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January 18, 2009 • Healthy Eating & Nutrition, Weight Control

A “Bitter” Sweet Surprise

Have you seen the new advertising blitz (“The Sweet Surprise Campaign”) undertaken by the Corn Refiners Association (sugar pushers) claiming that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is “natural” and “the same as sugar?”  They claim that HFCS has been unduly vilified and that it is handled in the body no differently than regular sugar.  Although some past studies have shown this may be the case, a brand new report in the American Journal of Physiology (October 2008 ) raises additional concerns.

In this novel study, investigators found that rats fed a high fructose diet over a six month period developed a particularly high risk metabolic syndrome called leptin resistance.  Leptin is a powerful appetite-suppressive hormone that binds to cells in the brain to turn off hunger.  With leptin resistance, leptin can’t do its job leading to unbridled appetite, excessive eating, and ultimately obesity.

In this particular study, when the leptin-resistant, fructose fed rats were put on a high fat diet, they gained significantly more weight than the control group of normal rats put on the same high fat diet.

HFCS is not natural – it is made in factories and is only found in processed, man-made foods.  Although associations do not prove causality, it is compelling to note that dramatic acceleration in HFCS intake over the past 30 years parallels dead on with the escalating rates of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney disease. Other laboratory studies have shown that fructose can cause insulin resistance, high triglycerides,inflammation, fatty liver, abdominal obesity, and kidney injury.

It is interesting to note that we do not observe these same effects when we give laboratory animals equivalent amounts of glucose or starch.

I continue to be wary of HFCS and recommend you minimize or avoid it.  At a minimum it is a reliable marker for a factory made, “fake” food.  Stick with the foods nature provides because they are the ones that guard and protect your health.