Aim: We report the effects of long-term cola beverage drinking on glucose homeostasis, endocrine pancreas function and morphology in rats.
Methods: Wistar rats drank: water (group W), regular cola beverage (group C, sucrose sweetened) or "light" cola beverage (group L, artificially sweetened). After 6 months, 50% of the animals in each group were euthanized and the remaining animals consumed water for the next 6 months when euthanasia was performed. Biochemical assays, insulinemia determination, estimation of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR), morphometry and immunohistochemistry evaluations were performed in pancreas.
Results: Hyperglycemia (16%, p<0.05), CoQ10 (coenzyme-Q10) decrease (-52%,p<0.01), strong hypertriglyceridemia (2.8-fold, p<0.01), hyperinsulinemia (2.4 fold, p<0.005) and HOMA-IR increase (2.7 fold, p<0.01) were observed in C. Group C showed a decrease in number of α cells (-42%, p<0.01) and β cells (-58%, p<0.001) and a moderate increase in α cells' size after wash-out (+14%, p<0.001). Group L showed reduction in β cells' size (-9%, p<0.001) and only after wash-out (L12) a 19% increase in size (p<0.0001) with 35% decrease in number of α cells (p<0.01). Groups C and L showed increase in α/β-cell ratio which was irreversible only in C (α/β = +38% in C6,+30% in C12, p<0.001vs.W6). Regular cola induced a striking increase in the cytoplasmic expression of Trx1 (Thioredoxin-1) (2.25-fold in C6 vs. W6; 2.7-fold in C12 vs. W12, p<0.0001) and Prx2 (Peroxiredoxin-2) (3-fold in C6 vs. W6; 2-fold in C12 vs. W12, p<0.0001). Light cola induced increase in Trx1 (3-fold) and Prx2 (2-fold) after wash-out (p<0.0001, L12 vs. W12).
Conclusion: Glucotoxicity may contribute to the loss of β cell function with depletion of insulin content. Oxidative stress, suggested by increased expression of thioredoxins and low circulating levels of CoQ10, may follow sustained hyperglycemia. A likely similar panorama may result from the effects of artificially sweetened cola though via other downstream routes.