Every day, more people are pointing out flaws in last month’s Princeton University study finding that rats fed high fructose corn syrup gained more weight than rats fed sucrose (table sugar). The authors of the research speculated that this could signify that high fructose corn syrup has a unique role in fueling America’s “obesity epidemic.” Earlier in the week, however, nutrition professor Marion Nestle detailed her confusion about how the researchers could have reached that conclusion. Today Washington Post health writer Jennifer LaRue Huget voices her skepticism with the Princeton study, writing that the evidence is “not convincing enough” to support the authors’ speculations.
We are also unconvinced, in large part because sucrose and high fructose corn syrup are nutritionally equivalent. A set of five papers published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in December 2008 has already debunked the theory that high fructose corn syrup was uniquely responsible for the rise in obesity rates.
Even a Princeton scientist who worked on the project now says the results from the rats do not “immediately translate to humans.” That’s all well and good, but will the researchers stop with the pointless speculation? University of North Carolina professor Barry Popkin already tried that back in 2004, theorizing about a high fructose corn syrup-to-obesity link. It didn’t turn out so well.
Thankfully, Huget drops some common sense into the debate:
The bottom line: Drinks sweetened by sugar or [high fructose corn syrup] contain calories, and consuming too many calories can make you fat.
Lab rats don't get to choose what they eat and drink. But people do.