Oh rats! What can we learn about our health from cooldrink studies?

Cooldrink A group of Stellenbosch University physiologists and a researcher from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology tested what happens when rats drank a sugar-sweetened beverage for three months.

This was done in an effort to understand more clearly what happens in the body when you drink too much sweetened cooldrink.

Researchers are increasingly realising that there is a link between drinking too much sugar-sweetened beverages and the development of obesity, diabetes and heart diseases. However, they are still unclear about precisely how these changes occur in the body. To study this further,

The South African researchers did not notice significant changes in the rats’ weight or food consumption patterns. However, the heart body weight of the rats increased, compared to that of animals in the control group that did not drink the sweetened cooldrink.

One of the pathways in heart tissue was triggered that contributes to the onset of cardio-metabolic complications, the so-called hexosamine biosynthetic (HBP) and PKC pathway.

“These findings reveal that long-term sugar-sweetened beverages intake results in dysregulation of potentially detrimental metabolic circuits (HBP, PKC pathway) in the heart that may place the organism at risk despite an apparently “healthy” phenotype,” says lead author Natasha Driescher of the Department of Physiological Sciences at Stellenbosch University.

Their findings are published in The FASEB Journal.

Reference: Driescher, N. et al (2016). Long-term Sugar-sweetened Beverage Intake elicits Early Metabolic Perturbations in Rat Hearts: a Bitter-sweet Taste?, The FASEB Journal

Engela Duvenage

Co-founder of SciBraai.co.za. Day job: Science writer and science communicator who loves turning research papers into news stories. Claim to fame: mother of two daughters; winner of the Izethelo Award for Outstanding Journalism (2016) from the South African fruit industry, and winner of the best technical article award (2016) as presented by the South African Agricultural Writers' Association Background: MPhil (Journalism, specialising in science journalism) and HonsBA (Psychology).

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