Although artificial sweeteners are widely used in food industry, their effects on human health remain a controversy. It is known that the gut microbiota plays a key role in human metabolism and recent studies indicated that some artificial sweeteners such as saccharin could perturb gut microbiome and further affect host health, such as inducing glucose intolerance. Neotame is a relatively new low-caloric and high-intensity artificial sweetener, approved by FDA in 2002. However, the specific effects of neotame on gut bacteria are still unknown. In this study, we combined high-throughput sequencing and gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS) metabolomics to investigate the effects of neotame on the gut microbiome and fecal metabolite profiles of CD-1 mice. We found that a four-week neotame consumption reduced the alpha-diversity and altered the beta-diversity of the gut microbiome. Firmicutes was largely decreased while Bacteroidetes was significantly increased. The Phylogenetic Investigation of Communities by Reconstruction of Unobserved States (PICRUSt) analysis also indicated that the control mice and neotame-treated mice have different metabolic patterns and some key genes such as butyrate synthetic genes were decreased. Moreover, neotame consumption also changed the fecal metabolite profiles. Dramatically, the concentrations of multiple fatty acids, lipids as well as cholesterol in the feces of neotame-treated mice were consistently higher than controls. Other metabolites, such as malic acid and glyceric acid, however, were largely decreased. In conclusion, our study first explored the specific effects of neotame on mouse gut microbiota and the results may improve our understanding of the interaction between gut microbiome and neotame and how this interaction could influence the normal metabolism of host bodies.
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