MONDAY, May 21 (HealthDay News) -- The food additive maltodextrin, commonly used in some artificial sweeteners, may worsen Crohn's disease by encouraging the growth of E. coli bacteria in the small intestine, a new study suggests.
However, researchers stressed that the findings are preliminary and the tests were conducted in the lab, not in people, so it's too soon to advise those with the inflammatory bowel disease to avoid maltodextrin.
Maltodextrin is a white powder used in many processed foods as a thickener or a filler, including the artificial sweeteners Splenda and 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 some medication coatings.
In the study, researchers placed Equal, Splenda and another sweetener, Stevia, in a dish along with E. coli bacteria taken from people with Crohn's disease. While E. coli is commonly found in the digestive tract of humans, it's usually found in the large intestine, explained senior study author Christine McDonald, assistant staff in the pathobiology department at the Cleveland Clinic's Lerner Research Institute. Prior research has found that people 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 inflammation that marks the condition.
When grown in the dish with the Equal (which contains aspartame, dextrose and maltodextrin) and the Splenda (which contains sucralose, dextrose and maltodextrin), the E. coli grew stickier, forming a thick biofilm, according to the researchers. The same didn't happen with the Stevia, which is made from the leaves of a South American plant and does not contain maltodextrin.
Researchers then repeated the experiments, culturing E. c
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