Low-calorie sweeteners promote fat accumulation in human fat

April 3, 2017
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Low-calorie, artificial sweeteners appear to play havoc with the body's metabolism, and large consumption of these sugar substitutes could promote fat accumulation, especially in people who are already obese, preliminary research suggests. The study results will be presented Monday at ENDO 2017, the Endocrine Society's 99th annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

"Many health-conscious individuals like to consume low-calorie sweeteners as an alternative to sugar. However, there is increasing scientific evidence that these sweeteners promote metabolic dysfunction," said Sabyasachi Sen, M.D., an Associate Professor of Medicine and Endocrinology at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and the study's principal investigator.

Sen and his colleagues tested sucralose, a popular low-calorie , 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 . 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 said they observed increased expression of genes that are markers of fat production and inflammation. There also was increased accumulation of in cells, particularly at a larger dose (1 millimolar), Sen reported.

With this evidence, the investigators then conducted a separate experiment. They analyzed biopsy samples of obtained from eight subjects who said they consumed low-calorie sweeteners (mainly sucralose and a trace of aspartame, and/or acesulfame potassium). Four of the subjects were 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.

Additionally, he noted that subjects 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. Overexpression of sweet taste receptors in the abdominal fat, he said, may play a role in allowing glucose to enter cells, from which the body absorbs it into the bloodstream.

All these findings are signs of metabolic dysregulation in which the cellular mechanisms are changing to make more fat, he explained. Of concern, Sen said, these effects were most apparent in the obese individuals who consumed low-calorie sweeteners, rather than individuals of normal weight. He added that the observed increased uptake of glucose into the cells is also concerning for consumers who have diabetes and prediabetes, "who already have more in their blood," compared to their counterparts who do not have diabetes.

More studies are necessary in larger numbers of people with diabetes and obesity to confirm these findings, he stressed.

"However, from our study," Sen stated, "we believe that low-calorie sweeteners promote additional fat formation by allowing more glucose to enter the , and promotes inflammation, which may be more detrimental in ."

Explore further: Consumption of low-calorie sweeteners jumps by 200 percent in US children

Related Stories

Consumption of low-calorie sweeteners jumps by 200 percent in US children

January 10, 2017
About 25 percent of children and more than 41 percent of adults in the United States reported consuming foods and beverages containing low-calorie sweeteners (LCS) such as aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin in a recent nationwide ...

Artificial sweeteners may do more than sweeten

May 29, 2013
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that a popular artificial sweetener can modify how the body handles sugar.

Sugar substitutes may cut calories, but no health benefits for individuals with obesity

May 24, 2016
Artificial sweeteners help individuals with obesity to cut calories and lose weight but may have negative health effects, according to researchers at York University's Faculty of Health.

Study investigates absorption of artificial sweeteners in blood

October 24, 2016
A recent study by investigators at the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the National Institutes of Health measured how much artificial sweetener is absorbed into the blood stream by children ...

Sugar and sweeteners—how do they affect our appetite?

December 13, 2016
What should healthy young men who want to watch their weight and manage their blood sugar levels drink? Can they risk something sugary or will they be hungrier after drinking calorie-free options containing natural or artificial ...

Study suggests color of sweetener packet impacts sweetness perception and liking

January 24, 2017
A study published in the Journal of Food Science found that the packet color of nonnutritive sweeteners may impact the sweetness perception and overall liking of the product.

Recommended for you

Sunrise and sunset guide daily activities of city-dwellers

November 21, 2017
Despite artificial lightning and social conventions, the dynamics of daylight still influence the daily activities of people living in modern, urban environments, according to new research published in PLOS Computational ...

Older men need more protein to maintain muscles

November 21, 2017
The amount of protein recommended by international guidelines is not sufficient to maintain muscle size and strength in older men, according to a new study.

Exercising and eating well are greater contributors to health than standing at work

November 21, 2017
By now you've probably heard the edict from the health community: Sitting is the new smoking. Perhaps you've converted to a standing desk, or maybe you have a reminder on your phone to get up once an hour and walk around ...

Motorcycle crashes cause five times as many deaths as car accidents, six times the health costs

November 20, 2017
Motorcycle accidents are costly in terms of lives and health care costs. Compared with car accidents, motorcycle accidents cause 3 times the injuries, 6 times the medical costs and 5 times the deaths, found new research in ...

Dog ownership linked to lower mortality

November 17, 2017
A team of Swedish scientists have used national registries of more than 3.4 million Swedes aged 40 to 80 to study the association between dog ownership and cardiovascular health. Their study shows that dog owners had a lower ...

New shoe makes running 4 percent easier, 2-hour marathon possible, study shows

November 17, 2017
Eleven days after Boulder-born Shalane Flanagan won the New York City Marathon in new state-of-the-art racing flats known as "4%s," University of Colorado Boulder researchers have published the study that inspired the shoes' ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.