Fructose, the most widely used sugar in the American diet, may possibly be linked to obesity in the United States because it causes impulses in the brain which lead to overeating, a new study shows.
According to The Star
, fructose, or fruit sugar
, doesn't give the brain as much of a sense of fullness when consumed as opposed to simple glucose, researchers discovered. Glucose
is a carbohydrate and is a valuable source of energy, where as fructose, despite being the same chemically, is different structurally.
Fructose is the natural sugar found in fruits giving them their sweetness, and pretty much harmless in moderation. However, since it is incorporated into food products in very high concentrations, obesity has risen substantially since the 1970s along with consumption of such foods and beverages.
Despite having the same amount of calories, different sugars are not all one in the same. As mentioned earlier, the body processes them all differently. One particular target is high-fructose corn syrup, which is 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose. While others reject the claim that this sweetener is one of the culprits behind America's obesity epidemic, doctors in general can agree that most people in the US do consume far too much sugar.
In order to conduct the study itself, scientists used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanning to keep tabs on the brains of 20 normal-weight young people as they consumed both glucose- and fructose-rich beverages on two occasions several weeks apart.
When consuming the drinks with glucose, it was shown to suppress "the activity of areas of the brain that are critical for reward and desire for food,” Dr. Robert Sherwin, a Yale University endocrinologist and one of the study leaders spoke about regarding the scans
. “We don’t see those changes [with fructose]."
“As a result, the desire to eat continues," he said
. "It isn't turned off."
Oregon Health and Science endocrinologist, Dr. Jonathan Purnell, said that the MRI results seemed to echo people when they said how hungry they felt. It also goes in line with earlier studies done with animals.
“It implies that fructose, at least with regards to promoting food intake and weight gain, is a bad actor compared to glucose,” said Dr. Purnell
. His commentary on the finding appears in the federally funded study published in Wednesday's journal of the American Medical Association
The next step is to test obese people in order to find out if they react to fructose and glucose the same way normal-weight people do.
The bottom line? Do your best to avoid food and beverages that contain excessive amounts of fructose and high-fructose corn syrup, suggested Dr. Purnell. "It doesn’t mean you can’t ever have them," he said, but people should try to keep them limited in their diets.