Study Shows You Get Fatter From HFCS Than From Sugar


Image: Passover Coke
Lots of people stock up on Kosher Coke at this time of year because it is made with real sugar. Is it better for you? Perhaps.

Michael Pollan's Food Rule Number 4 is "Avoid food products that contain high-fructose corn syrup." . He says not because it is worse than sugar, but because it shows up in all sorts of places that sugar never did. He concludes that it is really no different: "sugar is sugar." We had long editorial debates about this with our post Pepsi Throwback Uses Real Sugar, But Is It Better For You?

But according to a new study from Princeton University, HFCS really does act differently on our bodies than sugar. Rats fed HFCS gained a lot more weight than rats fed real sugar, even when fed the same number of calories.


Elyse Powell, psychology professor Bart Hoebel, visiting research associate Nicole Avena and graduate student Miriam Bocarsly. Image: Princeton University, Office of Communications, Denise Applewhite

Psychology Professor Bart Hoebel tells News at Princeton:

"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. When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they're becoming obese -- every single one, across the board. Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don't see this; they don't all gain extra weight."

It appears that in HFCS, fructose molecules 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. " It may well take more energy to consume real sugar than it does to consume HFCS.

"Our findings lend support to the theory that the excessive consumption of high-fructose corn syrup found in many beverages may be an important factor in the obesity epidemic," [research associate Nicole] Avena said.

So it appears that the Pepsi Throwback, Kosher Coke and other products made with real sugar contribute less to obesity than those make with high fructose corn syrup. But we repeat: It doesn't make them good for you.

More in News from Princeton

More on HFCS:
Don't Eat High Fructose Corn Syrup? You're Both Snobby and a Racist
High Fructose Corn Syrup Producers on a Roll
Review: King Corn- You Are What You Eat