Posted: 01 August 2019

This is an English translation of the article entitled, "Edulcorants de synthèse : des effets métaboliques indésirables démontrés" , which may be found at:

French researchers have studied the effects on metabolism of administering a mixture of widely used synthetic sweeteners: acesulfame K-sucralose. For the first time, they reveal an increase in glucose consumption in particular the brain, evidence of adverse effects vis-à-vis metabolism and sensitivity to insulin.

Under the name "sweeteners" are grouped various substances that serve to give a sweet flavor to foods or as table top sweeteners. Containing very little or no calories, these are used in the food industry as an alternative to sugars for the manufacture of products known as "light" or "no sugar". If the best known is aspartame, with a sweetening power 200 times higher than sugar, it is less and less used for the benefit of other substance such as the acesulfame potassium-sucralose mixture that is found in nearly 90% light drinks.

Although put forward for their capacity to reduce the caloric intake, researchers of INRA started from the observation that the data on their metabolic effects are insufficient. Especially since these substances are suspected of decreasing insulin sensitivity, which ultimately promotes type 2 diabetes. They therefore wanted to test in animals the metabolic effects of the acesulfame K-sucralose mixture. Using a process called quantitative nuclear imaging, they were able to analyze glucose uptake and insulin sensitivity in distinct organs.

A direct impact on certain organs

In fact, each organ, be it muscle, liver, intestine or brain, contributes to the insulin sensitivity of the body according to two parameters: its avidity for glucose and its mass weight. This is why it is possible not to observe a metabolic effect at the level of the whole organism whereas deep modifications occur at the level of the organs in an individual way. Scientists administered mini-pigs for three months with a mixture of acesulfame K and sucralose at the same dose as half a liter of light drink in humans.

At the end of this treatment, the analyzes revealed that the glucose consumption and insulin sensitivity of the body was not changed. But the glucose consumption of the brain, liver, part of the digestive tract and visceral fat is almost doubled. Researchers note 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, prediabetic type II. ". Either a condition that is characterized by a higher blood glucose than normal.

Suspicions in case of too regular consumption

The researchers therefore believe that the long-term consumption of a mixture of sweeteners at a dose equivalent to that absorbed daily by some people can lead to undesirable changes in glucose metabolism. And this particularly at the cerebral level. "Without being able to explain why at this stage, the observed phenomena are the same as those that occur during weight gain in the obese. ", They stress before concluding on the need to conduct further studies to assess the benefit / risk of 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 particular to the consumption of aspartame, ANSES seized the question of their nutritional benefits and risks. In its 2015 report, it concluded that nutritional benefits are not supported by studies to show that the consumption of sweeteners as a substitute for sugars is relevant to weight control and blood glucose levels in the subject. diabetes or the incidence of type 2 diabetes.

With regard to nutritional risks, the agency considered that it is not possible to establish a link between the occurrence of type 2 diabetes and cancers and the consumption of sweeteners. But according to her, the data do not completely eliminate certain risks in case of "regular and prolonged" consumption. It therefore considers that 'scientific evidence does not support the systematic substitution of sugars by intense sweeteners and that the objective of reducing sugar intakes must be achieved by reducing the overall sweetness of the diet. In fact, sweetened and sweetened beverages should not substitute for water consumption.

Author: Alexandra Bresson