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Charles-Henri MALBERT Director of Research at INRA and head of the Ani-SCANs component of the PRISM platform, in collaboration with the University of Adelaide in Australia, studied the effects on the metabolism of the drug administration. a mixture of widely used synthetic sweeteners: acesulfame K-sucralose.
For the first time, this work reveals - in animals - an increase in glucose consumption especially in the brain and adipose tissue, evidence of adverse effects on metabolism and sensitivity to insulin. This work was published on 24 July 2019 in the European Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging.
The pandemic of obesity has led to the partial replacement of sugars by artificial sweeteners in the human diet. These food additives are used for their powerful sweetening power and several sweeteners are currently available on the market. Aspartame is being used less and less in favor of other substances, such as the acesulfame potassium (K) - sucralose mixture, which is found in about 90% of "light" drinks. While it is undeniable that these artificial sweeteners reduce caloric intake, the data on their metabolic effects are insufficient, especially since these substances are suspected of harmful side effects, especially a decrease in sensitivity to alcohol. insulin that may ultimately lead to type II1 diabetes.
For the first time, researchers at INRA and the University of Adelaide have tested in animals the metabolic effects of the acesulfame K - sucralose mixture. Using quantitative nuclear imaging, they were able to analyze glucose uptake and insulin sensitivity in separate organs. Indeed, each organ (whether muscle, liver, intestine, brain ...) contributes to the insulin sensitivity of the body in proportion to two parameters: first, its greed for glucose and secondly its weight. Therefore, it is possible not to observe a metabolic effect at the level of the whole organism while deep changes occur in the organs individually.
For example, the scientists administered a mini-pig (animal model in medical research and human nutrition) for three months, a mixture of acesulfame K and sucralose at a dose identical to that provided by the daily consumption of about one half liter of a drink "light" in humans. At the end of this treatment, the quantitative nuclear imaging reveals that the glucose consumption and insulin sensitivity of the body has not been modified. In contrast, glucose consumption of the brain, liver, part of the digestive tract and visceral fat is almost doubled. In the brain, in addition, the metabolic links between the frontal part of the cortex and deeper structures are increased, a phenomenon also observed in obese people (prediabetic type II).
Representation in 3 dimensions of the metabolic connectivity differences of neurons in the brain in control pigs and those who received the Acesulfame K Sucralose mixture (figure made from an atlas developed within the INRA ANI-SCAN unit). The dark red spots show the brain activations related to the administration of the sweetener mixture. The bars with the dots highlight the connectivity differences between several areas of the brain.
Multimodal imaging of a porcine brain slice representing grayscale X-ray scanning and false-color glucose uptake by the brain using positronic tomography - a method of quantitative nuclear imaging.
In the end, the long-term consumption of a mixture of sweeteners at a dose equivalent to that absorbed daily by some people leads to profound and undesirable changes in glucose metabolism, particularly in the brain. Without being able to explain why, at this stage, the phenomena observed are the same as those that occur during weight gain in the obese.
Considering that these substances have a beneficial effect on caloric intake, these new results suggest, at least, the need to conduct additional studies to evaluate the benefit / risk ratio of the consumption of these additives.