Last week Isabel talked about a few artificial sweeteners in her article and I’d like to continue the theme dealing particularly with high fructose corn syrup. Some interest research was published recently and I want to make sure you all hear about it.
Did you see the ads on TV trying to tell us that high-fructose corn syrup is just as healthy as regular sugar, and all the negative hype just comes from us poor confused people? The advertisers (corn growers’ association) have also petitioned to rename HFCS ‘corn sugar,’ which has lead to an all-too-enjoyable-to-watch court battle begun by the cane sugar industry which is arguing that the term ‘corn sugar’ is too nice of a name for the corn derivative. (It’s a Goliath v. Goliath battle, purveyors of food porn on both sides.)
Though it was already well known, once again research has been concluded that clearly shows sugar is not sugar and the only ones willing to say that are the corn lobbyists, along with the “scientists” and “nutritionists” they’ve been able to buy off.
In a recently concluded Princeton University study, rats with access to HFCS gained significantly more weight than rats with access only to regular table sugar, even though their caloric intake was the same.
On top of that, long term consumption of HFCS lead to abnormal gaining of abdominal fat as well as fat in the blood (triglycerides).
With the presence of HFCS in nearly every form of processed food, and the fact that processed foods are a staple of the American diet, it’s easy to see how we got fat. The average American eats 60 pounds of the stuff every year!
“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 psychology professorBart Hoebel, who specializes in the neuroscience of appetite, weight and sugar addiction. “When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they’re becoming obese — every single one, across the board. Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don’t see this; they don’t all gain extra weight.”
On Feb. 26 the researchers from the Department of Psychology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute reported the results of two experiments that studied the link between the consumption of HFCS and obesity.
The first study showed that male rats given a standard diet of rat food accompanied by water sweetened with HFCS gained much more weight than male rats that received the same diet but with water sweetened with table sugar, or sucrose. The level of sugar in the sucrose drink was the same as what you’d find in soft drinks; the HFCS solution was half as concentrated as most sodas. Imagine what would have happened at full strength!
The second experiment was conducted to see what would happen with weigh, body fat and triglyceride levels when the rats had long-term access to HFCS, six months in this case. Compared to the rats eating only their normal diet, the HFCS group developed symptoms ofwhat’s known in humans as metabolic syndrome (precursor to diabetes, heart disease and others), including abnormal weight gain, significant increases in circulating triglycerides and increased fat deposition, especially abdominal fat.
“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.”
HFCS 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.
“Our findings lend support to the theory that the excessive consumption of high-fructose corn syrup found in many beverages may be an important factor in the obesity epidemic,” Avena said.
I think that’s a pretty fair assumption.
The research team intends to study what happens when the animals are fed high-fructose corn syrup in conjunction with a high-fat diet — the equivalent of a typical fast-food meal containing a hamburger, fries and soda. And the following project will be to study how fructose affects brain function in the control of appetite. We can already make guesses as to what those studies will find, but I am anxious to see the published results of both these studies.
For now all I know is that I won’t allow the corn growers and food producer lobbies to use me in their experiments on the human population and I encourage you to withdraw from the study as well!
(Photo: Denise Applewhite)