While poorly-absorbed sugar alcohols such as sorbitol are widely used as sweeteners, they may induce diarrhea in some individuals. However, the factors which determine an individual’s susceptibility to sugar alcohol-induced diarrhea remain unknown. Here, we show that specific gut bacteria are involved in the suppression of sorbitol-induced diarrhea. Based on 16S rDNA analysis, the abundance of Enterobacteriaceae bacteria increased in response to sorbitol consumption. We found that Escherichia coli of the family Enterobacteriaceae degraded sorbitol and suppressed sorbitol-induced diarrhea. Finally, we showed that the metabolism of sorbitol by the E. coli sugar phosphotransferase system helped suppress sorbitol-induced diarrhea. Therefore, gut microbiota prevented sugar alcohol-induced diarrhea by degrading sorbitol in the gut. The identification of the gut bacteria which respond to and degrade sugar alcohols in the intestine has implications for microbiome science, processed food science, and public health.
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