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Postnatal stress and sweeteners increase threat of diabetes

A Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNal) study carried out in an animal model (rats) concluded that offspring exposed to stress preferred palatable (pleasant tasting) foods, exposing them to sweetening effects different from sugar.

Bogotá D. C., 22 de agosto de 2016Agencia de Noticias UN-

According to tests in rats, sweeteners different from stevia increased blood glucose levels.

High anxiety levels in the animal model influence consumption of sweet foods.

Early separation from the mother increased rat offspring stress.

Increasing numbers of diseases such as diabetes and obesity could be due to situations evidenced in rat research.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved moderate use of sucralose.

The results of the research project indicate that sweet foods weaken the negative effects at the brain level (anxiety) produced by maternal separation during nursing, one of the variants of postnatal stress. 

Stress is produced because there are multiple alterations; one of them is an increase of astrocytes cells (brain cells linked to metabolic activity) which produce behaviorial alterations as a response to compensate the energy expense of the situation. 

A Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on food additives claims that based on more than a hundred toxicological studies sweeteners are not a health risk. Also the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved moderate consumption of sucralose. 

However the benefits or threats of consuming these types of substances are not absolute in one or other sense, as besides the amount, consumption of each sweetener depends on the metabolic condition of each person and the disease they could suffer. 

According to data of the Colombian Obesity Foundation 52.2% of Colombians between 18 and 64 are overweight. Additionally figures of the Colombian Diabetes Association indicate that 7 out of every 10 men and 9 out of 10 women suffer from type II diabetes. According to the World Health Organization this disease not only lasts a lifetime but represents 90% of all the cases in the world. 

The UNal Behaviorial Neurophysiology Research Group headed by Professor Zulma Dueñas and Physiology master’s candidate Laura Aya Ramos carried out an experimental animal model in rats to inquire if maternal separation during nursing had an impact on the consumption of sweeteners, body weight gain, blood glucose and locomotion. 

After birth, rats in the experimental groups were chosen randomly and underwent maternal separation protocols during nursing. A control group was also chosen which did not endure the process. The project consisted of 180 rats distributed in 20 groups, (10 groups of 10 males and 10-8 female).

The nursing maternal separation protocol was carried out between the 1st and 21st day of life for a period of 6 hours a day, 3 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon. After day 22 rats were separated by gender and assigned to a study group called: water, sugar, stevia, sucralose and aspartame, the latter three known as non-caloric sweeteners. 

On day 26 after weaning they began the experimental process with sweeteners provided according to weight (greater weight greater amount of product). Only one group had exclusive access to water, the remaining groups were given water and a type of sweetener diluted in water. Additionally the beverages were also placed in the same location in order to discover the preferences of the rodents. 

Sweetener consumption was recorded every 24 hours, weight gain every 4 days and blood sugar every 5. On day 50 the rats were placed in a field test, which was a box divided by 9 squares to assess movement or probable hyperactivity (anxiety) due to consumption of palatable substances or stress. 

Diabetes and obesity susceptible 

The most significant result indicated that rats with early separation gained weight and had more sugar in the blood. In fact the levels of blood glucose surpassed 60 mg/dl (the normal blood level is 90 mg/dl), therefore they are susceptible of suffering from diabetes and being obese at adulthood. 

Neonatal stress produced preference for sugar consumption, stevia and sucralose in males and sugar, stevia and aspartame in women. Additionally males gained more weight with sugar, while women gained more weight with aspartame.

According to the European Food Safety Authority, while rats did not reach a characterization of obesity, they did increase their blood sugar by consuming sweeteners, with the exception of stevia, despite being 300 times sweeter than sugar. 

Comparing with the control groups, the sweeteners different from stevia also produced greater concentration of sugar in blood, information which is relevant and concerning as aspartame and sucralose is consumed by people with diabetes. 

Lastly they determined that early maternal separation increased the locomotive activity in all groups submitted to neonatal stress, especially is stevia y saccharose in males and sucralose and aspartame in females. 

These results indicate that neonatal stress caused by early maternal separation impacts food consumption behavior as it increases the preference for sweetener products; furthermore it may also be a risk factor for chronic disease development. 

Aya says that currently the rapid increase of public health diseases such as diabetes and obesity is not only attributable to genetic or lifestyle causes but also to epigenetic causes (external factors) determined by the neonatal environment.

(Por: Fin/HEV/MLA/APBL
)
N.° 312

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