Regulatory toxicology and pharmacology : RTP

Characteristics and significance of D-tagatose-induced liver enlargement in rats: An interpretative review.

PMID 10341166


This review addresses the issue of asymptomatic liver enlargement in rats. It was necessitated by the observation of significantly increased liver weights in rats fed diets with 10 to 20% D-tagatose, a potential new bulk sweetener, for between 28 and 90 days. Increases of liver size without accompanying histopathological changes or impairment of organ function have been observed in rats in response to the ingestion of various xenobiotic compounds (including some food additives), changes of dietary composition (e.g. , high doses of fructose and sucrose), metabolic aberrations (e.g., diabetes), as well as normal pregnancy and lactation. The underlying mechanism(s) are not yet understood in detail but peroxisome proliferation, microsomal enzyme induction, increased storage of glycogen or lipids, and hyperfunction due to an excessive workload are well-established causes of hepatomegaly in rats. In D-tagatose- and fructose-fed rats, a treatment-related increase of hepatic glycogen storage was identified as a likely cause of the liver enlargement. Dietary levels of 5% and about 15-20% were determined as no-effect levels (NOEL) for D-tagatose- and fructose-induced liver enlargement, respectively. At doses above the NOEL, D-tagatose is about four times more efficient than fructose in inducing liver enlargement. On the other hand, the estimated intake of D-tagatose from its intended uses in food is about four times lower than the actual fructose intake. Consequently, a similar safety margin would apply for both sugars. Considering the similarity of the liver effects in rats of fructose, a safe food ingredient, and D-tagatose, the absence of histopathological changes in rats fed a diet with 20% D-tagatose for 90 days, and the absence of adverse long-term consequences of glycogen-induced liver enlargement in rats, it is concluded that the observed liver enlargement in D-tagatose-fed rats has no relevance for the assessment of human safety of this substance.

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D-(−)-Tagatose, ≥98.5%