Lab study suggests maltodextrin may encourage growth of E. colibacteria in small intestine. By Jenifer Goodwin HealthDay Reporter MONDAY, May 21 (HealthDay News) -- The food additive maltodextrin,commonly used in some artificial sweeteners, may worsen Crohn'sdisease by encouraging the growth of E. coli bacteria in the smallintestine, a new study suggests. However, researchers stressed that the findings are preliminary andthe tests were conducted in the lab, not in people, so it's toosoon to advise those with the inflammatory bowel disease to avoidmaltodextrin. |
Maltodextrin is a white powder used in many processed foods as athickener or a filler, including the artificial sweeteners Splendaand Equal, along with cereal, canned fruits, packaged desserts,instant pudding, sauces and salad dressings. Maltodextrin,typically derived from corn or wheat starch, is also used in somemedication coatings. In the study, researchers placed Equal, Splenda and anothersweetener, Stevia, in a dish along with E. coli bacteria taken frompeople with Crohn's disease.
While E. coli is commonly found in thedigestive tract of humans, it's usually found in the largeintestine, explained senior study author Christine McDonald,assistant staff in the pathobiology department at the ClevelandClinic's Lerner Research Institute. Prior research has found thatpeople with Crohn's tend to have E. coli in their small intestine.
Though the precise role that E. coli plays in Crohn's is unknown,it's thought that the bacteria may contribute to the inflammationthat marks the condition. When grown in the dish with the Equal (which contains aspartame,dextrose and maltodextrin) and the Splenda (which containssucralose, dextrose and maltodextrin), the E. coli grew stickier,forming a thick biofilm, according to the researchers.
The samedidn't happen with the Stevia, which is made from the leaves of aSouth American plant and does not contain maltodextrin. Researchers then repeated the experiments, culturing E. coli withmaltodextrin alone, and the same sticky biofilm formed. "In the lab, the E.
coli becomes stickier, and it sticks tointestinal cells," said McDonald, who conducted the research withgraduate student Kourtney Nickerson. "But we haven't tested this inanimals to see if there is a particular amount you need to eat tohave this effect. It may be that in people who have other riskfactors for inflammatory bowel disease, this may tip them over theedge." The study, which was funded by the U.S. National Institutes ofHealth, was to be presented Monday at the Digestive Disease Weekmeeting in San Diego. Crohn's disease is an inflammation of the digestive tract that canlead to swelling, pain and ulcers.
Although the disease can affectany part of the digestive tract from the mouth to the anus, themost common spot is the small intestine. It's unknown what causes the disease, although it's believed thatmicrobes -- along with genetics and other environmental factors --play a role, said Dr. Jerrold Turner, an associate chair in thedepartment of pathology at the University of Chicago. A healthy gut contains a multitude of bacteria that aid in thedigestion of food and extraction of nutrients from foods.
A healthyintestine has a layer of mucus that keeps the bacteria away fromthe lining of the intestine itself. Prior studies have found that,in people with Crohn's, the thickness of that mucus layerdecreases, meaning there are more bacteria directly on the cellslining the intestine, possibly leading to inflammation, Turnerexplained. The sticky biofilm may also mean there are more bacteria on thelining of the intestines, McDonald said. No specific diet has been shown to prevent or treat Crohn'sdisease, according to the U.S. National Digestive DiseasesInformation Clearinghouse.
However, the incidence of Crohn's hasbeen rising in the United States in recent decades, leadingresearchers to suspect that something about the modern Americandiet is contributing. In addition, many people with the disease notice that certain foodsor types of foods seem to make their symptoms worse. McDonald said people with Crohn's may want to try avoidingmaltodextrin and see if their symptoms improve, but she and Turnerboth said more needs to be learned before they recommend thatpeople with Crohn's or a susceptibility to Crohn's avoid theadditive. "It's a very interesting and provocative finding, and [it] may tellus something about the bacteria and what is happening in theintestines, but it's really too preliminary to make anyrecommendations," Turner said.
A group representing the artificial sweetener industry said thefinding was too preliminary to prompt any changes in how artificialsweeteners are made or sold. "This study was done on cells in petri dishes, therefore it is notpossible to apply these findings to humans," the Calorie ControlCouncil said in a statement released Monday. "Even the researcherhas stated that it is too early to conclude that maltodextrinpromotes disease. Further research is needed before any humannutrition recommendations can be made." Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data andconclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in apeer-reviewed journal. More information The U.S.
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse has more on Crohn's. SOURCES: Christine McDonald, Ph.D., assistant staff, pathobiologydepartment, Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland Clinic; Jerrold R.Turner, M.D., Ph.D., professor and associate chair, department ofpathology, University of Chicago; May 21, 2012, statement, CalorieControl Council, Atlanta; May 21, 2012, presentation, DigestiveDisease Week meeting, San Diego Copyright © 2012 HealthDay . All rights reserved.
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