It seems that sugar could be even worse than previously believed. It has been revealed that it harms the gut and triggers increased colorectal cancer risk.
Sugar harms the overall health
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is commonly linked to high sugar consumption. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are the two main types of IBD, which can cause debilitating symptoms such as persistent diarrhea, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, bloody stools, weight loss, and fatigue. The incidence of IBD has been on the rise in recent years.
A narrative review published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology in 2022 highlighted that various epidemiological data indicate a direct correlation between the high consumption of sugar in Western diets and an increased risk of developing IBD.
High consumption of sugar and soft drinks increases the risk of developing ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Studies indicate that consuming sugary foods can trigger flare-ups and worsen symptoms in about 10% of IBD patients.
Consuming a diet high in sugar can cause significant changes in the composition of gut microbes in a short amount of time. This is because bacteria that thrive on simple sugars reproduce quickly, while those that rely on fiber, like Bacteroides, may decrease in number.
Bacteroides are highly beneficial for overall health and gut health, as they help break down dietary fiber into short-chain fatty acids.
Additionally, high-sugar diets can reduce the number of Akkermansia bacteria, which are beneficial microbes that regulate the thickness of the mucus layer and support intestinal barrier function. Sugar consumption can also increase intestinal permeability, which is commonly known as “leaky gut.”
A high-sugar diet can cause damage to the intestinal mucosa, which may result in the thinning of the gut and the production of high levels of reactive oxygen species.
This can ultimately alter the colon’s architecture and disrupt its rapid regeneration rate.
The intestinal stem cells continuously divide while old cells are continually shed, but a study published in 2023 revealed that this mechanism can be disrupted by a high-sugar diet.