A study on fat samples and stem cells derived from fat indicates that low-calorie sweetener consumption could promote metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors: high blood pressure, abdominal fat, unhealthy cholesterol levels and high blood sugar, which increase the risk of heart and blood vessel disease by double, and can result in strokes and heart attacks. These factors predispose individuals to prediabetes and increase diabetes risk by 3 to 5 times, especially in individuals with obesity.
The studies on the stem cells derived from fat suggest that additional fat accumulation within cells is promoted by exposure to low-calorie sweeteners in comparison to cells not exposed to them, in a dose-dependent manner, which means that fat droplet accumulation increased in the cells as the sucralose dosage is increased. This probably happens by the increase of glucose entry into cells through increased activity of genes known as glucose transporters. Besides the fat stem cells, fat samples were also examined, which were collected from obese individuals who were consuming low-calorie sweeteners. Similar changes in gene expression in the same genes were found with increased glucose transporter activity in both the fat cells and the stem cells.
The study results are of greatest concern for individuals having prediabetes or diabetes and obesity, since they already have an increased risk of strokes and heart attacks. It’s believed that the effect is more pronounced in people who are obese and overweight as opposed to normal weight people as they have more insulin resistance and could have higher blood glucose levels.
Fat derived stem cells were exposed to the low-calorie sweetener sucralose. Stem cells are cells that can change into mature muscle, bone, cartilage or fat cells. The cells were placed into Petri dishes for 12 days in a medium promoting fat production, in order to mimic an environment which promotes obesity. Increased expression of genes that are markers of inflammation and fat production were observed at a sucralose dose about the same as the concentration present in the blood of individuals with regular low-calorie sweetener consumption, equal to 4 cans of diet soda a day.
This evidence was then used to conduct a separate experiment. Abdominal fat biopsy samples were analyzed which were taken from 18 individuals consuming low-calorie sweeteners (primarily sucralose with traces of acesulfame potassium and/or aspartame). Fourteen of the individuals were obese and four of them were a normal weight. The difference in gene expressions were not significant in the normal weight individuals. The overweight or obese individuals however had a significant increase of glucose transport into cells and over-expression of fat-producing genes, in comparison to fat biopsy samples from those individuals not consuming low-calorie sweeteners.