Low-Calorie Sweeteners Could Make You More Fat, New Study Suggests

By Lisa Franchi on April 06, 2017

Low-calorie, artificial sweeteners may seem like a great sugar substitute for people trying to cut their calorie intake. Unfortunately, they may have the opposite effect on our body. According to new research, artificial sweeteners may play havoc in metabolism and could lead to fat accumulation, especially in people who are already obese.

The new findings, presented at the Endocrine Society’s 99th annual meeting in Orlando, Florida, add to the increasing body of research suggesting that artificial sweeteners promote metabolic dysfunction. For the study, researchers tested sucralose - a popular low-calorie sweetener, on stem cells—cells that could change into mature fat, muscle, cartilage or bone cells—taken from human fat tissue. They placed these cells in Petri dishes for 12 days in media that promotes fat production. At a 0.2-millimolar sucralose dose similar to the concentration found in the blood of people with high consumption of low-calorie sweeteners—equal to four cans of diet soda per day—the researchers observed increased expression of genes that are markers of fat production and inflammation. There also was increased accumulation of fat droplets in cells, particularly at a larger dose (1 millimolar), Sabyasachi Sen reports. She is the Associate Professor of Medicine and Endocrinology at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and the study’s principal investigator.

With these findings, the researchers then set another experiment, in which they analysed biopsy samples of abdominal fat obtained from eight subjects who said they consumed low-calorie sweeteners. Four of the subjects were of healthy weight, and four were obese. According to Sen, they saw evidence of increased glucose (sugar) transport into cells and overexpression of known fat-producing genes, compared with fat biopsy samples from subjects who did not consume low-calorie sweeteners.

They also found that those who consumed low-calorie sweeteners, which are several-fold sweeter than sugar, showed an overexpression of sweet taste receptors in their fat tissue; this overexpression was up to 2.5-fold higher than in subjects without history of consumption of these sweeteners.  Sen notes that overexpression of sweet taste receptors in the abdominal fat may play a role in allowing glucose to enter cells, from which the body absorbs it into the bloodstream.

All these findings suggest that consumption of artificial sweeteners results to metabolic dysregulation in which the cellular mechanisms are changing to make more fat, he explained. He added that these effects were most apparent in the obese individuals who consumed low-calorie sweeteners, rather than individuals of normal weight.

Sen and his team said more studies involving more obese and diabetic people are needed to confirm their findings.

Source of this article:

The Endocrine Society

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