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High-fructose corn syrup in soft drinks may be responsible for obesity epidemic
Tuesday, April 27, 2004 12:29 am Email this article
High-fructose corn syrup, especially in soft drinks, may be partially to blame for the rapid increase in obesity in recent years according to a paper from George Bray and others at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The consumption of high-fructose corn syrup increased more than 10-fold between 1970 and 1990, far exceeding the changes in intake of any other food or food group according to George Bray and colleagues.
The rapid increase in obesity has occurred simultaneously with the rapid increase in our consumption of high-fructose corn syrup.
This suggesting that high-fructose corn syrup, especially in soft drinks, may be partially to blame for the obesity epidemic.
42 PERCENT OF CALORIES FROM CALORIC SWEETNERS
High-fructose corn syrup represents 42 percent of caloric sweeteners added to foods and beverages, and is the only caloric sweetener added to soft drinks in the United States according to the paper.
HIGH-FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP: GRAMS PER DAY
The increase in consumption of high-fructose corn syrup is as follows:
- 1966 0 grams per person per day
- 1970 1 grams per day
- 1975 7 grams per day
- 1980 27 grams per day
- 1985 65 grams per day
- 1990 71 grams per day
- 1995 82 grams per day
- 2000 92 grams per day
TOTAL CALORIC SWEETENERS: GRAMS PER DAY
The increase in consumption of total caloric sweeteners is as follows:
- 1966 166 grams per person per day
- 1970 175 grams per day
- 1975 169 grams per day
- 1980 176 grams per day
- 1985 184 grams per day
- 1990 196 grams per day
- 1995 212 grams per day
- 2000 218 grams per day
HIGH-FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP: PERCENT OF TOTAL SWEETENERS
The increase in high-fructose corn syrup as a percentage of total caloric sweeteners is as follows:
- 1966 0 percent
- 1970 0 percent
- 1975 4 percent
- 1980 16 percent
- 1985 35 percent
- 1990 36 percent
- 1995 39 percent
- 2000 42 percent
AVERAGE INTAKE OF SWEETENERS: 318 CALORIES PER DAY
The average intake of sweeteners is 318 calories per day, or 16 percent of calories according to a national survey in 1994-1996.
AVERAGE INTAKE OF HIGH-FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP: 132 CALORIES PER DAY
Corn-based sweetener syrups, that have been developed in the last thirty years, now represent nearly half of the calories consumed as sweeteners.
The average daily intake of high-fructose corn syrup by all Americans 2-years-old or older is 132 calories per day according to the authors??? most conservative estimates.
The top twenty percent of people consuming caloric sweeteners consume an average of 316 calories from high-fructose corn syrup per day.
TWO-THIRDS OF HIGH-FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP CONSUMED IN BEVERAGES
Although most processed foods contain high-fructose corn syrup, approximately two-thirds is consumed in the beverages.
FRUCTOSE IS 73 PERCENT SWEETER THAN SUCROSE
On a relative scale, where sucrose was assigned a sweetness value of 100, fructose has A sweetness of 173, meaning that it is 73 percent sweeter than sucrose.
On the same scale, glucose has a sweetness of 74.
This would suggest that the two types of high-fructose corn syrup being used ??? one being 42 percent fructose and 58 percent glucose, the other being 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose ??? would be 16 percent and 28 percent sweeter than sucrose, respectively.
However, another study found that fructose alone was only 17 percent sweeter than sucrose, but the combination of fructose and sucrose was 28 percent sweeter than sucrose. However, Bray et al say they don???t understand when combining the two would be sweeter than fructose alone.
ROUGHLY TWO-THIRDS OF HIGH-FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP CONTAINS 55 PERCENT FRUCTOSE
Sixty-one percent of the high-fructose corn syrup being used today contains 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose. The other thirty-nine percent contains 42 percent fructose and 58 percent glucose.
This changed after 1980, when only 29 percent was the higher-fructose content syrup, to 1985, when the amount increased to 60 percent or more.
SOFT DRINKS TODAY ARE SWEETER
They note that the calorie content of sodas is not much different than it was in 1963 (39 calories per 100 grams in 1963 versus 41 calories per gram today), meaning that it contains the same amount of sugar, just in a different form.
However, since high-fructose corn syrup is sweeter than sucrose, which used to added to soft drinks, this means that sodas today are sweeter than they used to be.
FRUCTOSE METABOLIZED DIFFERENTLY
“The digestion, absorption, and metabolism of fructose differ from those of glucose,” the authors note.
FRUCTOSE MORE LIKELY TO BE CONVERTED TO FAT
Fructose is more likely to be converted to fat than glucose.
FRUCTOSE DOES NOT STIMULATE INSULIN OR LEPTIN AS DOES GLUCOSE
Unlike glucose, fructose does not stimulate insulin release or increase leptin production.
Insulin levels in the central nervous system directly inhibit food intake.
“Because insulin and leptin act as key afferent signals [nerve impulses] in the regulation of food intake and body weight, this suggests that dietary fructose may contribute to increased energy intake and weight gain,” the authors write.
LIQUID CALORIES FAIL TO ADEQUATELY SUPPRESS APPETITE
Research suggests that calories consumed in liquid form, such as soft drinks, do not reduce subsequent eating, and thus, lead to overconsumption.
Therefore, soft drinks sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, may be especially harmful when it comes to weight control.
INCREASE IN SOFT DRINK CONSUMPTION
The consumption of soft drinks has increased as follows:
- 1977-1978 52 calories per person per day
- 1989-1991 74 calories per person per day
- 1994-1998 105 calories per person per day
However, the twenty percent of people with the highest intake consume an average of 290 calories from soft drinks per day, 69 calories from juice per day, and a total 703 calories from added sweeteners per day.
DECREASING MILK CONSUMPTION
“A convincing set of epidemiologic and clinical studies suggests that dairy products may have a favorable effect on body weight and insulin resistance in both children and adults,” the paper also notes.
They note that from 1970 to 1990 the consumption of whole milk dropped by 58 percent.
“[T]he overconsumption of [high-fructose corn syrup] in calorically sweetened beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity,” the authors of the study concluded.
What are their suggestions?
They recommend that replacing high-fructose corn syrup in soft drinks with noncaloric sweeteners.
They also recommend removing soft drink machines from schools.
And lastly, they recommend reducing the portion sizes of soft drinks.
Bray GA, Nielsen SJ, Popkin BM. Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Apr, 79(4):537-43.
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