For the first time – Scientists Link Fructose to Obesity, Diabetes in HUMANS

If you are wary of consuming products with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), your suspicions may prove right. A new study, for the first time conducted on humans, not lab rats, confirms what many have suspected for a long time – the fructose in HFCS contributes to obesity.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation earlier this year, was carried out by a team of scientists at the University of California, Davis. It is entitled Consuming fructose-sweetened, not glucose-sweetened, beverages increases visceral adiposity and lipids and decreases insulin sensitivity in overweight/obese humans.

Here’s what the experiment looked like:

Over 10 weeks, 16 volunteers on a strictly controlled diet, including high levels of fructose, produced new fat cells around their heart, liver and other digestive organs. They also showed signs of food-processing abnormalities linked to diabetes and heart disease. Another group of volunteers on the same diet, but with glucose sugar replacing fructose, did not have these problems. read more…

Kimber L. Stanhope, the study leader, said “This is the first evidence we have that fructose increases diabetes and heart disease independently from causing simple weight gain. We didn’t see any of these changes in the people eating glucose.”

While fructose is found in fruits, honey and table sugar, it’s highest percentage is in HFCS, hence the name “High Fructose” corn syrup.

What you need to know:

Consumption of sweetened food and beverage has grown significantly in the US over the past decades. Those who blame HFCS for the country’s obesity epidemic and related maladies have shown that the alarming rise in obesity rates is in tandem with the introduction and rapid adoption of HFCS by food and beverage manufacturers since the early 1980′s.

Why did manufacturers switch to high fructose corn syrup to begin with? They certainly did not plan to make America fat. Our obesity epidemic is simply a side effect of the quest for efficiency and lower cost of production. In the 1970′s, huge surpluses of corn in the US, prompted the creation of a new sweetener, HFCS, half the price of sugar, which has become the sweetener of choice in almost all soft drinks today.

Please note that the study was conducted on 100% fructose, not HFCS, which is 45% sucrose 55% fructose.  Many scientists still maintain that there is no difference between sugar (50/50) and HFCS. As more studies are carried out in humans in coming years, the truth will become clearer. But in the meantime, most everyone agrees that we should all reduce the amount of sweet we consume daily, be it sugar, HFCS, or others.

What to do at the supermarket:

The easiest way to drastically reduce high fructose corn syrup from your diet is to stop visiting the drinks aisles at the supermarket. Switching to tap water is healthier for you, your wallet, and the environment.

HFCS appears in the ingredient list just like sugar, dextrose, and corn syrup. Watch out for it in snacks, sauces, prepared meals, and other products.

[thanks Robyn for the hat tip]

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  • Dr Ayala

    Sucrose (table sugar) is also 50% fructose. If the conclusion is that fructose is detrimental to our metabolic health then cane and beet sugar are only 5% less fructose than HFCS, and fruit sugars are mostly fructose.

    I tend to think that the main problem is refined sugar in high amounts, and especially in liquid form (which goes down quickly and produces no satiety). They raise blood sugar and insulin levels rapidly, as well as triglycerides and inflammatory mediators.

    The sugar in fruit is mostly fructose, but fruit is slowly digested, has lots of fiber and nutrient and phytochemicals, and the data actually shows that consuming fruits protects against many diseases and from obesity.

  • Stasha Kucel MS, RD/LD

    It appears this study used 100% fructose which is NOT the same thing as High Fructose Corn Syrup.

    High fructose Corn Syrup is 55% fructose and 45% glucose. Honey is also half fructose!

    HFCS is not the problem. Overconsumption of simple sugars is. In this study they consumed 25% of their diet in simple sugars–that’s the issue. Not the source of the sweetness.

  • Carrie

    I would like to know more about the conclusions of this study given the similarities in structure between sucrose and HFCS. But, I do agree that people need to cut back on their intakes of sugars in general.

  • Dr. Susan Rubin

    I’d like to see more research on whether HFCS creates a situation where you don’t feel satiated or full, causing one to eat/drink more.

  • Carol H

    Hopefully this will deflate some of the misguided hype for agave syrup, which contains up to 90% free/refined fructose.

    PS: The usefulness of this study is limited to showing a cause and effect for isolated fructose vs. isolated glucose. It doesn’t involve disaccharides such as sucrose, etc. And very few foods are sweetened with pure glucose, although many sugars and starches break down into glucose. Fructose has a complicated and inefficient metabolism in the human body, which is probably why it has a “low GI index,” which leads people to assume it is a better sweetener.

  • Greg

    This link is to a response to the Times article. Kimber Stanhope, the person who actually did the research, points out that “almost every sentence in the article contained at least one inaccurate statement.”

  • Bobby

    Read Wikipedia’s website about how High Fructose Corn Syrup is made.
    Enzymes and fungus are involved and this is not equivalent to honey.
    People have overconsumed sugars for decades and people in other countries overconsume sugars. But only recently and mostly in the US, obesity is out of control. Coincidence?

  • Emmi Bances

    Fructose has been one of the factor….It increases fats and also decreases the strength of bones.

    Effects of obesity