12 January - 20 June 2016

Type of sugar not just the amount consumed may affect health – rat study

An excessive consumption of added sugar has been associated with an increased risk of CVD mortality. According to a rat study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Heart and Circulatory Physiology, the type of sugar consumed can determine risk for chronic disease.

An excessive consumption of added sugar has been associated with an increased risk of CVD mortality.  According to a rat study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Heart and Circulatory Physiology, the type of sugar consumed can determine risk for chronic disease.

Alegret et al fed female rats either glucose (formed from the breakdown of carbohydrates) or fructose (found in fruit juices), and their normal diet for eight weeks.  The team report that eight rat weeks is equivalent to a person consuming a large amount of sugar for six years.  Each group consisted of 14 rats.  Sugar was supplied as 20% w/v solution in drinking water.  The two sugar group fed rats were compared to a control group who consumed plain drinking water as well as their normal diet. Throughout the 8 weeks, the scientists monitored the rat’s body weight, food and drink intake.  Alegret et al analysed the effect of supplementation on the metabolic response and vascular reactivity in a large artery in the female rats. This included blood analysis for glucose, triglycerides and cholesterol, measurement of arterial tension, and measurement of nitrates and nitrites in endothelial cells. 

After the 8 weeks, the glucose and fructose group rats increased their liquid consumption (by 2-fold and 1.5 respectively) and also reduced their solid food consumption (by 0.3-fold and 0.5-fold respectively).  Both sugar group rats consumed more calories than the control group, however the glucose fed rats consumed more than the fructose fed rats (1.15-fold), although “only the fructose group exhibited a significant increase in final body weight (by 1.1-fold)”.   The fructose group also had more markers of vascular disease and liver damage than the glucose consuming group including high triglycerides and increased liver weight.  Adipose tissue weight was found to be significantly increased in both the sugar groups (5.6-fold in the glucose group and 5.2-fold in the fructose group). 

In conclusion the scientists state “despite higher caloric intake in glucose-supplemented rats, fructose caused worse metabolic and vascular responses. This may be due to the elevated adiponectin level and the subsequent enhancement of PPARα and eNOS phosphorylation in glucose-supplemented rats.” According to Wikipedia, adiponectin is a protein which modulates a number of metabolic processes including being involved in regulating glucose levels as well as fatty acid breakdown. PPARα is a major regulator of lipid metabolism in the liver.   eNOS (endothelial nitric oxide synthase)vis noted by Wikipedia as having a protective function in the cardiovascular system. Regulation of the vascular tone is one of the best known roles of nitric oxide (NO) in the cardiovascular system.

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