Last week I mentioned that food companies are beginning to phase out high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Some of the discussion that followed my post questioned whether HFCS was any different than regular table sugar. Now a Princeton University research team says it is.
Research, the results of which were published in the Journal Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, shows that rats gained significantly more weight on HFCS than with equal amounts of table sugar — even when their overall caloric intake was the same.
Additionally, long-term ingestion of HFCS “led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen, and a rise in circulating blood fats called triglycerides:”
“Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn’t true, at least under the conditions of our tests,” said psychology professor Bart Hoebel, who specializes in the neuroscience of appetite, weight and sugar addiction…
This explanation of exactly how HFCS and table sugar are different sheds light on why people get fatter on HFCS:
High-fructose corn syrup and sucrose are both compounds that contain the simple sugars fructose and glucose, but there at least two clear differences between them. First, sucrose is composed of equal amounts of the two simple sugars — it is 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose — but the typical high-fructose corn syrup used in this study features a slightly imbalanced ratio, containing 55 percent fructose and 42 percent glucose. Larger sugar molecules called higher saccharides make up the remaining 3 percent of the sweetener. Second, as a result of the manufacturing process for high-fructose corn syrup, the fructose molecules in the sweetener are free and unbound, ready for absorption and utilization. In contrast, every fructose molecule in sucrose that comes from cane sugar or beet sugar is bound to a corresponding glucose molecule and must go through an extra metabolic step before it can be utilized.
Among other new studies in the queue, the research team plans to explore how rats respond to a diet of HFCS in conjunction with high-fat food — the typical diet combination of many people today.