Body Weight

Previous research has identified several factors that may contribute to excessive body weight. Recently, sweeteners and sweet products have been increasingly blamed for the global obesity epidemic. While excessive caloric intake without a concomitant increase in calorie expenditure does result in increased body weight, no individual sugar causes obesity. Extensive research on the relationship between obesity and fructose consumption has been conducted using a variety of study designs. In vitro studies have explored metabolic pathways that may be influenced by excess substrates including specific nutrients. Observational studies have introduced possible associations between obesity and modifiable factors including estimated fructose intake and non-modifiable factors such as age. Diet interventions have been conducted in animal models and humans.

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For example, animal studies, particularly rodent studies, have often been used as evidence to support associations between fructose consumption and adiposity. The FDA recognizes such studies as poor models for human metabolism and are considered to be much less reliable than human studies. Dietary studies in rodents are often conducted by modifying a single component, these study designs often fail to simulate realistic conditions of free-living humans. Some animal studies that specifically modify fructose intake have provided very high levels of fructose. While these studies may be helpful in identifying potentially relevant metabolic pathways, results from these studies can exaggerate metabolic consequences. For example, nobody consumes a diet of fructose alone, but rather fructose as a component of foods and often in combination with other sugars. When fructose is fed with glucose at typically consumed levels, little metabolic effects are observed due to the fact that simultaneous metabolism of both sugars can have a leveling effect on overall metabolism.

While some have argued that fructose consumption has increased concurrently with obesity rates, it is important to note that fructose consumption has actually decreased in recent years while obesity rates have continued to climb. In 1970, average consumption of fructose was 63.2 grams per day compared to 62.4 grams per day in 2009. A common misconception is that sweetened beverage intake resulted in increased fructose consumption due to the use of high fructose corn syrup in some beverages.  Many incorrectly believe that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has a higher fructose concentration than table sugar, also known as sucrose. The truth is that HFCS is about equal parts fructose and glucose, similar to what is found in sucrose.

To conclude, obesity is caused by many environmental, psychological and physiological factors. Excessive calorie intake from caloric sweeteners can result in a caloric surplus that may result in obesity. However, as Kahn and Sievenpiper (2014) explain, “there is no clear or convincing evidence that any dietary or added sugar has a unique or detrimental impact relative to any other source of calories on the development of obesity or diabetes. Sugar is purely a highly palatable source of energy.”

Research Study Summaries

Fructose Consumption Contributes to Hyperinsulinemia in Adolescents With Obesity Through a GLP-1–Mediated Mechanism

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2019 Aug 1;104(8):3481-3490. doi: 10.1210/jc.2019-00161 Galderisi A, Giannini C, van Name M, et al. Download Research Study PDF Objective To test the hypothesis that that the ingestion of glucose and fructose may differentially stimulate GLP-1 and insulin response in lean adolescents and adolescents with obesity. Background The consumption of high-fructose beverages […]

Fructose and metabolic health: governed by hepatic glycogen status?

J Physiol 597.14 (2019) pp 3573–3585 Hengist A, Koumanov F and Gonzalez JT. Download Research Study PDF Objective To present the hypothesis that hepatic glycogen stores may regulate metabolic responses to fructose ingestion and could therefore be a target to prevent or mitigate the negative metabolic effects of fructose intake. Background Fructose is a commonly […]

Early Life Sugar Consumption Affects the Rat Microbiome Independently of Obesity

A recent study published in The Journal of Nutrition utilized a rodent model to assess the impact of early-life added sugar consumption on the composition of the gut microbiome, caloric intake, and weight gain. Researchers divided 42 juvenile male Sprague-Dawley rats (post-natal day 26) into 4 groups that were maintained on identical diets with varying […]

Sugar Consumption, Metabolic Disease and Obesity: The State of the Controversy

A review article published in Clinical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences discusses the current scientific evidence which fosters an environment of controversy about the health effects of sugar consumption.  The reviewers evaluated research which examined both direct and indirect effects of added sugars on the development of metabolic disease which, for the case of this […]

No Differential Effect of Beverages Sweetened with Fructose, High-Fructose Corn Syrup, or Glucose on Systemic or Adipose Tissue Inflammation in Normal-Weight to Obese Adults

A new study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, reports that consumption of beverages sweetened with glucose, fructose, or high-fructose corn syrup (HCFS) do not promote inflammation or gut permeability. Researchers have hypothesized that systemic inflammation increases risk for development of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease in obese individuals. Similarly, […]

Sugar Should Not be Condemned as Primary Obesity or Diabetes Cause, Say Researchers

In a commentary featured in the April issue of Diabetes Care, researchers Kahn and Sievenpiper argue that blaming sugar, and specifically fructose, on the obesity and diabetes epidemics is misguided.

Review Finds Fructose Not to Blame in Obesity Epidemic

A review paper by van Buul et al. has concluded that the current evidence does not link the consumption of fructose and fructose-containing sugars with the global obesity epidemic.

Fructose Not Associated with Increased Body Weight, According to Review

A recent review found no association between fructose and several factors such as body weight, glycemic control and blood pressure.

Study Says Fructose Not Likely Contributor to Obesity Epidemic

Fructose is not likely a contributor to the obesity epidemic in the U.S., according to the results of a recent study.

Fructose Does Not Cause Lower Academic Performance in Children

The review article, “The emerging role of dietary fructose in obesity and cognitive decline” by Lakhan and Kirchgessner has serious limitations.

Calorie-sweetened beverages and fructose: what have we learned 10 years later

Calorie-sweetened beverages and fructose: what have we learned 10 years later. Pediatr Obes 2013.

Research Shows No Harm at Typical Intake Levels

Fructose does not increase body weight, blood pressure, uric acid or insulin levels, and may improve glycemic control at normal consumption levels, according to research.

Calorie Control Council Response to Bocarsly et al

High-fructose corn syrup causes characteristics of obesity in rats: Increased body weight, body fat and triglyceride levels

Calorie Control Council Response to Nagai et al

The role of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ coactivator-1 β in the pathogenesis of fructose-induced insulin resistance

Fructose Not Linked to Weight Gain

A new study on fructose and weight loss has shown that “fructose does not seem to cause weight gain when it is substituted for other carbohydrates in diets providing similar calories.”

Fructose Consumption and Consequences for Glycation, Plasma Triacylglycerol, and Body Weight

Meta-Analyses and Meta-Regression Models of Intervention Studies

Feeding a High-Fructose Diet Induces Leptin Resistance in Rats

This research was intended to test whether a high-fructose diet would induce leptin resistance in rats.

Calorie Calorie Control Council Response to Parks et al

Dietary sugars stimulate fatty acid synthesis in adult

Calorie Control Council Response to Miller & Adeli

Dietary fructose and the metabolic syndrome

Watch what you put in that sippy cup, experts warn

Dr. Johnson appears unconvinced himself that fructose is responsible for obesity, causing him to qualify the statement with the word “could.”

Food Industry Dooms Children to Obesity, Says Scientist

Calorie Control Council Comments to the Editor

Sugar or Sweetener? Sucrose has its Problems, But so do Artificial Substitutes

The article appearing in The Environmental Magazine entitled, “Sugar Or Sweetener? Sucrose Has Its Problems, But So Do Artificial Substitutes,” by Brian C. Howard is to be complemented for identifying excess calorie intake relative to caloric expenditure (exercise) as a dominant contributor to the current obesity.

Calorie Control Council Response to Jürgens et al

Consuming fructose-sweetened beverages increases body adiposity in mice