Dietary simple sugars alter microbial ecology in the gut and promote colitis in mice

Shahanshah Khan, Sumyya Waliullah, Victoria Godfrey, Md Abdul Wadud Khan, Rajalaksmy A. Ramachandran, Brandi Cantarel, Cassie Behrendt, Lan Peng, Lora V. Hooper, Hasan Zaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


The higher prevalence of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in Western countries points to Western diet as a possible IBD risk factor. High sugar, which is linked to many noncommunicable diseases, is a hallmark of the Western diet, but its role in IBD remains unknown. Here, we studied the effects of simple sugars such as glucose and fructose on colitis pathogenesis in wild-type and Il10−/− mice. Wild-type mice fed 10% glucose in drinking water or high-glucose diet developed severe colitis induced by dextran sulfate sodium. High-glucose–fed Il10−/− mice also developed a worsened colitis compared to glucose-untreated Il10−/− mice. Short-term intake of high glucose or fructose did not trigger inflammatory responses in healthy gut but markedly altered gut microbiota composition. In particular, the abundance of the mucus-degrading bacteria Akkermansia muciniphila and Bacteroides fragilis was increased. Consistently, bacteria-derived mucolytic enzymes were enriched leading to erosion of the colonic mucus layer of sugar-fed wild-type and Il10−/− mice. Sugar-induced exacerbation of colitis was not observed when mice were treated with antibiotics or maintained in a germ-free environment, suggesting that altered microbiota played a critical role in sugar-induced colitis pathogenesis. Furthermore, germ-free mice colonized with microbiota from sugar-treated mice showed increased colitis susceptibility. Together, these data suggest that intake of simple sugars predisposes to colitis and enhances its pathogenesis via modulation of gut microbiota in mice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbereaay6218
JournalScience translational medicine
Issue number567
StatePublished - Oct 28 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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