It is no secret to say that one of the strongest health recommendations today is to avoid the consumption of refined sugars. In fact, the WHO recommends that both children and adults consume no more than 10% of the daily energy intake in “Free sugars.” Among the most famous sources are glucose, fructose and sucrose (white sugar), which are found naturally in honey, syrups, juices, fruit concentrates, table sugar, and also as additives in many foods processed. Although each day we have more information about the harmful effects of sugar, a group of American researchers discovered that glucose and fructose (two especially abundant sugars in the Western diet) can alter the growth of a bacteria present in large quantities in the intestinal flora of people with a balanced weight and in good health: Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron.
It is well known that foods rich in refined sugars and found in a wide range of processed foods are not only high in calories: they lack fiber. Which is found naturally in whole fruits and vegetables, which is why they are the best source of natural sugars. What happens with the consumption of simple sugars is that cause an increase in blood glucose and, therefore, the risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
According to scientists, the recurrent and constant consumption of processed sugars causes the inactivation of an important bacterium for intestinal health: Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron and that is why its effects go beyond its simple absorption in the small intestine. The name of this bacterium is due to the fact that some of its components resemble Greek letters “Theta”, “iota” and “omicron.” The specific finding was that fructose and glucose are capable of inactivating the production of a protein made by B. thetaiotaomicron, that favors the correct development of the bacteria in the intestinal microbiota.
The study found that sugar has a direct effect on genes. It was done in vitro in mice, and the results only confirmed what other researchers had previously postulated: glucose and fructose can reach the colon, the main seat of the intestinal flora. Although this is not new, the truly new finding about this study lies in the way in which they could unbalance the microbiota and that is that sugar not only serves as a source of energy for certain harmful bacteria. It usually directly alters some bacterial genes, as happens specifically with B. thetaiotaomicron.
In such a way that the effect of sugar tends to be much deeper at the intestinal level, although the main recommendation is to give up the consumption of added sugars; it is just as important to integrate sufficient fiber intake into your daily diet. Since in the case of occasionally consuming some sweet taste, fiber will be the vital nutrient to mitigate the damaging effects. Remember that good intestinal health depends on the quality of the bacteria that make up the microbiota and with this a healthy balance is achieved in all the organism’s systems: digestive, intestinal, immune, cardiac, mental and emotional.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.