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.
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