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Fructose Not So Sweet For Americans

High fructose corn syrup has already gotten a bad rap. Now it looks like it’s getting even worse.

A new study shows that adults who consumed 25% of their daily calories as fructose or high-fructose corn syrup beverages for 2 weeks experienced increases in serum levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. 

What is most surprising? This is still within the government guideline for sugar consumption.

The study will be published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism in October 2011, and the goal of the study was to sort out a discrepancy of two separate recommendations.

US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture mutually agreed upon and published the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These two government entities agree that people should not consume more than 25% of their daily calories as added sugar.  For the average American who consumes a 2,000 calorie diet , this would be the equivalent of 125g of sugar daily, or the equivalent of two 20 oz bottles of sweetened soda each day.

In contrast, the American Heart Association recommends an upper limit of 5% of caloric intake from sugars. This is about 25g of sugar per day, or the same amount that is in 8oz or a mini bottle of soda each day.

The researchers were determined to discover if consuming beverages sweetened with high fructose corn syrup or just fructose would increase cholesterol and triglycerides. As it turns out they both did.  A sweetner that did not?  Glucose, which is definitely the body’s preferred form of sugar.

At the end of the 16-day study period, participants who consumed 25% of their daily caloric intake from fructose or high-fructose corn syrup in their drinks exhibited elevated blood levels of LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol, triglycerides, and apo B, which is a marker for increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Surveys reveal that 13% of the US population already consumes 25% or more of their calories from added sugar, showing that this level of sugar consumption in young, healthy, normal, or overweight adults contributes to cholesterol and triglyceride problems after only 2 weeks.

Others have tried to claim that “that fructose consumption up to 140 grams/day does not result in a biologically relevant increase of fasting or postprandial [triglycerides] in healthy, normal weight or overweight or obese [individuals]”  According to this study, that doesn’t seem to  be the case, and indeed the triglyceride levels did in fact spike after only 14 days.

 The conclusion from the authors?  Maybe the USDA and US Department of Health and Human Services would benefit from rethinking its sugar recommendations, and align them better with those of the American Heart Association.

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. Expected print publication October 2011.

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