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High-Fructose Corn Syrup Worse Than Sugar for Weight Gain


Thousands of common foods and beverages contain high-fructose corn syrup, an ingredient that has been found to be worse than table sugar when it comes to weight gain. Ivy league researchers report that rats given high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than animals given table sugar.

High-fructose corn syrup is a boon to food manufacturers: it extends the shelf life of processed foods and is less expensive than sugar. Yet this common sweetener and preservative, which is made by changing the sugar in cornstarch to fructose, has been the subject of many studies and debates, especially regarding its association with obesity and the promotion of health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

Two experiments were conducted by researchers at Princeton University and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute. In one, rats were given either water laced with high-fructose corn syrup or water sweetened with table sugar. The concentration of syrup used was half that found in most sodas, while the concentration of sugar was the same as found in some soft drinks. Both groups of rats also ate the same standard diet.

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All of the rats that consumed the high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than the rats in the sugar group. This finding indicated to the study’s authors that high-fructose corn syrup is not the same as sugar, as many people claim, and that it may lead to more weight gain and obesity than sugar.

In the second experiment, the investigators documented the impact that high-fructose corn syrup had on rats that consumed it over six months compared with those that ate standard rat chow only. Rats that consumed the syrup showed signs of metabolic syndrome, including elevated triglyceride levels, abnormal weight gain, and increased deposits of fat, especially in the abdominal area. Rats in the high-fructose corn syrup group gained 48 percent more weight than those who ate a normal diet.

Thus far, experts do not know why the rats that consumed the high-fructose corn syrup had high triglycerides and more body fat than the animals that ate sugar. One idea is that extra fructose is metabolized to produce fat while glucose (sugar) is mostly processed for energy or stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen.

Results of the Princeton experiments provide additional support to the theory that excessive consumption of high-fructose corn syrup may be an important component in weight gain and obesity. To help avoid this sweetener, consumers can limit their intake of processed foods, limit or avoid sodas, choose fresh fruits rather than fruit juice or fruit-flavored drinks, and check food labels before making a purchase.

Mayo Clinic
Princeton University, news release Mar. 22, 2010