Study: HFCS Leads to More Weight Gain


20100309_hoebellab_065_smMost of us are worried about high fructose corn syrup, but just like those ridiculous commercials say, few of us can articulate exactly why. Now Princeton researchers have uncovered some evidence that high fructose corn syrup actually prompts much more weight gain than sugar, even when overall caloric intake is the same.

Researchers from the department of psychology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute found that male rats given water sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup along with their usual rat chow gained much more weight than male rats that received water sweetened with table sugar, or sucrose, in conjunction with the standard diet. The concentration of sugar in the sucrose solution was the same as is found in some commercial soft drinks, while the high-fructose corn syrup solution was half as concentrated as most sodas.

The other was even more troubling. Scientists monitored rats eating their regular rat chow and water sweetened with high fructose corn syrup for six months. They mirrored a condition known in humans as metabolic syndrome, marked by abnormal weight gain, significant increases in circulating triglycerides and augmented fat deposition, especially visceral fat around the belly. It affected the corn-syrup drinking male rats more — they gained 48 percent more weight than those eating a normal diet.

According to the linked press release:

“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. “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.”

Part of the problem, of course, is that high fructose corn syrup is in most processed foods — cereal, ketchup, and bread, to name a few. The average American consumes 60 pounds of the stuff a year. Here’s a list of foods that don’t have it, and I personally have found Trader Joe’s to be a rich source of HFCS-free foods (even ketchup).

More research is needed, but the Princeton team theorizes that regular sugar is stored by the body as energy, while HFCS gets metabolized into fat.

Image: Princeton University, Office of Communications, Denise Applewhite