Sugar, Sugar

Despite what those commercials made by the food manufacturers claim, high fructose corn syrup is demonstrably bad for you:

In results published online March 18 by the journal Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, the researchers from the Department of Psychology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute reported on two experiments investigating the link between the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup and obesity.

The first study showed that male rats given water sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup in addition to a standard diet of rat chow gained much more weight than male rats that received water sweetened with table sugar, or sucrose, in conjunction with the standard diet. The concentration of sugar in the sucrose solution was the same as is found in some commercial soft drinks, while the high-fructose corn syrup solution was half as concentrated as most sodas.

The second experiment — the first long-term study of the effects of high-fructose corn syrup consumption on obesity in lab animals — monitored weight gain, body fat and triglyceride levels in rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup over a period of six months. Compared to animals eating only rat chow, rats on a diet rich in high-fructose corn syrup showed characteristic signs of a dangerous condition known in humans as the metabolic syndrome, including abnormal weight gain, significant increases in circulating triglycerides and augmented fat deposition, especially visceral fat around the belly. Male rats in particular ballooned in size: Animals with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained 48 percent more weight than those eating a normal diet.

“These rats aren’t just getting fat; they’re demonstrating characteristics of obesity, including substantial increases in abdominal fat and circulating triglycerides,” said Princeton graduate student Miriam Bocarsly. “In humans, these same characteristics are known risk factors for high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, cancer and diabetes.” In addition to Hoebel and Bocarsly, the research team included Princeton undergraduate Elyse Powell and visiting research associate Nicole Avena, who was affiliated with Rockefeller University during the study and is now on the faculty at the University of Florida. The Princeton researchers note that they do not know yet why high-fructose corn syrup fed to rats in their study generated more triglycerides, and more body fat that resulted in obesity.

11 Responses to Sugar, Sugar

  1. Gaius Sempronius Gracchus March 26, 2010 at 12:47 pm #

    Am I getting this right?

    The two diets were identical as regards calories from table sugar vs calories from high-fructose (a different sugar) corn syrup, but the latter caused worse weight gain?

    That would be a mystery.

  2. riverdaughter March 26, 2010 at 1:17 pm #

    I’ve been complaining for years that processed foods are way too sweet from fruit juice to spaghetti sauce to whole wheat crackers to pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks. But I have discovered something really revolutionary! It’s called a “la-bel”. If you read it and see “high fructose corn syrup”, you don’t have to buy it. Or if the carb count is excessively high, you can avoid the product. If enough people start doing that, the laws of natural selection will kick in and manufacturers will stop making the products with so much damn sugar in them.
    Consumers are not helpless here and they probably don’t need government intervention except at the school lunch program level. Education is key.

  3. susie March 26, 2010 at 2:20 pm #

    It would help if you clicked on the link and read the entire story.

  4. susie March 26, 2010 at 2:26 pm #

    Not true. It offer appears under the label “sugars”, which could be almost anything.

    And HFCS is in everything, including thousands of things you wouldn’t suspect. So no, I wouldn’t put this off on the consumers. They need a little help.

  5. jawbone March 26, 2010 at 4:02 pm #

    Susie, I don’t know enough about sugar carbs to understand exactly what the calorie count would be, but it seems to me if the sugar liquid was the same as used to sweeten sugar sweetened soda and the HFCS was one half the amount used in HFCS sweetened soda that there were only 50% of the calories in the HCFS solution fed to the rats.

    Think I have that right? Or is less HCFS used to sweeten soda than real sugar for the same sweetness?

    Which gets back to GSG’s question: Were the calorie counts equal or, making the results even more impressive, were the calories from HCFS only half those form the real sugar? If the latter, wow!

  6. PurpleGirl March 26, 2010 at 5:15 pm #

    Part of the problem is that HFCS is not handled by the body, especially by the kidneys and liver, the same way that sucrose is to transform it into glucose. Glucose is the form of sugar that the brain and muscles use for energy. Although HFCS is made from fructose it’s chemical form is just slightly off what the body recognizes. There is an internet lecture series from UCLA (IIRC) and one of the lectures was on the biochemistry of HFCS. I should go looking for a link because it was interesting. Calories don’t play a major role at all, it’s the metabolism chemistry of the sugar and how it produces fat.

  7. PurpleGirl March 26, 2010 at 5:28 pm #

    Okay, finding the lecture wasn’t so hard after all. Sugar: The Bitter Truth by Robert Lustig, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Endocrinology, University of California San Francisco. uctv on YouTube, the lecture is an hour and a half. It is interesting.

  8. jawbone March 27, 2010 at 12:41 pm #

    Thanks, PurpleGirl, for the great source.

    Wiki says “Sucrose has approximately 4 kilocalories (kcal)—or 4 calories of food energy—per gram, while HFCS has approximately 3 kcal per gram. This is because HFCS contains roughly 25% water.”

    So, perhaps the answer to my question is that while the rats drank sugar liquid at full strength or 4 calories per gram, they got the HFCS liquid at 1.5 calories per gram. Which does suggest the body metabolizes the HFCS differently.

  9. jawbone March 27, 2010 at 12:48 pm #

    Or, rather, resulting in .5 gram or 1.5 calories compared to the 3 calories for the sugar.

  10. jawbone March 27, 2010 at 1:04 pm #

    “These rats aren’t just getting fat; they’re demonstrating characteristics of obesity, including substantial increases in abdominal fat and circulating triglycerides,” said Princeton graduate student Miriam Bocarsly. “In humans, these same characteristics are known risk factors for high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, cancer and diabetes.” …. The Princeton researchers note that they do not know yet why high-fructose corn syrup fed to rats in their study generated more triglycerides, and more body fat that resulted in obesity.

    High-fructose corn syrup and sucrose are both compounds that contain the simple sugars fructose and glucose, but there at least two clear differences between them. First, sucrose is composed of equal amounts of the two simple sugars — it is 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose — but the typical high-fructose corn syrup used in this study features a slightly imbalanced ratio, containing 55 percent fructose and 42 percent glucose. Larger sugar molecules called higher saccharides make up the remaining 3 percent of the sweetener. Second, as a result of the manufacturing process for high-fructose corn syrup, the fructose molecules in the sweetener are free and unbound, ready for absorption and utilization. In contrast, every fructose molecule in sucrose that comes from cane sugar or beet sugar is bound to a corresponding glucose molecule and must go through an extra metabolic step before it can be utilized.

    This creates a fascinating puzzle. The rats in the Princeton study became obese by drinking high-fructose corn syrup, but not by drinking sucrose. The critical differences in appetite, metabolism and gene expression that underlie this phenomenon are yet to be discovered, but may relate to the fact that excess fructose is being metabolized to produce fat, while glucose is largely being processed for energy or stored as a carbohydrate, called glycogen, in the liver and muscles.

    Fascinating. I asked my endo why my body reacted so differently to the combination of natural thyroid hormone with synthetic thyroid hormone, prior to my ablation radiation treatment to kill off remaining thyroid tissue remnants, and he shrugged (he’s not very verbal, espcially with quetions he doesn’t like). My body certainly noticed a major difference. He pooh-poohs my experience, but did say that I probably will never feel like that again. “New normal,” is the standard reply. I hypothesize, with no scientific basis for this – only my own experience, that there are things in natural thyroid hormone which intereact differently with our bodies.

    I wonder if there are micro nutrients…or different receptors in our bodies… which make the HCFS inimical to humans in the long run.

    Susie, thanks so much for posting this article.

  11. susie March 27, 2010 at 2:27 pm #

    I’ve read lots of stuff from people who insist natural thyroid works better than the synthetic, so you’re not alone.

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