Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Sickly Sweet

Dietary sugar changes the composition of the gut bacteria promoting colitis

06 December 2020

Sickly Sweet

As the holiday season approaches, we might be looking forward to some comfort food, but recent research reminds us to go easy on the sweets. Already an obvious culprit for the high prevalence type II diabetes, evidence is mounting to suggest sugar-rich Western-style diets are also linked to gut disorders, particularly inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Tests in mice suggest one possible way sugar might cause trouble, by altering the community of microorganisms, or microbiome, inside the gut. Mice fed a sugar-rich diet possess higher levels of harmful gut bacteria, known to degrade the protective mucus layer lining the colon (pictured, with gut cell nuclei in blue, bacteria in red and mucus in green), and are also more susceptible to colitis, a form of IBD. Despite differences between the microbiome in humans and rodents, investigating links between diet, gut bacteria and IBD could reveal new insights into this increasingly common disorder.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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