Fructose and Obesity
Subject: Over consumption of high fructose corn sweeteners may be one of the triggers to the current epidemic in obesity.
Fully twenty-five years ago I recall sitting in a lecture hall, first row, third seat from the left, listening the professor of my nutrition 101 class go off on a small tirade. She was answering a question, which I may have asked, about fructose. At that time high fructose corn syrups were just becoming popular in food manufacturing. I was a food science major, specializing in product development; I saw no downside to fructose. The corn derived fructose syrups were far cheaper than other sugar sources. Fructose tastes sweeter than sucrose lowering the number of calories needed to produce a perceived level of sweetness in a food. Most important, fructose does not stimulate insulin production so conceivably could be used by diabetics. Food scientists, a title which I aspired to at the time, thought fructose was one of the most exciting developments to come along.
I seem to have blotted out the name of the professor; she was the Department Chair and had the manner and authority that goes with the office. Whatever the lame question had been, our esteemed lecturer shifted gears and was off talking about some recent research about feeding fructose to baboons. It seems adding fructose to a baboon's diet radically changed their triglyceride and cholesterol levels, shoving them rapidly in the direction of liver problems and a heart attack. “What makes you think people are any different than baboons?” she asked. Though in memory the question has become more personal, “Mr. Schor what makes you think you are any different than a baboon?”
So it is no wonder that over these intervening years I have noticed fructose's fall from grace. Fructose, the ‘natural sweetener found in fruits, was the sweetener of choice that even health food stores use in sodas. Times have changed; pasta and bagels are no longer considered the foundation of a good diet and fructose is now blamed for no end of health problems. Not just in esoteric circles of radical Ivy League nutritionists but, heck, even in this week's AARP bulletin.
This month's issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition features a good article linking fructose consumption to the obesity epidemic. I'll paste an abstract of the article below. Part of the article's explanation as to why fructose promotes obesity is because it doesn't stimulate insulin. Without the insulin stimulation, the consumer does not feel any sense of satiety. Fructose calories don't fill people up the same way sugar does, prompting them to increase their overall caloric intake. This gives a whole new meaning to the phrase empty calories. Add this to the effect fructose has to blood lipids and heart disease risk and fructose should start to leave a bad taste in your mouth.
For other concerns about fructose see our earlier article. [click here]
Not that I am saying that sugar is good for you, but it might be safer over the long run than fructose. The dollar cost may be higher but the health cost lower.