Maltodextrin May Worsen Crohn’s Disease
Popular artificial sweeteners Splenda and Equal contain the compound maltodextrin, which, according to a new study, may worsen Crohn’s Disease symptoms. Though these tests are preliminary and were conducted in a lab without human participants, the findings may be of interest to those who suffer from Crohn’s Disease, or Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Los Angeles.
In addition to its use in sweeteners, maltodextrin is a white powder used as a filler or thickener in many processed foods such as packaged desserts, cereals, instant pudding and salad dressings. Also used in some medication coatings, maltodextrin is typically derived from wheat starch or corn. However, this particular study only examined the effects of maltodextrin in the two varieties of artificial sweeteners.
For this particular study, researchers combined E. coli bacteria taken from sufferers of Crohn’s Disease with the artificial sweeteners Splenda, Equal and Stevia in one dish. Though E. coli bacteria found in the digestive tract of non-sufferers are usually in the large intestine, prior research has found that people with Crohn’s Disease tend to harbor E. coli in the small intestine. E. coli’s precise contribution to Crohn’s Disease is unknown, though it’s suggested that the bacteria influences the inflammation that marks the condition.
According to researchers, when grown in the dish with Splenda (which contains maltodextrin, sucralose and dextrose) as well as when grown with Equal (which contains maltodextrin, aspartame and dextrose) the E. coli bacteria grew stickier and formed a thick biofilm. However, when grown with the artificial sweetener Stevia, which does not contain maltodextrin, the result was not the same. Researchers went one step further by growing E. coli with only the compound maltodextrin in a dish and the same sticky biofilm formed.
Though E. coli characteristically becomes stickier and adheres to intestinal cells in the lab, researchers believe that people with other risk factors for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) may be tipped over the edge by this reaction. Crohn’s Disease is characterized by inflammation of the digestive tract and can lead to pain, swelling and ulcers. The most common part of the digestive tract affected by this disease is the small intestine. Though causes of the disease are still unknown, researchers suggest that microbes, in addition to genetics and environmental factors, play a particular role.
A healthy intestine has a layer of mucus that keeps the bacteria away from the intestinal lining. Prior research has indicated that sufferers of Crohn’s Disease have a decreased mucus layer in the intestine. When this mucus layer decreases, bacteria may have direct access to the intestinal lining, which could result in further inflammation.
These results lead researchers to believe that the experiment’s sticky biofilm discovery may indicate there are more bacteria on the lining of the intestines that could exacerbate inflammation in IBD sufferers who consume maltodextrin. Though this study is preliminary and further research is needed before any medical recommendation can be made, it might be interesting for people with Crohn’s Disease to avoid maltodextrin or foods containing the compound to see if their symptoms improve.