HFCS not to blame for obesity crisis, claims study

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Fructose

An industry-funded study claims to show that humans handle high
fructose corn syrup (HFCS) no differently than table sugar, an
assertion that contradicts assumptions that HFCS in beverages fails
to signal fullness or suppress appetite.

The study, carried out by Dr James Rippe, associate professor of medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine, could help support soft drink firm claims that they have been disproportionately blamed for the current obesity epidemic.

"Some have claimed that HFCS may be responsible for the increase in obesity rates over the past 30 years because it did not stimulate signals in the body that indicate appetite or fullness in the same way table sugar does,"​ said Rippe, who conducted the study with his colleagues.

"Until now, that had never been tested. Previous studies were conducted with pure fructose - not HFCS."

The study, which was funded by PepsiCo, tested the effects of consuming beverages sweetened with HFCS or beverages sweetened with table sugar on circulating levels of blood sugar, insulin and satiety hormones in 30 normal-weight women.

These beverages were consumed over the course of a day along with normal meals.

In the women tested, the researchers found no differences in circulating blood sugar levels, insulin levels or the levels of leptin or ghrelin, which are hormones thought to be involved in regulating food intake.

Both HFCS and table sugar are made up of the simple sugars fructose and glucose in approximately equal mixtures. Most types of HFCS, a sweetener widely used in food and beverage products, contain about 55 per cent fructose and 45 per cent glucose, while table sugar is 50 per cent fructose and 50 per cent glucose.

"With only slightly more fructose than table sugar, the name 'high fructose corn syrup' is a misnomer, as it makes people think there is much more fructose in HFCS than sugar,"​ claimed Rippe.

But HFCS has not always had such good press. A recent University of Cincinnati study asserted that the body processes high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) differently than other sugars due to the fructose content, leading to greater fat storage.

And last year, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health claimed in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that there was a link between consumption of refined carbohydrates and type 2 diabetes.

Rippe admitted that further research was necessary to see if this is also true for men, for obese populations and for blood measures over a longer time period.

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