Monday, July 28, 2008

New Research on Fructose

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I have always been concerned about the use of high-fructose corn syrup since I originally learned the biochemical pathways. For hundreds of years, mixtures of glucose and fructose (i.e. fruit or even table sugar) have been the primary sweetener eaten by people (and animals too). Our bodies metabolize glucose mixtures differently from fructose, and have much more control over glucose metabolism. However because of a very wealthy sugar industry with powerful political control, the price in the U.S. has been set at an unusually high price. This has forced industry to turn to cheaper alternatives, mainly high-fructose corn syrup. My concern has always been due to differences in the metabolism of glucose and fructose. Glucose is carefully regulated by the liver, flowing into one of three pathways: storage as glycogen, metabolized for energy or turned into triglycerides. On the other hand, fructose bypasses these controlling mechanisms.

In a study published in June 2008, “Dietary Sugars Stimulate Fatty Acid Synthesis in Adults”, researchers compared fat formation (lipogenesis) following consumption of 3 different soft drinks:
• one sweetened with 100 per cent glucose
• one sweetened with 50 per cent glucose and 50 per cent fructose
• one sweetened with 25 per cent glucose and 75 per cent fructose

What they found was surprising and is in contrast to several editorials published recently that have claimed no difference. This study found that people given the the glucose sweetened beverage increased fat production by 7.8 percent. However, for the groups fed the fructose sweetened beverages, fat production increased to 15.9 percent (50:50) and 16.9 percent (25:75). Additionally, blood triglyceride levels were between 11 and 29% higher in those that had consumed the fructose sweetened drinks.

What this means is that taking in large amounts of fructose, particularly high-fructose corn syrup, from foods like soda, fruit drinks or sweets, could lead to more fat production and could even alter metabolism to favor fat production (and weight gain) at future meals. What does this mean for the average mom? Try to avoid unnaturally large amounts of fructose in any of the foods you buy. It is very sneaky, even finding it's way into some "health-food" breads, crackers, snack-foods, and definitely it is most sweets, candy and baked goods. Read the ingredient list and try to avoid items that list "high-fructose corn syrup".

Source: Parks EJ, Skokan LE, Timlin MT, Dingfelder CS. Dietary Sugars Stimulate Fatty Acid Synthesis in Adults. Journal of Nutrition. June 2008. 138,: 1039-46.

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