New data presented at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society, held in Chicago, suggests that consuming low-calorie sweeteners could put people at risk of metabolic syndrome.
Around 34% of adults in the United States have metabolic syndrome, the umbrella term for: high blood pressure; high blood sugar; high cholesterol levels; and abdominal fat.
We know that metabolic syndrome doubles the risk of heart disease and disease of the blood vessels, putting individuals at risk of heart disease and stroke. People with metabolic syndrome are also 3 to 5 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
In this new study, researchers from George Washington University examined the effects of a low-calorie sweetener called sucralose on human stem cells from fat tissue. These were experimented on in petri dishes that simulated an obesity-promoting environment.
The scientists mimicked the typical concentration of sucralose in the blood of people who consume high quantities of low-calorie sweeteners. When this was administered to the stem cells, the team noticed increased expression of genes linked with fat production and inflammation.
The authors followed this up with a separate experiment involving biopsy samples of abdominal fat from people who were regular consumers of low-calorie sweeteners. In fat samples from people that were a healthy weight, they did not find a significant increase in gene expression, but in the fat samples from overweight or obese participants, there was significant overexpression of fat-producing and inflammation-inducing genes.
Study co-author Sabyasachi Sen, who is an associate professor of medicine at George Washington University, describes the results. “Our stem cell-based studies indicate that low-calorie sweeteners promote additional fat accumulation within the cells compared with cells not exposed to these substances, in a dose-dependent fashion – meaning that as the dose of sucralose in increased more cells showed increased fat droplet accumulation.”
“This most likely occurs by increasing glucose entry into cells through increased activity of genes called glucose transporters.”
The scientists believe that the over-expression in fat-related genes is more pronounced in people who are obese and have pre-diabetes or diabetes because they have increased amounts of glucose in their blood, which creates insulin resistance.
You know sucralose as ‘Splenda’ and it’s in everything. First approved by the FDA as a “non-nutritive sweetener” in 1999. Rumor has it that scientists were trying to develop a new pesticide and substituted chlorine for the hydroxyl group in sucrose. They ended up with a molecule 600 times sweeter than sugar without the calories. A vast majority of the sucralose produced is sold to the food industry for use in many foods and soft drinks. However, 10% is purchased by the drug industry to sweeten medications.
In addition to the issues surrounding metabolic syndrome, when heated (like baking) it produces chloroproanols, a potential toxin. Studies have shown that sucralose decreases healthy bacteria in the gut by 50%, interferes with some medications and disrupts glycoprotein activity in the body.
The Bottom Line:
Stay away from Splenda and any products containing sucralose (it will be listed on the label). I recommend raw sugar or, if you must stevia.
Source: National Institutes of Health March 19, 2018