Our intestines are inhabited by trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms. Although this figure can give a little vertigo (even creepy) its role is absolutely vital to our health. Compromising the quality of life of our microscopic inhabitants can cause diseases of all kinds, affect our central nervous system and even our state of mind.
We already knew that certain processed foods help to destabilize this microbiota. To the known problems — sugars, saturated fats and salt — the advance of a recent investigation is added, which has seen a new enemy of our intestinal system. A food additive, dietary trehalose , may be associated with the increasing frequency of Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) outbreaks.
C. difficile is a bacterium that is naturally found in the environment (water, air, food...) Even a small part of the population is carrying this bacterium in the large intestine without manifesting in a pathological way. However, the ' C. difficile ' power button may cause a typically hospitable infection, which "may be as mild as acute gastroenteritis or cause fulminant colitis: with abdominal pain, fever and ending in an organic failure That causes death, "says Michael Lowak, family doctor and microbiologist.
This sugar came into our lives in the 21st century
At the beginning of the years 2000 this sugar considered "ideal" by the food industry, by its capacity to sweeten and to improve the texture of the certain products began to incorporate in the processed foods. Present naturally in mushrooms and other mushrooms, but as an additive is extracted from the starch of cereals, until then its production cost was too high but a revolutionary enzymatic method managed to lower its price and inclusion In ultraprocessed it was popularized; Its use in the European Community was also regulated.
Coinciding with the dates when the trehalose began to be found in minced meats, biscuits, ice cream — among other foods that have undergone a chemical processing — outbreaks of ' C. difficile ' infection began to be recorded, namely the RT027 and RT078 strains. This curious coincidence caught the attention of a group of researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, USA, according to the study, whose findings have just been published in the scientific journal Nature.
Bacteria with a sweet palate
"Recent research in animal models has proven that certain sweeteners and artificial emulsifiers can alter the intestinal microbial communities in a way that contributes to metabolic disease", explains BuenaVida the Principal investigator of the study, Robert Britton. In his research, in particular, it is observed how these strains of C. difficile "have been adapted to consume a freshly added sugar to our diet, the trehalose, and how this may have contributed to the Hypervirulence". The expert clarifies that people who are not susceptible to this bacterium their intake is not a problem.
However, these results must be taken wisely, in science the correlation does not necessarily prove causality. In this regard, Britton asserts that "the use of fluoroquinolones, a type of antibiotic, also played a role in the appearance of these strains. Because they are resistant to this kind of antibiotics, this probably helped their emergency. "
According to Andrés Sánchez-Yagüe, head of gastroenterology at the Hospital Vithas Xanit Internacional (Marbella) and spokesman for the Spanish Society of Digestive Pathology (EDPS), "It is difficult to assess the real impact of this discovery because the implication Clinic of this mechanism is not yet evaluated. " In the same direction, academic Britton adds that " clinical trials are now needed to see if limiting trehalose in patients susceptible to C. difficile will have an impact on morbidity and mortality."
The bacteria in our gut eat what we throw at them
In the absence of clinical studies that have just demonstrated this correlation, we ask what impact food additives (sweeteners, dyes, thickeners, stabilizers...) may be having on our intestinal health. "Bacteria eat what we eat. Therefore, changes in our diets have an impact on both our own physiology and the evolution of microbes living in our intestines, explains Britton.
Another study conducted with mice and also published in Nature, showed that food emulsifiers alter the composition of bacteria in the colon. The consequences? Increased risk of inflammatory bowel disease and metabolic disorders. and is that one of the main means of protection of the intestine to the bacteria of its flora is a mucus that covers the entire intestinal surface that allows the microorganisms to remain at a reasonable distance from the epithelial cells that cover The intestine. According to the authors, "agents that disrupt mucus-bacterial interactions may have the potential to promote diseases associated with intestinal inflammation."
One of the main problems in measuring the impact of dietary additives on our health is the lack of short-term effects. In addition, age, genetics, environment or lifestyle are other factors that affect the type of bacteria that make up our intestinal flora. However, that the scientific community is adding efforts to find out what consequences their consumption may have to think, right?
What to do While we wait for irrefutable scientific results? Minimize the consumption of processed, as in addition to additives contain everything that WHO alerts as health risk. And it is not necessary to remember that the intake of whole grains helps to maintain an optimal equilibrium of the intestinal bacteria as well as the consumption of fruits and vegetables because they "contain complex carbohydrates that help the bacteria good proliferate", They say from the Mayo clinic.