally stay, to the rest of the body it raises the possibility that this phenomenon might be driving these diseases, but this needs to be looked into."
Reference : Michael Laffin et al. A high-sugar diet rapidly enhances susceptibility to colitis via depletion of luminal short-chain fatty acids in mice, Scientific Reports (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-48749-2