Proceedings of The Physiological Society

Future Physiology (Leeds, UK) (2017) Proc Physiol Soc 39, PC54

Poster Communications

The differential effect of artificial sweeteners on the intestinal epithelium

A. Shil1, H. Chichger1

1. Department of Biomedical and Forensic Sciences, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, United Kingdom.


Background: Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes that are used as food additives worldwide (Suez et al, 2014). These non-caloric sweeteners are increasingly consumed in the diet by diabetic patients to reduce sugar intake and hyperglycaemia. However recent studies have indicated that sweet taste sensing in enterocytes is linked with glucose intolerance and exacerbation of metabolic disease (Nettleton et al., 2016; Suez et al, 2014). Therefore controversy remains regarding the role of these intensely-sweet molecules on the intestinal epithelium. Aims: To study the effect of three commonly-consumed artificial sweeteners on intestinal epithelial cell function. Methods: Human cells (Caco-2) were used as an in vitro intestinal epithelial cell model. Cells were exposed to the artificial sweeteners (saccharin, sucralose and aspartame), in the presence and absence of the barrier-disruptive agent lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and cell viability (CCK8, Annexin V assay) and barrier integrity (FITC Dextran permeability assay) were assessed. Results: At physiological concentrations (1 and 10 mM), saccharin and aspartame significantly reduced Caco-2 cell viability. Intestinal barrier function was then assessed at sub-physiological concentrations (10 and 100 µM). Both saccharin and aspartame significantly decreased Caco-2 monolayer integrity similar to the damage caused by LPS. Conversely, sucralose had no significant effect on Caco-2 cell viability or intestinal epithelial barrier function at physiological and sub-physiological concentrations. Conclusions: These findings suggest that artificial sweeteners saccharin and aspartame, but not sucralose, negatively affect the intestinal epithelium at both physiological and sub-physiological concentrations associated with a low-sugar diet. As the consumption of artificial sweeteners in the diet increases, it is vital to understand how these sweeteners differentially impact the intestinal epithelium.

Where applicable, experiments conform with Society ethical requirements