Put down that soda. The same goes for processed foods. Princeton University scientists are pointing their fingers at high-fructose corn syrup for their plump rats. When the researchers put rats on a high-fructose corn syrup diet and put other rats on a table sugar diet, the rats on the fructose diet gained more weight despite being fed the same caloric intake.
After a 6 month study of rats, one thing is clear: The high-fructose corn syrup that is making the rats obese. The rats on the fructose diet gained 48 percent more weight. The researchers put this in human terms: This would be like a 200 pound man putting on 96 pounds. Yikes.
Princeton's psychology professor Bart Hoebel says "this is the first long term study in rats, showing the animals become obese relative to rats on chow or rats on 10 percent sucrose. The rats kept becoming more obese, especially the male rats."
In the first experiment, the researchers focused on seeing what would happen to rats when their water was sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup with regular rat chow versus when they were fed table sugar with the rat chow. Not surprisingly, the rats on the high-fructose corn syrup put on more weight.
The longer study looked at the build up of fat and measured the triglyceride levels in the rats. According to the scientists, "rats on a diet rich in high-fructose corn syrup showed characteristic signs of a dangerous condition known in humans as the metabolic syndrome, including abnormal weight gain, significant increases in circulating triglycerides and augmented fat deposition, especially visceral fat around the belly."
In a previous study, University of North Carolina researchers found that high-fructose corn syrup may be linked to the obesity epidemic in America. Why? Glucose and fructose are digested differently — fructose gets digested more quickly into fat.
High-fructose corn syrup made its way into our food 40 years ago and it continues to dominate the sugar of choice in our food chain. In 1970, less than one percent of sweeteners were high-fructose corn syrup. But today, high-fructose corn syrup can be found in everything from sodas to baked goods to dairy products to canned fruits to cereals.
"A person on a weight loss diet or weight maintenance diet who is drinking soda with high-fructose corn syrup, should seriously consider exercising more or drinking a soda with sucrose or no sugar at all," says Hoebel.