Under the name “sweeteners” various substances are grouped together which are used to give a sweet flavor to foods or as table sweeteners. Containing very little or no calories, these are used in the food industry as an alternative to sugars for manufacturing so-called “low-fat” or “sugar-free” products. If the best known is theaspartame, with a sweetening power 200 times greater than sugar, it is used less and less in favor of other substances such as acesulfame potassium-sucralose mixture found in nearly 90% of “light” drinks.
Inra researchers started from the observation that the data on their metabolic effects, put forward for their ability to reduce calorie intake, are insufficient. Especially since these substances are suspected of reducing insulin sensitivity, which ultimately promotes type 2 diabetes. They, therefore, wished to test in animals the metabolic effects of the acesulfame K-sucralose mixture. Through a process called quantitative nuclear imaging, they were able to analyze glucose consumption andinsulin sensitivity in individual organs.
A direct impact on certain organs
Indeed, each organ, whether it is the muscle, the liver, the intestine or the brain, participates in the insulin sensitivity of the organism according to two parameters: its greed for glucose and its weight. This is why it is possible not to observe a metabolic effect at the level of the whole organism while profound changes occur at the level of the individual organs. Scientists gave mini pigs a mixture of acesulfame K and sucralose for three months at the same dose as half a literof light drink in humans.
At the end of this treatment, the analyzes revealed that the glucose consumption and the body’s insulin sensitivity were not changed. But the consumption of glucose by the brain, liver, part of the digestive tract, and visceral fat is almost doubled. The researchers specify that “at the level of the brain, moreover, the metabolic links between the frontal part of the cortex and deeper structures are increased, a phenomenon also observed in obese people, type II prediabetics. “. Either a condition that is characterized by a blood sugar higher than normal.
Suspicions in case of too regular consumption
The researchers, therefore, estimate that the long-term consumption of a blend of sweeteners at a dose equivalent to that absorbed daily by some people may lead to unwanted changes in glucose metabolism. And this particularly at the cerebral level. “Without being able to explain why at this stage, the phenomena observed are the same as those which occur during weight gain in obese “, They stress before concluding on the need to conduct other studies to assess the benefit/risk ratio of the consumption of these additives.
Note that studies have already looked at this famous scale. In 2011, after the publication of studies on possible health effects linked in particularat consumption of aspartame, ANSES (National Food Safety Agency) took up the issue of their nutritional benefits and risks. In its report dating from 2015, it concluded that concerning the nutritional benefits, the studies do not make it possible to prove that consumption of sweeteners as a substitute for sugars is of interest in controlling weight and glycemia in the diabetic subject or in the incidence of type 2 diabetes.
Regarding nutritional risks, the Agency considered that it is not possible to establish a link between thehas type 2 diabetes, and cancer and the consumption of sweeteners. But according to her, the data do not completely rule out certain risks in the event of “regular and prolonged” consumption. She, therefore, considers that “the scientific evidence does not allow the systematic substitution of sugars by intense sweeteners to be encouraged and that the objective of reduction in sugar intake must be achieved by reducing the overall sweetness of the food ”. In fact, sugary and sweetened drinks should not be a substitute for drinking water.