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How Sweet Is Your Sweetener?

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Recent research has given people a lot to think about when it comes to the added sugar in their diet. Not that long ago common wisdom told us that our collective sweet tooth may be bad for our teeth, but we didn’t worry much about our overall health. However, a new review on fructose in an upcoming Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN) says think again. It indicates just how dangerous the simple sugar may be.

In the JASN article, Richard J. Johnson, MD, chief of the Renal Diseases and Hypertension Division at the University of Colorado and Takahiko Nakagawa, MD, director of Research at University of Colorado, provide a concise overview of recent clinical and experimental studies to understand how excessive amounts of fructose – present in added sugars – may play a role in high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and chronic kidney disease (CKD).

Dietary fructose is present in our food primarily in added dietary sugars, honey, and fruit. Most people are eating fructose from sucrose, a disaccharide containing 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose bonded together, and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a mixture of free fructose and free glucose, usually in a 55/45 proportion.

With the introduction of HFCS in the 1970s, an increased intake of fructose has occurred in the American diet and obesity rates have soared simultaneously, studies show. Prior to the introduction of HFCS, about 15 percent of Americans were considered obese, today it's 33 percent, including a growing number of children and teens.

As Americans’ weight increase so do the risks of coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Obesity has also been linked to breast cancer in postmenopausal women, endometrial cancer, colon cancer, kidney cancer and esophageal cancer.

More and more people are becoming aware of the dangers of excessive fructose in their diet and this has led to a consumer revolt. As such, food manufacturers have recently started to advertise they are no longer using HFCS in their products.

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The November 29 study in Journal of the American Society of Nephrology incorrectly suggests that consumption of ‘excessive’ fructose in the American diet may play a unique role in high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and chronic kidney disease. It is important to note that the authors’ hypothesis, drawn largely from rat and epidemiological studies rather than human trials, fails to take into account studies conducted with human subjects consuming table sugar and high fructose corn syrup at typical intake levels consistently return normal range values for important metabolic markers like serum glucose and insulin; appetite hormones ghrelin and leptin; triglycerides and uric acid; and for measured feelings of hunger and satiety.

While obesity, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, renal disease, cardiovascular disease and kidney disease are serious health conditions, it is certainly premature and inappropriate, not to mention potentially misleading, to suggest that simple sugars found in nature, like fructose, are uniquely responsible for these debilitating medical conditions.

The American Medical Association stated that, “Because the composition of high fructose corn syrup and sucrose are so similar, particularly on absorption by the body, it appears unlikely that high fructose corn syrup contributes more to obesity or other conditions than sucrose.”

As many dietitians agree, all sugars should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced lifestyle.

Consumers can see the latest research and learn more about high fructose corn syrup at www.SweetSurprise.com.

Audrae Erickson
Corn Refiners Association

November 30, 2010 - 9:27am
EmpowHER Guest

This is a great article, you've done lots of research and it shows. I like keeping up with the latest health issues. Sugar is addictive, but I didn't know about all of these new findings. Thank you for this article.

November 24, 2010 - 7:59pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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