Yesterday evening on NPR’s ALL Things Considered, I listened to a report summarizing a recent series of scientific studies that concluded high fructose corn syrup and table sugar are indistinguishable in effect when it comes to their association with the development of obesity: “…earlier this month, several scientific papers concluded that high-fructose corn syrup isn’t any worse than table sugar when it comes to gaining weight. So our love affair with either kind of sugar is problematic.”
Having been following this story for about a year, I was surprised at the new information that seemed to vindicate this ingredient from being the “smoking gun” link to obesity. It was clear that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), even if these recent studies remain valid over time, is still a refined sugar, and like all refined sugars, better to be consumed in lesser amounts. Does that make HFCS innocent of all charges? I don’t think we know enough to say one way or the other. Also, these studies raises another question, since HFCS is absorbed differently in the body than other refined sugars, does it warrant further study for other possible health implications? To that, I believe the answer is decidedly yes.
Since HFCS is not a naturally occurring product found in nature, and is made through an industrial process, I thought this trailer from King Corn would be an interesting treat to watch. Despite the obvious humor, it leads to a sobering question: do we wish to be bombarded with this particular ingredient in so many of the foods we eat?
Finally, here’s an article about an interesting study ( Fructose Sets Table For Weight Gain Without Warning ) that came out earlier this year about the possible role of the hormone leptin with weight gain and obesity. The gist of the study (I did not read the actual report) hypothesizes that regular consumption of high levels of fructose sugars can lead to a silent (otherwise unnoticed) development of leptin resistance. Leptin resistance has been associated with obesity in the past, but it has been thought to usually occur in response to obesity, not preceding it. In this study, the rats that developed leptin resistance from their fructose diet, became obese (gained weight quickly) after being switched to a high-fat diet. Their brains did not receive the (leptin) chemical signal to eat less. The non-fructose group did not become leptin resistant, and their switch to a high-fat diet triggered the normal response to eat less food, presumably giving their bodies a better chance to burn off (metabolize) the high caloric foods.
Clearly, from a scientific perspective, there is still much to learn about the role of diet-related chronic diseases, including obesity.
What do you think about the role of HFCS and obesity? Do you think that all table sugars should be equally reduced in food products? What about honey?