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High fructose corn syrup the cause of obesity epidemic, new study suggests

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Bad news for the high fructose corn syrup industry.  A new study led by a Princeton University research team suggests that high fructose corn syrup may be at least partially responsible for the increase in the obesity rate in the United States.

The study published online March 18 by the journal Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior showed consumption of high fructose corn syrup caused more weight gain in lab animals than table sugar when both sweeteners were consumed in equal quantity.

In addition, long term consumption of high fructose corn syrup caused abnormal increases in body fat, particularly in the abdomen, and an increase in circulating blood fats called triglycerides.  Both are signs of metabolic syndrome.

"Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn't true, at least under the conditions of our tests," said Bart Hoebel, who specializes in the neuroscience of appetite, weight and sugar addiction.

Professor Hoebel said in a press release by the University that all the rats drinking high fructose corn syrup at levels well below those found in soda pop were becoming obese.  This sweetener was so effective in causing obesity that even a high-fat diet was no match for it. The high fat diet did not cause obesity in all rats.

Hoebel and colleagues did two experiments.  In one, they tested high fructose corn syrup in two groups of male rats who were using the same standard rat diet, but received drinking water with table sugar or sucrose.  The high fructose corn syrup level used in the experiment was only half as concentrated as most sodas while the sugar concentration was the same as is found in some commercial soft drinks.

What was found is that male rats drinking the high fructose corn syrup solution gained much more weight than those that drank water with table sugar.

In the second experiment, Hoebel and colleagues tested the long term effect of high fructose corn syrup on weight gain.  This time, the researchers gave one group of rats only the standard rat chow and another group a high fructose corn syrup solution in addition to the same rat chow for a period of six months.

They found rats that had access to high fructose corn syrup showed characteristic signs of the metabolic syndrome including abnormal weight gain, significant increases in circulating triglycerides and increased fat deposition - particularly visceral fat around the belly.  Male rats using high fructose corn syrup gained 48 percent more weight than those eating the normal diet.

High fructose corn syrup contains unequal amounts of glucose and fructose while table sugar or sucrose contains one molecule of glucose and one molecule of fructose.  The difference between table sugar and high fructose corn syrup is that two molecules in sugar are chemically bound while fructose and glucose in high fructose corn syrup are not bound to each other.

It is unknown why high fructose corn syrup is more likely to cause weight gain than sucrose or table sugar. But the researchers speculated that the free form of fructose is readily to be absorbed and metabolized to produce fat while glucose is largely processed for energy or stored as a carbohydrate called glucagon in the liver and muscles.

Dr. Chi-tang Ho's team at Rutgers University reported in Aug 2007 at the 234th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society that they found one single can of a HFCS sweetened soft drink contained five times higher concentration of reactive carbonyls than the concentration found in the blood of an adult with diabetes.

Dr. Ho and team tested 11 different carbonated soft drinks containing HFCS and found these beverages contained "astonishingly high" levels of reactive carbonyls.

They also found that a green tea component known as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) when added to the carbonated HFCS-laden soft drinks reduced the levels of reactive carbonyl species in a dose-dependent manner, by up to 50 percent.

It remains unknown whether the bad guy that causes obesity and metabolic syndrome is fructose or the reactive carbonyls present in high fructose corn syrup.  It would be interesting if the Princeton team would test to see if a mixture of fructose and glucose would differ from high fructose corn syrup.

High fructose corn syrup is not only used in soft drinks, but also in many processed foods like cereal, bread, ketchup and mayonnaise.  Americans consume 60 pounds of the sweeter per capita annually, according to the Princeton University pres release.

By David Liu and eidting by Denise Reynolds

(Send your news to foodconsumer.org@gmail.com, Foodconsumer.org is part of the Infoplus.com ™ news and information network)

Subscribe to comments feed Comments (10 posted):

on 03/26/2010 08:59:31
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i am fine
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Gina on 03/26/2010 11:54:05
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Very good research, I'm now on a non-HFCS diet now...I don't eat anything with that stuff in it to see what happens in the first three months (which will be by May 2010)...thanks for doing this to inform the public because it seems the public is getting mixed information on this esp. with the commericals now being advertised on tv.
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Poetic Justice on 03/26/2010 15:48:30
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...good!
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Ben on 03/29/2010 14:09:48
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You know, HFCS breaks down to its component parts in water. This reaction is acid-catalyzed, and happens near-instantaneously in stomach acid. It's component parts are fructose and glucose in nearly the same ratio as standard table sugar. 55% versus 50% is not a significant difference, and the glucose and fructose molecules do not interact in any metabolic activities (so the "excess fructose" is meaningless). Therefore, claims that HFCS has an effect are extraordinary claims, since they defy common sense and known biology. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

As for the carbonyls, those too react destructively with stomach acid rapidly reducing to an alcohol. I would have to see some evidence that this is deletrious to one's health. It's no more instructive than saying that seawater has X ppt uranium.

For the first experiment, I would have to examine the raw data to prove it, but my gut instinct as a scientists tells me that something is fishy in this case.

As for the second experiment, the "scientists" (and I use the term loosely given the sloppiness of the study) proved nothing aside from the fact that rats like to eat sweets.

Read, people. >90% of everything is junk, and that includes scientific studies
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Smart Lipo on 04/15/2010 06:49:41
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Now according to the new study and the findings dispute claims that high-fructose corn syrup is little different from other sweeteners when it comes to adverse health effects.The theory that high-fructose corn syrup may be a significant contributing factor to the obesity epidemic is still an ongoing topic for the research as it shows different and abstract conclusions every other day.
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Causes of obesity on 04/16/2010 11:55:34
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As obesity has escalated to epidemic proportions around the world, many causes, including dietary components, have been suggested. Excessive caloric intake has been related to high-fat foods, increased portion sizes, and diets high both in simple sugars such as sucrose and in high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as a source of fructose . In this article, we discuss the evidence that a marked increase in the use of HFCS, and therefore in total fructose consumption, preceded the obesity epidemic and may be an important contributor to this epidemic in the United States.
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John on 08/08/2010 22:44:07
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"You know, HFCS breaks down to its component parts in water. This reaction is acid-catalyzed, and happens near-instantaneously in stomach acid."

Want to know what I know? You're a bullshit artist. The hydrolysis of the glycosidic bond between glucose and fructose is so slow it's considered negligible. It takes years to happen in any appreciable quantity. That's why the body uses enzymes like sucrase in the small intestines to break down sugar.

Never mind that, the sugars present in HFCS are so refined they are MONOSACCHARIDES. They are already in their simplest and smallest states so they can't undergo acid-catalyzed hydrolysis in the first place to break up into their "component parts". The rest of your blathering is equally inane and full of utter bullshit. Shut the **** up and get a proper education.
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Carolyn on 08/09/2010 22:17:16
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I did my own experiment. I cut out all products that contain HFCS with in a 3 month period. For restaurants and products that do not list their ingredients, I would call them and ask which products were HFCS free. I lost 13 lbs. by just making that one small change. I was not consuming as much food at one time because my stomach felt fuller much more quickly with products that contain real sugar. The final month and a half, I increased my H2O fluid intake and lost an additional 5 lbs. I currently weight 113 lbs. at a 5'2 1/2" female in her early 30's. I recently had knee surgery less than a month ago and have been able to maintain my weight by hydrating myself and sticking to a HFCS free diet.
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Knee Replacement Surgery on 10/26/2010 11:46:33
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High fructose corn syrup the cause of obesity epidemic, new study suggests.

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jadesmith on 11/02/2010 11:01:17
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The number one factor has to be lifestyle changes. The sedentary lifestyle that children are used to leading these days is one of the major causes for child obesity. Television and video games may have brought in a technological revolution; but it sure stopped the kids from revolving around the place.
http://www.fightobesity.net/symptoms-of-obesity.html
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