New research suggests that there is a difference in the way the brain reacts to fructose when compared to glucose, with negative implications for our health. Given the amount of high fructose corn syrup found in processed foods these days, this is extremely important research.
The study, carried out by scientists in Switzerland, involved 12 men. The participants were each given fructose, glucose, and a placebo on three separate occasions. After ingestion of the substances, the researchers assessed (1) functional MRI readings showing brain activity, (2) the amount of satiation hormones (the hormones that tell you that you are full) in their blood, and (3) subjective feelings of appetite.
Glucose is the primary energy source for many organisms, including humans, and is the main type of sugar found in the blood. Fructose is a sugar found naturally in honey and fruits. High-fructose corn syrup is a corn syrup that has been modified to turn some of the glucose to fructose. While regular table sugar (sucrose) has a 1:1 ratio of glucose to fructose, high fructose corn syrup has far more fructose than glucose. This makes it much sweeter than table sugar. Commercial food producers like to use high fructose corn syrup because its increased sweetness means that they can use less of it, making production of foods cheaper.
The findings of the study were very interesting. It turns out that the fructose was not as effective at stimulating the brain’s reward center as glucose. In addition, there were only minimal changes in the level of satiation hormones in the blood after eating fructose. This lack of satiety and rewarding effect from fructose may lead to a subsequent increase in appetite, food intake, and body weight, none of which are desirable.
So what should we take away from this study? Well, firstly, it is important to note that the study was extremely limited in the number of participants involved, and in its scope. Therefore, while the results provide a great starting point for more research, they remain preliminary at this point. However, it is always a good idea to limit added sugars in your diet. The American Heart Association recommends no more than around 6 teaspoons of added sugar (24 grams) for women and around 9 teaspoons (36 grams) for men per day. In addition, it is a good idea to limit your consumption of processed foods. There are many compelling reasons why this is a good move for your health, but it will also help you avoid high fructose corn syrup in your diet.