Fructose, a sugar that is found within high-fructose corn syrup, has been scrutinized considerably over the last few years. Now, research has added to the debate about the health of this sugar. A new study shows that fructose can promote diabetes and obesity by over-stimulating hormones that regulate the accumulation of fat.
New Research about the Effects of Consuming Fructose
Harvard Medical School recently identified a hormone known as fibroblast growth factor 21 (or FGF21) that is thought to rise consistently and sharply as a response to fructose consumption. Researchers believe that some people may be especially sensitive to the sugar, so consuming it could make them more susceptible to weight-gain related illnesses.
Harvard professor Dr. Mark Herman recently tested the impact of fructose on overall health. He recruited 21 adult participants and asked them to drink different sugar solutions on various mornings. About 50% of participants were lean, while the other 50% were obese and at risk of developing diabetes. Some mornings, participants would drink 75 grams of glucose before having their blood sugar measured, and on other mornings they would drink fructose or a glucose and fructose mixture.
Blood tests showed that when glucose was consumed, there was only minimal impact to FGF21. However, when fructose levels were increased, FGF21 levels increased significantly. People who were obese experienced the sharpest hormone rise when consuming fructose, but even lean people displayed wide variations in responses. The obese participants started the experiment with higher FGF21 levels than the lean participants, but once they consumed fructose, their FGF12 levels rose much higher than the levels of lean subjects.
Implications of the Study
While this study seems to show that an increase in FGF21 can lead to an increase in obesity and related illnesses, researchers believe there is more to this story. In other studies, the FGF21 hormone has actually played a positive role in lowering blood sugar levels and promoting weight loss. It is not yet known how fructose stimulates FGF21, and further research is needed to better understand how this hormone might impact obesity.