Proof: Corn Syrup Makes You Fatter Than Sugar

Ban HFCSI never buy anything that has “high fructose corn syrup” on the list of ingredients, to the annoyance of certain members of my household. Now a research team at Princeton University can back up my assertions that it’s far worse for you than sugar, as reported in Princeton’s News Site:

A Princeton University research team has demonstrated that all sweeteners are not equal when it comes to weight gain: Rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same.

In addition to causing significant weight gain in lab animals, long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup also led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen, and a rise in circulating blood fats called triglycerides. The researchers say the work sheds light on the factors contributing to obesity trends in the United States.

“Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn’t true, at least under the conditions of our tests,” said psychology professor Bart Hoebel, who specializes in the neuroscience of appetite, weight and sugar addiction. “When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they’re becoming obese — every single one, across the board. Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don’t see this; they don’t all gain extra weight.”

In results published online March 18 by the journal Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, the researchers from the Department of Psychology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute reported on two experiments investigating the link between the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup and obesity…

[continues at Princeton’s News Site]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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12 Comments on "Proof: Corn Syrup Makes You Fatter Than Sugar"

  1. Not my original comment but a very thorough one:

    Ars Technica covered this a few days ago, and their analysis (as opposed to the publicity blurb the university made up) said the study basically came out a wash. Some groups saw gains, some didn't, but there was no clear pattern:

    This study doesn't prove anything. Since I have access to most scientific journals, a couple days ago when this study was first published, but before any secondary analysis appeared on the web, I printed it out and took it home to read. I read scientific papers all the time (usually physics and chemistry), probably hundreds of papers per year, so I like to think that I'm pretty familiar with how good science is done and what constitutes a well designed, rigorously conducted investigation.

    The impression I got while reading this paper, is that it is a total piece of crap. It is confusingly written to begin with, but there are serious problems with methodology, controls, conclusions, assumptions about caloric intake and claimed statistical significance. It's a joke. Which, I guess is why it's published in an obscure journal with a pathetic 2.7 impact factor. Two sites explaining the problems in more detail are the Skeptic's Guide to the Universe forums at:,26925.15.html [] and this blog post by Marion Nestle (a New York University professor in the department of nutrition, food studies, and public health with a Ph.D. in molecular biology):… []

    None of this told me how Princeton, of all places, could publish such a shit study though…..until I noticed this at the top of the paper that all the authors are from the Uni's PSYCHOLOGY department. Oh, I guess that's how.

    • Great feedback Synapse, thanks. I'm prepared to believe that the Princeton study has structural problems in how the study was conducted, etc., but I'm not prepared to accept that HCFS is benign. I found an interesting POV from Robert Lustic, a pediatric endocrinologist:… Sample:

      Robert Lustig: Right, originally it was used because since it's not regulated by insulin it was thought to be the perfect sugar for diabetics and so it got introduced as that. Then of course high fructose corn syrup came on the market after it was invented in Japan in 1966, and started finding its way into American foods in 1975. In 1980 the soft drink companies started introducing it into soft drinks and you can actually trace the prevalence of childhood obesity, and the rise, to 1980 when this change was made.

      Norman Swan: What is it about this, it's got more calories than ordinary sugar weight for weight hasn't it?

      Robert Lustig: No, actually it's not the calories that are different it's the fact that the only organ in your body that can take up fructose is your liver. Glucose, the standard sugar, can be taken up by every organ in the body, only 20% of glucose load ends up at your liver. So let's take 120 calories of glucose, that's two slices of white bread as an example, only 24 of those 120 calories will be metabolised by the liver, the rest of it will be metabolised by your muscles, by your brain, by your kidneys, by your heart etc. directly with no interference. Now let's take 120 calories of orange juice. Same 120 calories but now 60 of those calories are going to be fructose because fructose is half of sucrose and sucrose is what's in orange juice. So it's going to be all the fructose, that's 60 calories, plus 20% of the glucose, so that's another 12 out of 60 — so in other words 72 out of the 120 calories will hit the liver, three times the substrate as when it was just glucose alone.

      That bolus of extra substrate to your liver does some very bad things to it.

      Norman Swan: Dr Robert Lustig who's Professor of Pediatric Endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco. And you're listening to a Health Report special here on ABC Radio National on how food manufacturers by adding fructose to our foods, either from corn syrup as in the United States or added sucrose as in Australia, may actually be making the obesity epidemic even worse, starting with damage to our liver cells, the hepatocytes.

      Robert Lustig: The first thing it does is it increases the phosphate depletion of the hepatocyte which ultimately causes an increase in uric acid. Uric acid is an inhibitor of nitric oxide, nitric oxide is your naturally occurring blood pressure lowerer. And so fructose is famous for causing hypertension…

      • sartorius | Mar 25, 2010 at 4:16 pm |

        Here's a talk Robert Lustig gave, from which that quote may have been taken. I thought the video was time well spent.

      • How difficult is it for you to avoid all HFCS, Majestic. It seems that the stuff is added to so many products, many of which most people would never expect. I for one would be interested in reading more on the subject of avoiding it.

        • For me, not that hard, but I don't eat candy, snack foods, fast food, soda or pretty much any processed foods at all. I also check ingredients lists carefully at supermarkets and live in an area that has a wide variety of food options including very expensive places like Whole Foods. But … it's not so easy to do if you are on a really tight budget: cheap food tends to make the most use of HFCS due to it's artificially low price (think subsidies), so I realize that I am lucky enough to be able to afford not to eat foods with HFCS, while not everyone can do so, even if they'd like to. It's a major problem and one that requires goverment to rethink the way we subsidize corn production, among other things.

          • GoodDoktorBad | Mar 27, 2010 at 6:29 pm |

            I'd like to add that its not hard to eat cheaply and healthy. Stay away from processed foods, read the labels as you said. I find it far cheaper and more healthy to simply stick with staples like rice, potatoes etc.
            fresh vegatables and fruits, even fresh meats in moderation are all much cheaper than eating anything pre prepared (processed).

            If its advertised on TV, thats a pretty good indicator that its overpriced garbage barely fit for consumption.

    • GoodDoktorBad | Mar 25, 2010 at 12:19 pm |

      Assuming you have some expertise on this subject, I'd be curious to know what your thoughts on the effects of HFCS intake is.
      I don't doubt that what you say about the study is true, in part or whole. I do, however have some major doubts, from personal experience (high blood sugar levels and crashes etc.) about HFCS.

      • As I mentioned it's not my original comment and I am not an expert. The original commenter indicated that he is also one who avoids HFCS, but admits that there are no conclusive studies showing the danger, yet.

        Me personally: I've had plenty of HFCS all my life and am not what anyone would call out of shape or in bad health. I also have not noticed in my own life such high levels of blood sugar (from what my doctor last said, everything was normal with that) and crashes. It could be any reason from genetics to a better diet than others (not that I'm buying all my food at health stores or anything though).

        I personally think that the bigger problem is that people have poor eating habits overall, and HFCS is not designed to combat poor eating habits but to provide a cheaper sugar cane alternative. Although it suspected to be some degree worse for you, while it is yet unproven I think our nation would do better to start eating more properly first.

  2. Here's my two cents. If you plot two things on a graph: the increased penetration into the food market of high fructose corn syrup following it's invention in 1972 (yes, it was “invented” it is NOT natural despite what those BS commercials say), along with the rise in morbid obesity in this country, the two curves will fit like a fracking glove.

    And you can test this regionally too. In areas where people consume virtually all their food in preprocessed or via fast food outlets? Much greater obesity rates as compared to some granola fluffy Liberal place like Seattle or LA where people are not only health conscious, but serious foodies who care about the QUALITY of their food.

    To me the proof isn't found in rats, it's found in waist lines on the streets.

    I highly recommend checking out Jamie Oliver's “Food Revolution” show to see the difference having a diet that doesn't include that fake crap in it does for people. I generally detest every reality shows, but this one is at least about a dude trying to honestly help people.

  3. Anonymous | Mar 27, 2010 at 11:29 pm |

    I’d like to add that its not hard to eat cheaply and healthy. Stay away from processed foods, read the labels as you said. I find it far cheaper and more healthy to simply stick with staples like rice, potatoes etc.
    fresh vegatables and fruits, even fresh meats in moderation are all much cheaper than eating anything pre prepared (processed).

    If its advertised on TV, thats a pretty good indicator that its overpriced garbage barely fit for consumption.

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