HFCS Causes Surprising Weight Gain

That high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) causes weight gain is not surprising; that it leads to a significantly higher weight gain than regular table sugar, even when overall caloric intake is the same? Surprising. Regardless of how innocent the sensitive souls from the Corn Refiners Association may purport HFCS to be, a Princeton University research team begs to differ with new research demonstrating that all sweeteners are not created equal in terms of weight gain.

In addition to causing considerable weight gain in lab tests, long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup also led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen, and a rise in circulating blood fats called triglycerides. The researchers say the work sheds light on the factors contributing to obesity trends in the United States.

“Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn’t true, at least under the conditions of our tests,” said psychology professor Bart Hoebel, who specializes in the neuroscience of appetite, weight and sugar addiction.

The results were published March 18 by the journal Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, the researchers from the Department of Psychology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute reported on two experiments looking into the connection between the use of high-fructose corn syrup and obesity. They noted that they do not know why HFCS led to more triglycerides and more body fat that resulted in obesity.

HFCS and sucrose (table sugar) are both compounds that contain the simple sugars fructose and glucose, but there at least two distinct differences between them. First, sucrose is comprised of equal parts fructose and glucose (50/50), while typical HFCS has an uneven ratio, usually about 55 percent fructose and 42 percent glucose. Larger sugar molecules called higher saccharides make up the remaining 3 percent of HFCS. Second, because of the manufacturing process for HFCS, the fructose molecules in the sweetener are free and unbound, ready for absorption and utilization. In contrast, every fructose molecule in sucrose that comes from cane sugar or beet sugar is bound to a corresponding glucose molecule and must go through an extra metabolic step before it can be utilized.

The critical differences in appetite, metabolism and gene expression that underlie this phenomenon are yet to be discovered, but may relate to the fact that excess fructose is being metabolized to produce fat, while glucose is largely being processed for energy or stored as a carbohydrate, called glycogen, in the liver and muscles.

According to the Princeton press release for the study, in the 40 years since the introduction of high-fructose corn syrup as a cost-effective sweetener in the American diet, rates of obesity in the U.S. have skyrocketed. In 1970, around 15 percent of the U.S. population met the definition for obesity; today, roughly one-third of the American adults are considered obese, the CDC reported. High-fructose corn syrup is found in a wide range of foods and beverages, including fruit juice, soda, cereal, bread, yogurt, ketchup and mayonnaise. On average, Americans consume 60 pounds of the sweetener per person every year.

For more on HFCS, see Sugar: The New Health Food?

439 comments

Jonathan Y.
Jonathan Y.5 years ago

Even before the Princeton study, it's been very obvious now in the U.S. with the AMA coming out against it, that HFCS is as big an industrial cover-up as tobacco.

It is so damaging to human cells, kidneys and pancreas that high intake virtually guarantees Diabetes II by middle-age. My Dr. gave me some literature on the subject and I was stunned. Not that too much natural sugar isn't bad for you too, but HFCS can be unhealthy to downright deadly. As a former soft drink addict who quit just in time, I can attest that my whole life changed after quitting HFCS. I no longer felt tired all the time and my incipient diabetic symptoms went away. My blood sugar went back to normal! Now I carefully look at labels in cookies, packaged food, everything. The stuff is just horrible...to save a few bucks, the soft drink industry peddles this poison to us and our kids. Here in CA we have outlawed it in school vending machines.

marie Tillman
marie Tillman5 years ago

HFCS never allows your body to feel full and you eat and eat and eat!

Edith P.
Edith p.5 years ago

i am french and in france very few foods have high fructose corn syrup because it is against european union health regulations. ein france salade sauce is vinegar, vinigarette and huile d'olive extra vierge. most of us eat fresh légume products like haricots, courgettes etc which are plants.

Ingrid Scott
Ingrid Scott6 years ago

We are up against an unholy alliance of "BigAg" (corporate agriculture), and "fast food" corporate America - both of which make lots of money by producing cheap unnutritious food which we buy because of marketing and processing that is designed to appeal to our evolutionary instinct for sweet, fat & salt -- all of which are fairly scarce in a truly "natural" diet. This unholy corporate alliance, added and abetted by "farm subsidies" that further big corporate profits at the expense of REAL farmers who run small farms, makes us nationally unhealthy. . . and then the medical business makes big profits in turn by treating all the many manifestations of that unhealthiness, from obesity to diabetes to heart disease, etc, etc. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but I do think "greed rules".

Patricia P.
Patricia P.6 years ago

I think that the habit of drinking soda, like one should drink water is addictive.

Patricia P.
Patricia P.6 years ago

Wow! I had no idea! However, judging from my experience drinking lemonade and limeade sweetened with fructose, I don't think that fructose in lemonade and limeade has the same affect on the body that fructose in soda does. I believe that it is because lemons and limes are high in Vitamin C and other nutrients--and bond with fructose so that fructose with sour citrus is metabolized in the body. Soda, on the other hand not only has little if any Vitamin C, it also has sodium in it and carbon dioxide (fizz) which is a waste gas from our lungs and is used to gas animals to death in gas chambers. In the United States, soda and coffee is drunk like water is drunk elsewhere. Most people in the USA do not drink enough water. Most French people, on the other hand for example drink mostly water--instead of coffee and soda. That's why the United States has a much higher rate of obesity than France--and most other countries. And the lack of exercise does not help matters either. Not as many children are encouraged to play outside like in 1965
for example. When less than a year ago I saw children out on the playground during recess, I was shocked. There are a lot more obese children today than there were
in 1965. This is terrible! To let a child become obese is worse than an occasional spanking, painful though it is--
and I was spanked. At least my mother, God bless her,
never let me get obese as a child, nor my brother, nor my sister.

Lynn Miller
Lynn M.6 years ago

I have become a label reader and consequently nixed many, many products from my shopping lists and pantry. Feel much better...and I know am becoming more healthy.

wizzy wizard
wiz wi6 years ago

ugh there to many fatty in this world

Lynne Van Alstine

Thank you.

Alison A.
Alison A.6 years ago

Interesting article, thanks