Although epidemiological studies indicate a strong correlation between high sugar intake and metabolic diseases, the biological mechanisms underlying this link are still controversial. To further examine the modification and crosstalk occurring in enterocyte metabolism during sugar absorption, in this study we evaluate the diffusion and intestinal metabolism of glucose, fructose and sucrose, which were supplemented in equimolar concentration to Caco-2 cells grown on polyester membrane inserts. At different time points after supplementation, changes in metabolite concentration were evaluated in the apical and basolateral chambers by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and gas-chromatography (GC). Sucrose was only minimally hydrolyzed by Caco-2 cells. Upon supplementation, we observed a faster uptake of fructose than glucose, the pentose sugar being also faster catabolized. Monosaccharide absorption was concomitant to the synthesis/transport of other metabolites, which occurred differently in glucose and fructose supplemented cells. Our results confirm the prominent role of intestinal cells in fructose metabolism and clearance after absorption, representing a further step forward in the understanding of the role of dietary sugars. Future research, including targeted analysis on specific transporters/enzymes and the use of labeled substrates, will be helpful to confirm the present results and their interpretation.
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