We were surprised on Monday to read that researchers found that rats fed high fructose corn syrup experienced more weight gain than rats fed table sugar. It raised some red flags because sucrose and high fructose corn syrup are handled the same metabolically and contain the same number of calories per teaspoon. And a set of five papers published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has already debunked the theory that high fructose corn syrup was uniquely responsible for the rise in obesity rates in America.
And now, Marion Nestle has shed some perspective and analysis on this research. Writing on her blog, Nestle says she’s confused about how the Princeton researchers even came to their conclusion that high fructose corn syrup causes more weight gain than sucrose:
It has long been known that feeding sugars to rats makes them eat more and gain weight. But, as summarized in Table 1 in the paper, the researchers did only two experiments that actually compared the effects of HFCS to sucrose on weight gain, and these gave inconsistent results. Their other experiments compared HFCS to chow alone. […]
Although the authors say calorie intake was the same, they do not report calories consumed nor do they discuss how they determined that calorie intake was the same. This is an important oversight because measuring the caloric intake of lab rats is notoriously difficult to do (they are messy).
The only question left is: Why do the mainstream media continue to give credence to the supposed "debate" about high fructose corn syrup? The debate was over long ago. The only people continuing to stir the pot on high fructose corn syrup are from a handful of companies that market their products as being made of "pure cane sugar" or being "HFCS free"—both of which con consumers into thinking that the products are healthier or more natural (they're not). Of course, the real reason is simple: These companies are looking for anything that will boost their sales in an economic downturn.
So does HFCS make rats fat? Sure if you feed them too many calories altogether. Sucrose will do that, too.
Hear that? Calories are still calories. And sugar is still sugar. Thanks, Marion. You’re absolutely right.