Worse Than Sugar: What's in Your Soda?

In its ability to pack on the body fat, high-fructose corn syrup appears to be worse than sugar.
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Could a sweetener really be worse than sugar?

Just to be clear, sugar causes a lot of trouble -- raising inflammation and contributing to insulin resistance, the metabolic syndrome, diabetes and obesity. But according to some research, high-fructose corn syrup outdoes sugar in important ways when it comes to your health.

In its ability to pack on the body fat, high-fructose corn syrup appears to be worse than sugar. Research from Princeton University looked at how high-fructose corn syrup increases body fat, which I will discuss below.

And if that is not enough bad news about this popular sweetener, a new study from the University of California at Los Angeles shows how high-fructose corn syrup can make your thinking less sharp, interfering with learning and memory. Learn more about this study in "Soda Makes You Stupid."

It might seem that this much-maligned sweetener would have seen its day. Instead, high-fructose corn syrup continues to be a powerhouse, sweetening the big soft drinks and sports drinks. It adds a touch of sweetness to ketchup and provides stickiness to barbeque sauce. Americans suck back 60 pounds per person, on average, of high-fructose corn syrup each year.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup and Body Fat

A research team from Princeton has concluded that high-fructose corn syrup outdoes sugar when it comes to increasing body fat. [1] Researchers from the Princeton's Neuroscience Institute and its Department of Psychology explored the connection between body fat and use of high-fructose corn syrup.

When they did experiments involving rats, they found that rats with high-fructose corn syrup available to them packed on more weight than rats that had sugar available.

Professor Bart Hoebel, leader of the Princeton team, discussed the results:

"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."

He continues:

"When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they're becoming obese -- every single one, across the board. Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don't see this; they don't all gain extra weight."

The link between high-fructose corn syrup and obesity has also been explored in studies conducted at research centers in locations such as Louisiana State University and the University of California. Writing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the Louisiana researchers note:

"The consumption of HFCS increased more than 1000% between 1970 and 1990, far exceeding the changes in intake of any other food or food group." [2]

Researchers in Germany have also studied the high-fructose corn syrup and weight gain connection. Publishing their findings in the journal Obesity Research, researchers from the German Institute of Human Nutrition gave mice drinks containing either fructose, sucrose or artificial sweetener to see the impact on weight gain and metabolism. [4] They found that mice drinking the fructose containing beverage increased body fat, while the others did not.

How to Avoid High-Fructose Corn Syrup

Two steps can help you stay clear of this fattening sweetener. First, skip the sodas and sports drinks that are packed with high-fructose corn syrup. Drink water, tea or unsweetened fruit juice instead.

Second, read the food labels and skip anything that contains high-fructose corn syrup, glucose, fructose, glucose-fructose syrup (UK and European Union). Stay away from processed factory foods and enjoy more natural alternatives such as nuts, fruit and vegetables.

Learn how to Uncover Food Label Propaganda

Now I'd like to hear from you:

Do you drink soda or sports drinks or eat products with high-fructose corn syrup?

If so, have you noticed how they make you feel, or any other results?

If not, how do you avoid high-fructose corn syrup?

Please let me know your thoughts by posting a comment below.

Best Health,

Jonathan Galland

Share the health with your friends and family by forwarding this article with them, and sharing on Facebook.

Jonathan Galland is a health writer who created more than 100 recipes for the anti-inflammatory program developed with his father, Dr. Leo Galland, in their book The Fat Resistance Diet. Jonathan is CEO of pilladvised.com, an online resource for the healing concepts of integrated medicine. Connect on Linkedin, join Pill Advised on Facebook, watch on YouTube and subscribe to the newsletter.

References and Further Reading:

1. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2010 Feb 26. "High-fructose corn syrup causes characteristics of obesity in rats: Increased body weight, body fat and triglyceride levels." Bocarsly ME, Powell ES, Avena NM, Hoebel BG. Department of Psychology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08540, USA; Princeton Neuroscience Institute, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08540, USA.

2. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Apr;79(4):537-43."Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity." Bray GA, Nielsen SJ, Popkin BM. Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70808, USA.

3. J Clin Invest. 2009 May;119(5):1322-34. Epub 2009 Apr 20. "Consuming fructose-sweetened, not glucose-sweetened, beverages increases visceral adiposity and lipids and decreases insulin sensitivity in overweight/obese humans." Stanhope KL, Schwarz JM, Keim NL, Griffen SC, Bremer AA, Graham JL, Hatcher B, Cox CL, Dyachenko A, Zhang W, McGahan JP, Seibert A, Krauss RM, Chiu S, Schaefer EJ, Ai M, Otokozawa S, Nakajima K, Nakano T, Beysen C, Hellerstein MK, Berglund L, Havel PJ. Department of Molecular Biosciences, UCD, Davis, California 95616, USA.

4. Obes Res. 2005 Jul;13(7):1146-56. "Consuming fructose-sweetened beverages increases body adiposity in mice." Jürgens H, Haass W, Castañeda TR, Schürmann A, Koebnick C, Dombrowski F, Otto B, Nawrocki AR, Scherer PE, Spranger J, Ristow M, Joost HG, Havel PJ, Tschöp MH. Department of Pharmacology, German Institute of Human Nutrition, Potsdam-Rehbruecke, Arthur-Scheunert-Allee 114-116, 14558 Nuthetal, Germany.

Princeton University Press Room

Full Text: "Diet and Inflammation" Leo Galland, MD, Nutr Clin Pract December 7, 2010 vol. 25 no. 6 634-640

Power Healing: Use the New Integrated Medicine to Cure Yourself. Leo Galland, 384 pages, Random House

This information is provided for general educational purposes only and is not intended to constitute (i) medical advice or counseling, (ii) the practice of medicine or the provision of health care diagnosis or treatment, (iii) or the creation of a physician--patient relationship. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your doctor promptly.

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