Artificial sweeteners, routinely included in piglet diets, were initially thought to only enhance feed palatability.
Furness et al (2013) proposed that the intestine is in fact a sensory organ. The gut is able to perceive its internal environment and adapt to it autonomously without any interaction with the central nervous system.
In this context, the R&D department of Pancosma, in cooperation with major universities, has conducted research in animal nutrition about gut-to-gut communication and were the first to discover “Gut Effects”, promoted as Intelligent Gut Action (IGA) (Furness et al, 2013. The gut as sensory organ. Nature Reviews 1)
Sucram not only targets lingual epithelium, but also the gut epithelium. This IGA effect leads to many crucial physiological responses such as improved nutrient absorption and better gut integrity (Moran et al., 2010; Wall, 2012).
Sucram is shown to enhance the expression of Na+/glucose co-transporter (SGLT1) and the capacity of the gut to absorb glucose (Moran et al., 2010).
The Na+/glucose co-transporter (SGLT1) is the major route for the transport of dietary sugars from the lumen of the intestine into enterocytes (Shirazi-Beechey et al., 2011).
Dietary glucose and artificial sweeteners act on the intestinal sweet taste receptor and Gustducin to elicit the up-regulation of SGLT1 (Margolskee et al., 2007; Shirazi-Beechey et al., 2006)
It was demonstrated that there was a significant up-regulation of SGLT1 expression at the levels of mRNA, protein and function in the intestine of 28-d-old piglets when weaned onto commercial wheat- and soya-based swine diet containing Sucram, compared with the same diet lacking Sucram (Moran et al., 2010).
Stearns et al., 2010 has shown that infusion of saccharin into the lumen of rat small intestine results in a 2-fold increase in SGLT1 expression, indicating that the artificial sweetener is acting directly in the intestine to up-regulate SGLT1 expression.
Supplementing Sucram to post-weaned piglets resulted in a more constant feed intake pattern over time. Reduction in watery and soft faeces was also observed when Sucram was supplemented to post-weaned piglets. Growth performance and feed efficiency tended to improve as well (Technical Bulletin 138).
The expression of SGLT1 is up-regulated in the intestine of piglets fed diets supplemented with Sucram or when included in the drinking water. This implies that sweeteners are effective in enhancing the capacity of the intestine to absorb dietary sugar whether they are included in the feed or provided in a liquid feed. (Moran et al., 2010).
The addition of either lactose or saccharin/NHDC to the piglets’ feed dramatically increased the caecal population abundance of Lactobacillus. This is the first report of the prebiotic-like effects of Sucram, an artificial sweetener, being able to influence the commensal gut microbiota (Daly et al., 2013).