A 60 Pound Problem

Is a calorie a calorie, no matter where it comes from?  That’s a debate that’s been raging for years, and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has been at the epicenter of the arguments.   It appears now that we’re closer to having an answer.

Some people have argued that the switch to HFCS as our primary sweetener triggered the obesity epidemic.    The product has been demonized and has many vocal opponents who have blamed it for many of our nation’s current health problems.    Its introduction 40 years ago as a low-cost substitute for table sugar certainly correlates with our country’s increasing waistlines.

But the food industry has steadfastly maintained the product’s innocence, and science seemed to be on their side.  Table sugar  and high fructose corn syrup are both primarily made up of the same two compounds (fructose and glucose) and both contain the same number of calories.  They argued that we were simply just eating too much.

We’ve been taught that weight gain is a simple formula…too many calories in, not enough calories burned.  We know that people are less physically active and eating more today, so the attempts to blame rising obesity rates on HFCS hasn’t gained universal acceptance.  But that may soon change.

According to new research from Princeton University,  it appears that HFCS does have properties that trigger obesity.   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.

Once you’ve wrapped your mind around that, read what Professor Bart Hoebel, who specializes in the neuroscience of appetite, weight and sugar addiction, observed in the study. “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.”

I highly recommend reading the entire article, it contains a lot more interesting and eye-opening information.  HFCS is a well-known ingredient in soft drinks, but it’s also commonly added to fruit juice, soda, cereal, bread, yogurt, ketchup and mayonnaise. On average, Americans consume 60 pounds of the sweetener per person every year.  Yeah, that might be a problem!

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