To identify possible mechanisms by which maternal consumption of non-nutritive sweeteners increases obesity risk in offspring, we reconstructed the major alterations in the cecal microbiome of 3-week-old offspring of obese dams consuming high fat/sucrose (HFS) diet with or without aspartame (5–7 mg/kg/day) or stevia (2–3 mg/kg/day) by shotgun metagenomic sequencing (n = 36). High throughput 16S rRNA gene sequencing (n = 105) was performed for dams, 3- and 18-week-old offspring.
Maternal consumption of sweeteners altered cecal microbial composition and metabolism of propionate/lactate in their offspring.
Offspring daily body weight gain, liver weight and body fat were positively correlated to the relative abundance of key microbes and enzymes involved in succinate/propionate production while negatively correlated to that of lactose degradation and lactate production.
The altered propionate/lactate production in the cecum of weanlings from aspartame and stevia consuming dams implicates an altered ratio of dietary carbohydrate digestion, mainly lactose, in the small intestine vs. microbial fermentation in the large intestine.
The reconstructed microbiome alterations could explain increased offspring body weight and body fat. This study demonstrates that intense sweet tastants have a lasting and intergenerational effect on gut microbiota, microbial metabolites and host health.
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