There is yet another reason to be skeptical of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Researchers at Princeton University found that rats that high fructose corn syrup compared with rats that ate an equal calorie amount of table sugar “gained significantly more weight.” The study (PDF version of the complete study) found that rats that drank HFCS became obese, but the rats that drank the table sugar, or sucrose, did not become obese.
The researchers believe that the study’s findings may hold some answers to the ever-increasing obesity of Americans. In the past 40 years since HFCS became common as a substitute for sweeteners in many Americans foods including soft drinks, obesity rates in the United States have greatly increased. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, since 1970 obesity rates have increased from 15 percent of the population to about one-third of the population.
Marion Nestle on her Food Politics blog is not convinced that the study draws accurate conclusions. She says the study is “extremely complicated and confusingly described.” She doesn’t believe “the study produces convincing evidence of a difference between the effects of HFCS and sucrose on the body weight of rats” in part because the study leaves out the caloric intake of the rats. Apparently, it’s difficult to measure how many calories rats intake because they are extremely messy. They might be given a specific number of calories but that doesn’t mean those calorie make it into their mouth.
Of course, The Corn Refiners Association, has found problems with the study.
This study unnecessarily confuses consumers about human metabolism of common sugars in the diet. A sugar is a sugar whether it comes from cane, corn, or beets. Both sugar and high fructose corn syrup are handled the same by the body. No metabolic effects have been found in studies that compare sugar and high fructose corn syrup consumption in humans.
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