Friday, August 27, 2010

Are high-tech sweeteners making us obese?

Sugar has been blamed for a laundry list of ills since crystalline sucrose was first created. Sugar causes the release of beta endorphins which many find addicting. The beta endorphins act like morphine, reducing pain and increasing relaxation. Eating a lot of sugar is known to cause weight gain, rotten teeth and lower one’s immunity. But in spite of its negative health effects, sugar has not lost its popularity and even back in 1970 Americans showed their love for it by consuming over 100 pounds of it per person.

Access to inexpensive corn and advancements in genetically engineered enzymes have created a high-tech modern sweetener that is cheaper, sweeter, and doesn’t decompose over a period of time like sugar and syrups do. The extra sweetness, particularly in high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) results in an even stronger release of beta endorphins and stronger addiction for some. These genetically engineered corn based sugars have been replacing crystalline sugar in almost every food we eat since 1970, yet they have a completely different composition than sucrose with health implications that researchers are just starting to study.


New technologies have allowed corn refiners to create sweeteners with genetically engineered enzymes and “chromatographic separation” High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is made using an enzyme that converts glucose to fructose. This breaks the bond between fructose and sucrose found in natural sugars allowing refiners to vary the percentages of fructose and glucose in the product. Then it is heated and hydrogen is added via a process called “catalytic hydrogenation” which is very similar to the process used for making hydrogenated oils.

Corn refiners have also created a long list of other sweeteners, they call “nutritive sugars”, made using the same chromatic separation and hydrogenation process producing lower calorie sugars and hydrogenated corn starches.

The hydrogenated corn sweeteners act as a preservative, just as hydrogenated oils did. Hydrogenated oils were shown to be toxic to the body because they cannot be easily absorbed. The glucose and fructose in the high-tech corn sweeteners are converted to triglycerides by the liver, and stored as fat under the stomach. Fat created from hydrogenated sweeteners may have similar problems being processed by the body as did hydrogenated oils.


The cheaper high-tech corn sweeteners have crept into almost every food Americans eat plunging our consumption of crystalline sugar to 65 pounds a year per person by 2008. Americans went from eating a half a pound per person of HFCS to over 50 pounds per person in 2008. And when all the other hydrogenated corn sweeteners in our diet are added up, the average American ate over 115 pounds of these sweeteners in 2008.

The migration to hydrogenated corn sweeteners over the past 40 years coincides with the huge increase in obesity and diabetes in the US since 1970. Recent research at Princeton University shows dramatic differences in weight gain between hydrogenated corn sweeteners and sugar.


A research team at Princeton University demonstrated that rats fed HFCS gained significantly more weight than rats fed crystalline sucrose, even when their overall calorie intake was the same. In addition to causing significant weight gain, long-term consumption of HFCS also led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen, and a rise in triglycerides. A second experiment compared rats eating only rat chow to rats on a diet rich in HFCS for 6 months. The male rats ballooned in size and the rat eating HFCS gained 48% more weight than those eating a normal diet. The rats eating HFCS showed signs “metabolic syndrome”, including abnormal weight gain, significant increases in triglycerides and fat around the belly.

These studies inspire us to read our food labels very closely so we do not end up consuming large quantities of these engineered corn sweeteners.


Cynthia1770 said...

My google alert for HFCS picked up your post. I am studying the addictive properties of HFCS. Do you have any references that compare the addictive repsonse (release of endorhpins?) between sugar (sucrose) and HFCS?
Thank you,
Cynthia Papierniak, M.S.

Hilo Living said...


We have an around-about answer to your question:

Fructose is sweeter than sugar:
Fructose (levulose) is considered 1.5 times sweeter than saccharose and 3 times sweeter than glucose

Artificial sweeteners are also sweeter:
Saccharin is approximately 300 times sweeter than sucrose when equal quantities are compared. One common saccharin product is Sweet and Low.
Aspartame is approximately 200 times sweeter than sucrose. It is most commonly sold as Nutra Sweet and Equal.
Sucralose, also called Splenda, is approximately 600 times sweeter than sugar.

Rats b-endorphin production were high for both sucrose and artificial sweeteners:
Brain Mechanisms of Sweetness and Palatability of Sugars
Takashi Yamamoto, D.D.S., Ph.D.
Yamamoto measured the level of b-endorphin in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and plasma after free drinking of different solutions in rats. Ingestion of 0.5 M sucrose or 0.005 M saccharin
induced the strongest release of b-endorphin in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) as compared to just water or other solutions.
In correspondence with these results, sucrose intake was accompanied by the increase of pro-opiomelanocortin messenger RNA in the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus.

Sugar addicts have come to expect extra sweetness:
America’s our collective sweet tooth has become accustomed to a certain level of sweetness and anything less might be unsatisfying.,8599,1892841,00.html#ixzz0yDaBlak0

Most versions of HFCS have a higher percentage of fructose, making it sweeter than sucrose.
All versions of sugars and artificial sugars provide an endorphin fix, but the extra sweetness has become part of the sugar experience.

We couldn’t find studies that showed whether sweeter sugars resulted in a greater amount of endorphin nor whether ever sweeter sugars were needed to keep the same endorphin levels.

Here is Long list of health studies and issues found with sugars including references

Hope this helps.

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