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You probably already know — artificial sweeteners aren’t the healthiest… but if you’re trying to lose weight, you need to be EXTRA careful of foods containing artificial sweeteners. Why? Well, according to a new study published by The Endocrine Society, low-calorie sweeteners and diabetes could be linked, especially in those who are overweight.

Low-calorie sweeteners have been associated with the development of metabolic syndrome, a condition in which an individual experiences a variety of health issues including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, unhealthy cholesterol levels and more. The condition can result in an increased risk factor for blood vessel disease, heart disease, and heart attacks.

Metabolic syndrome can also increase the risk for diabetes by three to five times, The Endocrine Society stated.

Sabyasachi Sen, associate professor of medicine at George Washington University in D.C., said the study demonstrates how low-calorie sweeteners actually stimulate more fat growth.

Sweetners and Diabetes | Gundry MD

“Our stem cell-based studies indicate that low-calorie sweeteners promote additional fat accumulation within cells compared with cells not exposed to these substances, in a dose-dependent fashion – meaning that as the dose of sucralose is increased more cells showed increased fat droplet accumulation,” Sen said.

The idea of fat growth from low-calorie sweeteners is probably not what consumers are aiming for, and the study shows how the fat growth can happen. Sen said the sucralose (an artificial sweetener) inspires the body to increase the production of a specific gene, which leads to fat growth.

“This most likely occurs by increasing glucose entry into cells through increased activity of genes called glucose transporters,” he said.

Sweetners and Diabetes | Gundry MDThe researchers analyzed fat samples from overweight individuals who consumed low-calorie sweeteners and identified the same kind of gene expression changes that occurred in the stem cells that were analyzed first for the study. Sen said those who are at risk for diabetes, as well as those who have prediabetes and diabetes, should be concerned.

“We think the effect is more pronounced in overweight and obese people rather than their normal weight counterparts because they have more insulin resistance and may have more glucose in their blood,” Sen said.

Sucralose was then tested on stem cells taken from human fat tissue and placed in a substance that fostered fat production for 12 days. An amount of sucralose similar to the equivalent of four cans of diet soda per day was found to increase the expression of genes that indicate fat production and inflammation.

The researchers then analyzed fat samples from 18 individuals who self-reported that they consumed low-calorie sweeteners such as sucralose, aspartame and acesulfame potassium. Four were considered to have a healthy weight, while 14 were considered to be obese.

For the subjects who were obese, the researchers found that there was an increased incident of sugar transport into cells, causing more fat to grow. Sen said he conducted the same study with only eight participants in the past, and the larger number of participants only confirmed the previous results.

“Because we found the same results with the larger sample size, we have much more confidence that low-calorie sweeteners are causing metabolic dysfunction,” he said.

Sweetners and Diabetes | Gundry MDThe study also demonstrated how the appearance of sucralose in cells can cause cells to die, facilitating the development of disease and inflammation. The dead cells can cause disruptions within the body, including a slowed metabolism.

“This provides another explanation of how sucralose may interfere with metabolism,” Sen said.

The research results were presented on Sunday, March 18 at ENDO 18, the 100th annual meeting of the Endocrine Society.

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Kicking sugar addiction to the curb… it can be done!