"Can I use Sucralose, Aspartame and Acesulfam-K without taking the risk of getting fatter - not leaner, as I actually intended?"
For all three of the explicitly mentioned agents human studies clearly suggest that the answer is "Yes, you can!" And I will now dare saying that the of the most recent study from the Oita University in Japan are not going to change that - as long as you use them instead of carbs in your diet the said zero-calorie sweetener are going to help not block weight loss.
So why did the mice in the Mitsutomi study get obese then?
By anticipating the most important conclusion, I have made things easy for us, after all the only questions we still have to answer are:
- Why did the mice in the Mitsutomi study get obese?
- Is it possible that this is an erythritol-specific effect?
No, I don't see an explanation, rather a concise summary of the results, that tells us that the addition of plain sugar (33%) to the drinking water did - as the scientists already expected - lead to a decrease in food intake and an increase in obesity and its nasty unhealthy side effects.
"Compared with sucrose supplementation, NNS supplementation decreased the serum glucose level. Interestingly, compared with the control treatment, NNS supplementation increased the serum insulin level in mice with DIO. In addition, NNS administration influenced glucose tolerance compared to controls.
Exactly what the energy drinks promise, the sugar water got the rats "on sucrose" going: They were >40% more active than their peers - without caffeine as you may notice (Mitsotomi. 2013)
These observations suggest that NNS supplementation induced insulin resistance by increase of tissue triglyceride, although some NNSs are used to control hyperglycemia.
NNS supplementation increased the WAT leptin level in DIO mice in the present study.
It is possible that the high leptin level was related to body adiposity. Indeed, NNS administration increased the weight of epididymal fat. Thus, it is possible that the high leptin level was related to the influence on body adiposity." (Mitsotomi. 2013)
|Figure 2: Leptin resistance (in WAT) and the major downregulation in UCP-1 (in BAT; both left) are candidates of which the researchers believe that they were responsible for the visible defect (right) in the BAT architecture (Mitsotomi. 2013)|
Remember: All this mess happened in the absence of an increase in calorie intake
Just to make this clear: This is not the first study to show that artificial sweeteners can have obesogenic effects in rodent models. In contrast to Naismith et al. (1995) and Blundell & Hill (1986) who observed a "pradoxical effects" of artificial sweeteners on the appetite of their lab rodents, the rats in the study at hand did not overeat, though! They also moved about as much as their peers in the control group and still got fat and sick.
|Want to change your "Fat-o-type"? Work out! | read more|
The defective brown adipose tissue (BAT) and the correspondingly reduced UCP 1 expression (UCP increases mitochondrial uncoupling in BAT and burns off energy to increase the body temperature), led to a significant reduction in oxygen consumption. With the latter being a direct marker of fatty acid oxidation the it is difficult to say which came first, the defect in BAT or the onset of obesity. What we can say for sure, though, is that the defective BAT had its share in the rapid weight gain and the corresponding metabolic deterioration.
This could be an erythritol specific effect
Despite the fact that Mitsotomi et al. did not address the potential influence the type of artificial sweetener they used, it is not unlikely that the use of erythritol, of which I have seen dozens of toxicity studies, but no long(er) term feeding studies in a potentially obesogenic diet scenario, could explain the unexpected study outcome. So: "Is this an erythritol specific effect?"
|An advantage of erythritol is that it has almost the same sweetness profile as sugar (sucrose), but is 30-40% less sweet (de Cock. 2012)|
While erythritol has only 60% to 70% of the sweetness of sucrose (comparing 10% solutions in water; this means you need much more of it to achieve a similar sweetness) it has an almost identical sweetness profile (no "off" tastes; cf. de Cock. 2012). This is not the only reason both scientists and the food industry are fond of the low-calorie sweetener. It's rather the combination of its gut- and tooth-friendliness that makes it such a valuable addition to everything sweet. So, despite the fact that it does share the the anti-caries effects with sugar alcohols like xylitol, it is so easy on the gut that its use is not restricted to chewing gums and other "food" items that need only marginal amounts of sweeteners to achieve the desired degree of sweetness. If you want to sweeten larger amounts of foods / beverages, erythritol is thus the sugar alcohol of choice
|There is evidence that suggests aspartame reduces insulin - at least during workouts | learn more|
|The cholesterol increase scientists observed in response to a high sucralose diet is another of the many yet not fully understood side effects of artifical sweeteners | learn more|
Beards and her colleagues from the University of Reading in the UK were after all able to show that erythritol is not simply excreted undigested. Rather than that it is fermented and leads to changes in the bacterial composition and a 6.25x increase in acetate production.
In view of the beneficial effects of SFCA (acetate, propionate and butyrate) on the production of satiety hormones this certainly appears to be a good thing. From studies by Patil et al. we do however know that chronically high SCFA levels and decreased relative bacteroides levels are characteristic of features of human obesity (Patil. 2012; see Angelakis. 2012, as well).
If we include the comparatively short timespan (24h) in the course of which the said changes in the bacterial composition and acetate production in the Beards study occured and assume that this may, after days of constant erythritol exposure have destabilized the previous "ecosystem" in the gut, it does not appear too far fetched to assume that the rodents may have suffered from weight gain and all sorts of metabolic deterioration as a consequence of the potential lactobacilli + Atopobium overgrowth in response to the erythritol in their drinking water.
By now it should no longer appear totally odd to assume that neither artificial sweeteners per se, nor the "bad bad" aspartame are to blame for the "fat effects" the researchers observed in the study at hand, right? I mean, of all the three short chain fatty acids, butyrate, acetate and propionate, acetate is the one with the weakest antiobesogenic effects (Lin. 2012) and in view of the fact that it is preferentially used as a substrate for de novo lipogenesis (=deposition of fat) in colonocytes, hepatocytes and adipocytes (Samuel. 2008), both the fatty liver and the 172% increase in body fat could be explained by the constant influx of acetate from a dysbiotic gut - right?
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