Can fructose make you fatter?

Researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UTSW) studying the simple sugar fructose (not high-fructose corn syrup or sucrose, which are a mix of fructose and glucose) found that fructose is more likely to lead to fat development than glucose.

They fed six healthy people three different breakfast drinks, one containing 100% glucose, one containing 50% glucose and 50% fructose, the third containing 25% glucose and 75% fructose, followed by a carefully controlled lunch over several weeks. When they measured the conversion of the sugars to fat in the liver and how the morning sugar meal influenced the metabolisation of foods eaten later in the day they found that lipogenesis – the process by which sugars are turned to body fat – increased significantly when the breakfast drinks contained fructose. In addition, the study suggested that when fructose is eaten with fat or before fat is consumed, the fat is more likely to be stored rather than burned.

The liver, the researchers explain, tends to act like a traffic cop for glucose, determining whether glucose will be burned for energy or stored as fat. Fructose, on the other hand, seems to bypass the process.

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First published July 2008

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