High-fructose corn syrup is a sweetener shrouded in controversy. It’s the most common sweetener added to processed and packaged foods because it’s less expensive than table sugar. But some researchers are convinced that the fructose contributes to weight gain and the risk of metabolic syndrome, a precursor to type 2 diabetes. Is high-fructose corn syrup bad – and does it cause weight gain?
Fructose and Weight Gain
Some experts argue that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than any other sweetener in terms of its effects on appetite and weight gain. But according to new research published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, fructose sweeteners affect the brain differently than glucose, which could have an impact on appetite.
When researchers used functional MRI scanning to look at how the brain responded to fructose and glucose, they made an interesting discovery. Certain areas of the brain that control appetite were activated when participants got a glucose infusion, but were inhibited when they received fructose. These two sweeteners seem to affect the brain differently, which means they could affect appetite and satiety in different ways.
Is High-Fructose Corn Syrup Bad: Another Reason It May Cause Weight Gain
According to another researcher, high-fructose corn syrup in products such as soft drinks may enhance the desire to eat more food. Sucrose, or table sugar, is composed of half glucose and half fructose molecules, whereas high-fructose corn syrup contains only fructose molecules. So when you sip a soft drink sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, you’re getting twice as many fructose molecules as you are when you drink a beverage sweetened with table sugar. Fructose stimulates the taste buds on the tongue more, so when you sip a fructose-sweetened drink your taste buds are more aroused. This could increase the desire to overindulge.
Unlike glucose, fructose can’t enter the majority cells in the body. Instead it travels to the liver where its glycerol group serves as a backbone for synthesizing fat. Some research shows that consuming high-fructose corn syrup causes undesirable changes in lipid levels and makes people more prone to abdominal obesity. Fructose also fails to suppress the appetite-suppressing hormone, ghrelin, which turns off the desire to eat.
Fructose and Weight Gain: The Bottom Line?
Is high-fructose corn syrup bad? There’s still no consensus on this, although fructose may be more likely to cause obesity than table sugar, especially abdominal obesity. It’s also not a good sweetener for people with cholesterol and lipid problems – or for diabetics. In reality, it’s a good idea to limit the amount of most sweeteners you eat – and fructose sweeteners are no exception.
The take-home message? If you buy packaged foods, look for ones don’t contain high-fructose corn syrup, or at least choose ones where it’s not listed in the first few ingredients. High-fructose corn syrup has no nutritional value, so there’s no good reason to include it in your diet.
MSN.com. “Sickeningly Sweet: The Effects of High-Fructose Corn Syrup”
Medical News Today. “Researchers Find Some Answers in the Brain to What Makes Fructose Fattening”