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For Corn Syrup the News Is Not So Sweet

Posted by bmagnus On December - 16 - 2009

More and more research keeps coming out to suggest that it is not good for humans to have a lot of fructose in their diets. While fructose is found in relatively small quantities in fruit, most people consume it in the form of high fructose corn syrup, or HFCS for short.

Readers of the Times Online learned on Sunday about a research study on this cheap form of sugar:

Over 10 weeks, 16 volunteers on a strictly controlled diet, including high levels of fructose, produced new fat cells around their heart, liver and other digestive organs. They also showed signs of food-processing abnormalities linked to diabetes and heart disease. Another group of volunteers on the same diet, but with glucose sugar replacing fructose, did not have these problems.

What’s new in this study is the increase in visceral fat, the fat around body organs. This is a huge deal. Visceral fat is a major risk factor for everything from metabolic syndrome to organic brain disease to liver cancer and prostate cancer. Visceral fat is most easily spotted as a “beer belly” and it doesn’t take much searching to realize that this is far and way the worst kind of fat to have.Under normal circumstances, a study involving 16 people would be considered too small to be really valuable. However, given these findings it would have been unethical to do a bigger or longer study particularly in light of the increase in visceral fat. This particular research was actually published in May, but as confirmed by research in rats was published this month:

We conclude that even moderate consumption of fructose-containing liquids may lead to the onset of unfavorable changes in the plasma lipid profile and one marker of liver health, independent of significant effects of sweetener consumption on body weight.

Another study published in June tells us:

Evidence shows that fructose bypasses many of the body’s satiating signals, thus potentially promoting overconsumption of energy, weight gain, and the development on insulin resistance. It has also been shown to increase uric acid levels, which in turn promotes many of the abnormalities seen in the metabolic syndrome including hypertriglyceridemia. However, the main source of fructose in the diet is high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), an artificially manufactured disaccharide that is only 55% fructose.

Insulin resistance is a pre-diabetic condition where the body doesn’t use insulin properly. That in turn means that carbohydrates are not digested properly. As a result, more insulin is produced to try and do the job right. Eventually the pancreas just can’t keep up with insulin demand, and diabetes develops. Metabolic syndrome occurs when in addition to insulin resistance, a person has other problems including abdominal obesity, high cholesterol and/or triglyceride levels, high blood pressure, and certain inflammatory markers.

As if all this isn’t bad enough, we began the year with research suggesting that much of the HFCS we consume is contaminated with mercury, a toxic metal.

We’ve written about fructose and HFCS several times this year, and about the only truly good thing we can say about it is that it doesn’t cause bee colonies to collapse. While we aren’t ready to blame it for all of society’s ills, it’s certainly something you want to avoid eating.

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