In what was the most eyebrow-raising report I reviewed this month, Princeton University researchers found that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is uniquely fattening relative to regular table sugar, and when consumed long term, leads to dramatic weight gain. To investigate, researchers performed two separate laboratory experiments with rats. In the first, male rats were given rat chow supplemented with either HFCS sweetened water or sucrose (table sugar) sweetened water. Despite access to an identical number of calories, those provided the HFCS solution gained markedly more weight.
In the second experiment, considered to be the very first long term evaluation of how HFCS impacts obesity in lab animals, lab rats were provided either regular rat chow or a diet enriched with HFCS. After the six month study period, those with access to the corn-syrup diet experienced dramatic weight gain (especially in the belly) along with higher blood triglyceride levels. In human terms, the weight increase was equivalent to an average sized man gaining 96 pounds. (Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior, March 2010) The chief investigator was especially struck that virtually every rat provided the HFCS diet became obese.
The scientists at Duke University had something important to say about HFCS too. After carefully reviewing the medical records and dietary histories of 427 adults with a condition called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), researchers found a significant association between drinking beverages containing HFCS, like soda, and this now epidemic condition. (Hepatology Online, March 2010) NAFLD currently affects 30% of the adults in the US and is now the most common form of chronic liver disease. When I was in med school 20 years ago, this condition was largely unknown. I do not remember learning anything about it. NAFLD’s abrupt appearance and rapid rise on the disease scene matches up dead on with the arrival and ubiquitous use of HFCS in our food supply. Tragically, about 25% of those who suffer from NAFLD will go on to develop permanent scarring or cirrhosis of the liver.
We know from basic biochemistry that chronic exposure to excess fructose (think daily soda consumption), just like chronic exposure to excess alcohol, is toxic and can damage the liver.
Be good to your liver and your waistline by minimizing your intake of concentrated forms of fructose. Avoid soda, fruit drinks, sports beverages, sugary junk cereals, and too many sweets.
Related Article: Foods You Think are Healthy But are Not