Molecular Link between High Fructose Corn Syrup and the Obesity Epidemic

A 2004 paper in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition points out a 10 fold increase in the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) between 1970 and 1990. The study is driven from the US Department of Agriculture food consumption tables from 1967 to 2000. The authors report that as of 2004 HFCS accounted for 40% of total added sugar in foods and 100% of sweeteners for soft-drinks. Their data shows an increase in obesity that correlates closely with the increased consumption. They theorize the molecular link between HFCS and obesity may exist in two key ways, both based on the difference between glucose and fructose:
  1. Hepatic Lipogenesis - The process whereby the liver creates fat is known as hepatic lipogenesis. The authors suggest that increased consumption of high fructose corn syrup leads to unregulated carbon precursors in the liver that are then transformed into excess fat.
  2. Insulin and Leptin - The authors argue that high fructose corn syrup stimulates less insulin than glucose. As a result, the lower insulin stimulates less leptin. Leptin is a hormone which slows or stops our appetite and is essential to prevent overeating.
The authors conclude their paper suggesting that consumption of highly sweetened foods is both a natural and acquired taste. They recommend instead that natural sweeteners(i.e. fruits juices) be used instead, and hope it will have some effect on reducing the rate of obesity. Not bad advice at all, and certainly something you can follow in your own home.