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Does high-fructose corn syrup make you fatter?


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The use of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has boomed in recent years, driven primarily by its low cost and ease of use in beverages. The increased levels in the US diet have roughly corresponded to the timing of the obesity epidemic, which as led many to suspect there's a causal relationship. But definitive evidence that the body responds to HFCS in a manner that's distinct from any other caloric intake has been difficult to come by. A group of researchers from Princeton now claim to have provided a conclusive demonstration that HFCS triggers obesity in rats, but there are enough oddities in the data that it would be wise to reserve judgement until the work is replicated.

Chemically, HFCS is a mix of fructose and glucose, the two components of table sugar. Unlike in table sugar (sucrose), however, the two are not chemically linked, and there's a slight excess of fructose instead of the 50:50 mix present in sucrose. These differences are relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, but there has been a consistent flow of studies that suggest the body responds quite differently to sucrose and HFCS, including indications of different fat metabolism and insulin responses. One idea that that's been proposed is that fructose doesn't induce the same sense of satiation that glucose does, meaning that we're less likely to stop eating after we've ingested sufficient calories.

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