A new preliminary study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) makes provocative claims about the effects of fructose on hunger and weight gain, but bases its conclusions on a test conducted with just 20 people fed massive doses of sugars in a manner people do not consume in real life. That’s according to the Corn Refiners Association (CRA). CRA is actively defending the integrity of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) on multiple fronts of late.
CRA is the national trade association representing the corn refining (wet milling) industry of the United States. Corn refiners manufacture sweeteners, ethanol, starch, bioproducts, corn oil and feed products from corn components such as starch, oil, protein and fiber.
In the widely publicized study examining possible factors regarding the associations between fructose consumption and weight gain, brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of participants indicated that ingestion of glucose but not fructose reduced cerebral blood flow and activity in brain regions that regulate appetite, and ingestion of glucose but not fructose produced increased ratings of satiety and fullness, reports ScienceDaily.com.
“It is highly unusual for humans to consume this much sugar in one sitting, particularly if they had just finished a fast,” says James Rippe, Founder and Director of the Rippe Lifestyle Institute and professor of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Central Florida, of the highly publicized study by Yale University School of Medicine and other institutions. “All of these factors could certainly alter the eventual outcomes. It is important that studies focusing on obesity and food consumption mirror real-world experiences as much as possible. By failing to do so, we really gain very little practical insight.”
The study, titled, “Effects of fructose versus glucose on regional cerebral blood flow in brain regions involved with appetite and reward pathways,” attempts to demonstrate a link by giving the subjects either large doses of fructose or large doses of glucose and comparing cerebral blood flow and activity in regions of the brain that regulate appetite. However, neither of these sugars is consumed in any appreciable degree in isolation in the human diet as they are almost always consumed together, CRA points out.
“When consumed together, as they are almost always are, fructose and glucose balance each other out and would likely have no effect on normal hypothalamic blood flow,” says Rippe, who is also a consultant to CRA. “What we really need are real-world studies where fructose and glucose are consumed together rather than artificial ones where fructose and glucose are consumed separately. Any suggestion that this artificial experiment has implications for human nutrition or obesity is unwarranted speculation.”
Also, the amount of fructose or glucose each group received was well beyond the amount normally consumed, CRA points out. Each subject was given 75 grams of either fructose or glucose in one sitting. Seventy-five grams of fructose represents 300 kcals of fructose which is above the 95 percentile population level recommended for the entire day. Furthermore, each of the subjects had fasted overnight before receiving the fructose or glucose.
However, Science¬Daily.com reports on background information in the article that states that “increases in fructose consumption have paralleled the increasing prevalence of obesity, and high-fructose diets are thought to promote weight gain and insulin resistance. Fructose ingestion produces smaller increases in circulating satiety hormones compared with glucose ingestion, and central administration of fructose provokes feeding in rodents, whereas centrally administered glucose promotes satiety. Thus, fructose possibly increases food-seeking behavior and increases food intake.” How brain regions associated with fructose and glucose-mediated changes in animal feeding behaviors translates to humans is not completely understood, according to the online ScienceDaily.com.
However, the researchers found that glucose but not fructose ingestion reduced the activation of the hypothalamus, insula, and striatum – brain regions that regulate appetite, motivation and reward processing. Glucose ingestion also increased satiety. As a result, some experts think that when people consume fructose, neurobiological pathways involved in appetite regulation are modulated, promoting increased food intake.
This isn’t the only attack on high-fructose corn syrup the Corn Refiners have had to fend off. Recently, several of the nation’s leading corn refiners counter-sued The Sugar Association, charging its “preying on consumers’ fears” and deceiving consumers into believing that processed sugar is safer and more healthful than HFCS. That’s despite “overwhelming scientific evidence that the two forms of sugar are nutritionally equivalent,” according to CRA.
The Sugar Association has made numerous “false and misleading representations that processed sugar is different from high fructose corn syrup in ways that are beneficial to consumers’ health,” the counterclaim states. “The Sugar Association preys on consumers’ fears,” by falsely representing that high fructose corn syrup causes a number of health issues, including obesity, “while at the same time creating a health halo for processed sugar.”
The counterclaim also states that: “…vilifying one kind of added sugar will not reduce Americans’ waistlines. Reducing all added sugars, and reducing caloric intake in general, will…The Sugar Association has worked to perpetuate the myth that high fructose corn syrup uniquely contributes to obesity and other health problems, preying on consumers’ food fears and diverting attention away from the real issue – that Americans should reduce their consumption of all added sugars and calories in general.”
The counterclaim cites several leading medical and scientific experts, as well as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association), which has concluded: “High fructose corn syrup…is nutritionally equivalent to sucrose (table sugar). Once absorbed into the blood stream, the two sweeteners are indistinguishable.”
The counterclaim is part of the corn refining industry’s response to a 2011 lawsuit brought by The Sugar Association and processed sugar manufacturers, which CRA claims is intended to prevent it from educating consumers on the widely accepted fact that HFCS and table sugar are nutritionally equivalent. In previous statements, CRA maintains the group is “trying to censor our efforts to communicate the simplest and most meaningful fact about high fructose corn syrup: It’s a form of sugar, and consumers should reduce their intake of all added sugars.” The counterclaim states that The Sugar Association is hoping its false statements “cause food and beverage manufacturers to replace high fructose corn syrup with processed sugar.” However, CRA points out that HFCS is simply a kind of sugar that is made from corn and is comprised of glucose and fructose, the same simple sugars found in table sugar.
The counterclaim was filed by CRA members Archer Daniels Midland Company, Cargill, Inc., Ingredion Incorporated (formerly named Corn Products International, Inc.), and Tate and Lyle Ingredients Americas, Inc.
CRA has a website, http://sweetsurprise.com,that thwarts misnomers about HFCS. One section deals with this issue of satiety and whether HFCS has an effect on how hungry people feel. Multiple scientific studies are cited.
The website also addresses misconceptions like HFCS being high in fructose. “Most people mistakenly make this assumption because of its name. While HFCS is higher in fructose than regular corn syrup, which has no fructose, it has comparable levels of fructose to table sugar,” CRA reports on the website.
CRA has petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration back in 2010 asking that manufacturers have the option of using “corn sugar” as an alternate name on product labels. It maintains that “‘corn sugar’ tells consumers exactly what this product is – a type of sugar made from corn.” Last year the petition was denied by FDA. Producers can read that decision online at http://1.usa.gov/LGsunW. Essentially, FDA says its “regulatory approach for the nomenclature of sugar and syrups is that sugar is a solid, dried and crystallized food; whereas syrup is an aqueous solution or liquid food. FDA’s regulations permit the term ‘sugar’ as part of the name for food that is solid, dried, and crystallized…”
Responding to FDA’s denial, CRA contends the agency denied its petition “on narrow, technical grounds” and didn’t address or question “the overwhelming scientific evidence that high-fructose corn syrup is a form of sugar and is nutritionally the same as other sugars.” Neither did FDA challenge CRA’s contention that most American consumers are confused about HFCS.