Friday, April 17, 2009

Is this why artificial sweetners make you fat?

It is definitely worth reading the whole of this excellent post, but for now have a look at this extract:

One question is, why does fructose (and alcohol) intake result in visceral fat, and not the more benign sub-cutaneous or intra-muscular fat? I have one possible explanation that I like to term the 'circulatory fat deposition model.' When you ingest a toxin like fructose or alcohol, the body automatically increases circulation to the vital organs (and in particular the liver) so that it can be filtered out of the blood stream. Since any ingested substance will naturally diffuse to even concentration throughout the blood, this is the only way to preferentially increase the flux of toxin to the liver.

Fructose is well known to contribute greatly to post-meal triglyceride levels (Chong et al., 2007). The liver takes fructose and produces palmatic acid (i.e. a stable saturated fat) from it. It then releases that fat into the blood stream. Since the filtering of fructose isn't instant, the circulation in the body core is still heightened. As a result, the visceral fat tissues see a higher rate of triglyceride flux than the more benign skin or muscle fat (Note: flux in a scientific sense typically means mass or volume per second — put those Star Trek thoughts out of your mind). The visceral fat, which sees the most fabricated triglycerides floating on by, also happens to absorb the most. Hence fructose tends to promote visceral fat. On the other hand, if you ingest excess calories in the form of fat, it's not any more likely to deposit around the liver than it is you thighs, so it's not nearly so dangerous.

One sees a similar effect with amateur body-builders who ingest calorie-heavy shakes and energy drinks after or during exercise where their muscles are generating a lot of lactic acid. The body increases blood flow to those muscles to remove the lactic acid, but the fat deposits inside the muscle also see a much higher flux of fat and fat-building substrate as a result. This results in a characteristic thick and pasty muscle texture without a lot of functional power. Think of well-marbled beef steak.

If this hypothesis is true then combining dietary fat with any chemical that requires extensive liver processing (e.g. caffeine, artificial sweeteners) would also tend to result in visceral fat deposition.


Chris said...

Very interesting, As you mentioned 'caffeine' does the same go for having a coffee with a meal?

Chris said...

Chris - best ask Robert who wrote the post. Caffeine is interesting - lots of studies on it

Anonymous said...

Very interesting hypothesis.

Robert McLeod said...


Thanks for the hat tip and comments.

other Chris:

As Chris said, caffeine does some weird things and coffee in particular is much more than just caffeine. The dose required could be very high (as it is for caffeine to become a performance enhancing stimulant). Or the glucagon-cleaving properties of caffeine could overwhelm the circulatory effects...

E.g. (free article): that decaf is just as good as full-test coffee here...

I think it would require an entire post to get a rudimentary understanding of caffeine (and the same applies to artificial sweeteners except there's many of those).