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Does High-Fructose Corn Syrup Make You Fatter?

Is high fructose corn syrup making you fat? 

We've talked about this before, but a brand new study that was just published is bringing this topic to light again.

You may have seen the commercials by the Corn Industry saying high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is no worse than other added sugars.high fructose corn syrup causes weight gain

On the flip side, some scientists and nutrition experts have been screaming at the top of their lungs that HFCS causes weight gain and is partly responsible for the obesity epidemic.

Well a brand new study is out that's receiving a ton of attention. 

"High-fructose corn syrup causes characteristics of obesity in rats: Increased body weight, body fat and triglyceride levels"

Here's a quick summary.  HFCS is an added sugar that is used by many food and beverage companies because it's cheap and easy to use in beverages because it's liquid.

Well, interestingly, the boom of HFCS use matches very closely to the increase in the obesity epidemic over the last few decades.

But while some research made the correlation between HFCS and obesity, most has shown mixed results.

However, the currents study looked at both the short and long term effects of HFCS on weight, fat, and triglycerides in male and female rats.

The first study was 8 weeks long and the male rats were separated into 3 groups:

The first group was maintained for 12 hours/day on a diet made up of 8% HFCS and unlimited amounts of "chow."

The second was maintained for 12 hours/day on 10% sucrose (table sugar) and unlimited chow.

The third was was maintained for 24 h/day with HFCS with unlimited chow

And the fourth — chow alone.

They found that rats with 12-h access to HFCS gained significantly more body weight than the rats in the table sugar group. 

What's important, though, is that they both ate the same number of overall calories.

In the longer term part of this study, rats were fed these diets for 6 or 7 months and they found that the male and female rats with access to HFCS gained more body weight, fat and had higher levels of triglycerides than those in the other groups.

What's the moral of the story?

We're not fans of ANY added sugars — sucrose to HFCS, turbinado to molasses.  At the end of the day, though, is one WORSE than the others?

This one study shows it may be — but after looking at the study, I'm not too impressed with the design and methods.  We're still not convinced that HFCS is worse than other added sugars.  And we're not convinced that HFCS is the cause of the obesity epidemic — that being said, the foods that it's most prevalent in, though, surely play a role:

  • Soft drinks
  • Fruit juices/cocktails
  • Most other sweetened foods

It's even in "common" foods like ketchup, so read food labels carefully!

Take Home: if a food as added sugar (any type) as one of the first 3 ingredients, leave it on the shelf. 

Stay tuned on the HFCS debate as more will surely be uncovered.

7 Responses to Does High-Fructose Corn Syrup Make You Fatter?

  1. Jessica March 24, 2010 at 12:06 pm #

    Those commercials about HFCS really bothered me, especially since they were targeted to moms with young children. It can be hard to sort through all the research, but I'm glad to see this study. Thanks for blogging about it!
    Also, sometimes manufacturers use many kinds of added sugar so that they can be farther down on the list of ingredients but still add up to a large overall percentage…

  2. Kim March 24, 2010 at 12:56 pm #

    Interesting.  What source is this new study from?

    • Chris and Kara Mohr March 24, 2010 at 4:23 pm #

      Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, “High-fructose corn syrup causes characteristics of obesity in rats: Increased body weight, body fat and triglyceride levels” Miriam E. Bocarslya, Elyse S. Powella, Nicole M. Avenaa, and Bartley G. Hoebela.

  3. Dianne March 24, 2010 at 6:17 pm #

    What's your take on agave nectar being almost as bad as HFCS?

    • Chris and Kara Mohr March 26, 2010 at 8:33 am #

      I think the data is mixed on the big differences between added sugars. I think agave nectar has been overhyped for its “benefits” — from what I’ve seen at this point, raw honey is your best bet if you are going to use any added sugar. Again, though, none are “great” options.

  4. Barb Eckert July 8, 2010 at 2:06 pm #

    HFCS is only one good reason to go organic – after viewing labels on all brands of relish on a local store’s shelves the only one containing NO HFCS was the organic brand. Read the labels!

  5. Barb Eckert July 8, 2010 at 2:06 pm #

    HFCS is only one good reason to go organic – after viewing labels on all brands of relish on a local store’s shelves the only one containing NO HFCS was the organic brand. Read the labels!

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