High-fructose corn syrup prompts considerably more weight gain

Princeton researchers find that high-fructose corn syrup prompts considerably more weight gain
A Princeton University research team, including (from left) undergraduate Elyse Powell, psychology professor Bart Hoebel, visiting research associate Nicole Avena and graduate student Miriam Bocarsly, has demonstrated that rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup -- a sweetener found in many popular sodas -- gain significantly more weight than those with access to water sweetened with table sugar, even when they consume the same number of calories. The work may have important implications for understanding obesity trends in the United States. Credit: Princeton University, Office of Communications, Denise Applewhite

A Princeton University research team has demonstrated that all sweeteners are not equal when it comes to weight gain: Rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same.

In addition to causing significant weight gain in lab animals, long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup also led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen, and a rise in circulating blood fats called triglycerides. The researchers say the work sheds light on the factors contributing to obesity trends in the United States.

"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."

In results published online March 18 by the journal Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, the researchers from the Department of Psychology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute reported on two experiments investigating the link between the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup and obesity.

The first study showed that male rats given water sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup in addition to a standard diet of 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 second experiment -- the first long-term study of the effects of high-fructose corn syrup consumption on obesity in lab animals -- monitored weight gain, body fat and triglyceride levels in rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup over a period of six months. Compared to animals eating only rat chow, rats on a diet rich in high-fructose corn syrup showed characteristic signs of a dangerous condition known in humans as the metabolic syndrome, including abnormal , significant increases in circulating triglycerides and augmented fat deposition, especially visceral fat around the belly. Male rats in particular ballooned in size: Animals with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained 48 percent more weight than those eating a normal diet. In humans, this would be equivalent to a 200-pound man gaining 96 pounds.

"These rats aren't just getting fat; they're demonstrating characteristics of obesity, including substantial increases in abdominal fat and circulating triglycerides," said Princeton graduate student Miriam Bocarsly. "In humans, these same characteristics are known risk factors for high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, cancer and diabetes." In addition to Hoebel and Bocarsly, the research team included Princeton undergraduate Elyse Powell and visiting research associate Nicole Avena, who was affiliated with Rockefeller University during the study and is now on the faculty at the University of Florida. The Princeton researchers note that they do not know yet why high-fructose corn syrup fed to rats in their study generated more triglycerides, and more body fat that resulted in obesity.

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.

This creates a fascinating puzzle. The rats in the Princeton study became obese by drinking high-fructose corn syrup, but not by drinking sucrose. The critical differences in appetite, metabolism and gene expression that underlie this phenomenon are yet to be discovered, but may relate to the fact that excess fructose is being metabolized to produce fat, while glucose is largely being processed for energy or stored as a carbohydrate, called glycogen, in the liver and muscles.

In the 40 years since the introduction of high-fructose corn syrup as a cost-effective sweetener in the American diet, rates of obesity in the U.S. have skyrocketed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 1970, around 15 percent of the U.S. population met the definition for obesity; today, roughly one-third of the American adults are considered obese, the CDC reported. High-fructose corn syrup is found in a wide range of foods and beverages, including fruit juice, soda, cereal, bread, yogurt, ketchup and mayonnaise. On average, Americans consume 60 pounds of the sweetener per person every year.

"Our findings lend support to the theory that the excessive consumption of high-fructose corn syrup found in many beverages may be an important factor in the obesity epidemic," Avena said.

The new research complements previous work led by Hoebel and Avena demonstrating that sucrose can be addictive, having effects on the brain similar to some drugs of abuse.

In the future, the team intends to explore how the animals respond to the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in conjunction with a high-fat diet -- the equivalent of a typical fast-food meal containing a hamburger, fries and soda -- and whether excessive high-fructose consumption contributes to the diseases associated with obesity. Another step will be to study how fructose affects brain function in the control of appetite.

Provided by Princeton University
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Mar 22, 2010
The substance, HFCS should be banned or at least controlled.

Mar 22, 2010
People don't usually start drinking diet sodas until they are already obese.

Mar 22, 2010
Bottom line is that this stuff has NOTHING BUT negative health impacts, and should therefore be entirely removed from the food chain- for animals and humans alike. Convert it into fuel or something. It has very strong links to diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative disease, too -in addition to degrading into a vile cocktail of the abovementioned triglycerides, free radicals, and numerous other toxic or pre-toxic compounds that are readily metabolized. It may even be somewhat addictive.
There is no doubt that this crap is very harmful- it's now just a question of exactly the EXTENT of how harmful. It's use as a food or food additive OF ANY KIND should be BANNED WORLDWIDE. If you want sweet, you can add cane sugar, honey, maple sugar, fruit-sugars, et c.- no need for this vat-brewed poison!!!!

Mar 22, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Mar 22, 2010
"No metabolic effects have been found in studies that compare sugar and high fructose corn syrup consumption in humans."

How nice for a biased representative to let us know "Nothing to see here, move on."

Thanks so much for the "natural response".

Mar 22, 2010
Nice to know the corn industry has trolls. That also explains the stupid commercials, the rapid increase in the ability to get information on HFCS on the intertubes must be a nightmare for them.

Mar 23, 2010
Just one more reminder of how very important access to information truly is. I am doubtful of any word of this study emerging in the "MSM".
Even seemingly insignificant news stories such as this are necessary if we are to be informed.

For this reason, I say: Thank You, PHYSORG.

If It required the effort be taken by some corporate spokeshole to try the preemptive debunk, then it must constitute at least a stinger, if not an outright burn.
Now- look on the side of that coke can, and tell me how many grams of sugars/carbohydrates(HFCS) are in it? And how many sodas/fruit/vegetable drinks have you consumed today?
I liked the line about how "...Adult humans consume an average 2000 calories a day..." The "Average Adult"(in America) is likely to consume nearly that at one sitting!!!!!

Mar 23, 2010
2 things:

1) Diet Soda: The reason diet soda doesn't help you lose weight and may in fact lead to weight gain is actually not that odd. Research has indicated that consumption of artificial sweeteners leads to an inability to regulate caloric intake. In other words, your body stops recognizing "sweet"=calories and you actually crave more food not less.

2) Corn Refiners Association
How did they not have sucrose controls?
You are just flat out lying!

Mar 23, 2010
It's also important to remember that high fructose corn syrup is not limited to sodas. It is an almost ubiquitous sweetener in processed foods - in everything from yogurt smoothies to white bread.

Mar 23, 2010
Yes. It was good of MS Erickson to provide the details of lack of proper controls for the studies. This is very curious due to the amount of peer review going into a study. Without having any other information, we are obliged to take her word for it. No mention by her of cumulative consumption of corn syrup from other foods. EVERYTHING has corn syrup in it these days. Pesky sugar boycott of Cuba. I would not be suspicious of any study showing genetics, bad diets, poor portion control (All you can eat restaurant specials), no exercise in schools or work, and cumulative corn syrup consumption all contribute to American obesity. Bashing Corn Syrup and not all the others is not fair.
MS Erickson, continue to speak out and give us ALL the facts and you will be in a very small minority of credible industry spokespersons.

Mar 23, 2010
As labwench & patnclaire correctly point out, HFCS is in 'everything' these days. Good luck trying to plan a nutritious, balanced diet while avoiding this substance.

Mar 23, 2010
It is simple: buy whole foods, and actually cook your meals. Check the labels of packaged bulk foods before purchasing, and stay away from ready-to-eat foods. Buy organic and local wherever possible. Artisan breads are mighty tasty!

From personal experience, I can truthfully say that it is a trial, initially, to change your approach to food shopping, but it is surprising how quickly you can convert your old habits to new ones- not to mention enlightening. Do it now, and you'll live longer and be healthier.

Mar 27, 2010
Buy organic and local wherever possible.
This isn't entirely necessary. Organic and regular crops have very little difference outside of size and appearance.

Mar 27, 2010
Not entirely necessary, Skeptic,
but the additional benefits, among which are: reduced load of pesticides and petrofertilizers for produce and reduced load of antibiotics, growth hormone, and feed-additives for livestock, and the consequent environmental deloading of the same compounds and their byproducts- are still to be taken into account. Thus- less poison in to the consumer, as well.

On a local level like this, you also have more influence upon food production, because you can form co-ops, for instance, and even communicate face-to-face with growers, and possibly change their decision-making.

You can write and phone ConAgra all day, and they will still add HFCS(and a host of other chemicals) to the prepared foods they produce, prepare and distribute.

Mar 28, 2010

Organic farming invokes the use of far more deadly and poisonous "natural" pesticides. Standard practice farming is less polluting and less dangerous to the consumer than organic farming.

Using engineered pesticides we can prevent the ecological damage you're referring to and we can target the pesticide for effectiveness. In organic farming broad based pesticides are used and are far more toxic to non-detrimental and human life.

Mar 28, 2010

Organic farming invokes the use of far more deadly and poisonous "natural" pesticides. Standard practice farming is less polluting and less dangerous to the consumer than organic farming.

I'll agree with you that organic farming is not entirely free of the risks assocoiated with standard agro/chem practices, but you are being far more than just disengenuous in saying that standard practices are less harmful than organic.

The situation is exactly opposite. And while organic practices are not "perfectly" harmless, they produce net benefits to both consumers and the environment, whereas standard practices have a single virtue only: They are typically slightly cheaper.

But cheaper by what yardstick? If you add the cost produced by the harm to health, environment and economy caused by standard agro monoculture, the price is significantly higher, by every measure.


Mar 28, 2010
Sorry to say if you live in the United States and you're a big fan of organic foods, but due to lack of proper regulation and controls of organic produce in the US, my personal guesstimate is that about 90%+ of organic produce in the country is actually non organic produce relabeled as organic and sold at a higher price. If anyone who works for Whole Foods or who sells this overpriced relabeled produce is reading this, I'm sure they will respond with outrage, but to the best of my knowledge it's absolutely true.

Mar 28, 2010

Organic farming invokes the use of far more deadly and poisonous "natural" pesticides. Standard practice farming is less polluting and less dangerous to the consumer than organic farming.

I'll agree with you that organic farming is not entirely free of the risks assocoiated with standard agro/chem practices, but you are being far more than just disengenuous in saying that standard practices are less harmful than organic.


Wiki can't hold a candle to MIT.

Organic has been researched and found to be more dangerous on 3 fronts, none of which have to do with cost.

1) Higher incidence of food poisoning and disease due to heavy use of manure.

2) Harmful use of biotoxin pesticides and fungicides.

3) No gain in nutritional value while maintaining a far higher risk of famine.

Mar 28, 2010
So your link is actually an archived article from Nature.

Much of the "evidence" is anecdotal. The analysis presented in the article is pretty spotty, and not very well cited, in addition to being just plain speculative.

Keep buying what you want- I'll stick with the local organic products- Years into it, and no E.coli or cancer or neuro damage.

Last couple outbreaks of E.coli were reported as originating from your factory farms, in too close proximity to feed lots, or when irrigated using incompletely treated waste water.

Mar 29, 2010
Last couple outbreaks of E.coli were reported as originating from your factory farms, in too close proximity to feed lots, or when irrigated using incompletely treated waste water.

Not my farms, Mexico's farms. I just hit the store.

And by the way,
While there are clearly pesticides that can be derived organically that are more toxic than synthetic ones (eg. copper), these are not the most widely used types of pesticides. Pesticides are also not the primary form of pest control in organic farming.
, the most commonly used pesticide in organic farming is copper sulphate.

Apr 05, 2010
Organic foods only slightly cheaper than standard? Nonsense. Where I live organic foods are on an order of magnitudes more expensive.

Milk produced by standard methods = $1.61 / gallon
Organic milk = $6.30 / gallon

Guess which one I am going to buy in economic hard times...

As to it being only slightly less safe, I have been sickened several times by eating organic foods, and I used to eat a lot of it. No more.

It was expensive enough before the addition of medical bills...

Apr 12, 2010
....and yet another interesting post devalued by the Troll Rex...

Apr 27, 2010
The Benier_Duster sockpuppet's comments notwithstanding, folks, it seems I was wrong about the price of Organic milk in my neck of the woods. It was not $6.30/gallon, it was $6.45/gallon. Anyone who doubts my claim about the price differences should PM me their email addresses and I will send a photo I took in the store the other day.

As to the article above, I can see why evidence can be found that high fructose corn syrup can prompt considerably more weight gain. I have seen it in my own life. That might be anecdotal rather than scientific evidence of the caliber I would like to see and report but since it agrees with the science reported above I have no problem doing it.

So far as I can tell, the information in the article looks good. Hopefully it can be confirmed by further studies without influence of lobbies.

Apr 28, 2010
I live in a desert in the Rocky Mountains. I also buy milk from wholesalers where possible. Try shopping around if you want to find cheaper milk.

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