I was browsing some recent medical articles the other night, and I came across one that I found particularly interesting about the metabolic effects of glucose and fructose on our brains. Sounds boring, right? WRONG. This study may provide part of the answer to why Americans are getting so fat. Up until recently, the sugar we ate came in the form of cane sugar. Cane sugar is a mixture of two simple sugars called glucose and galactose. Food scientists back in the 60’s discovered that sugar derived from corn syrup was much sweeter and cheaper to produce than cane sugar; consequently, in came the high fructose corn syrup that is so ubiquitously used by the food industry in America. The combination of cheap and satisfying fructose based sugar was just what the processed food industry had been looking for.
I have written before about the tremendous increase in sugar consumption by much of our population during the 20th century. Sugar consumption of all sorts has gone from an occasional treat to the mainstay of our diets. We can all see the results: 60% of Americans being overweight and 30% considered obese. Sugar consumption, especially in the form of liquid beverages, is thought by many experts to be at the heart of much of this obesity. Unbelievably, one in four adults in America is now a diabetic.
Back to the study I was reading this week: the researchers found that fructose, the sugar derived from corn, biochemically reacts differently with our brains than does glucose, the sugar in cane sugar. These researchers concluded from their data that our brains are not as “satisfied” by fructose ingestion and therefore hunger is not reduced by fructose (corn sugar) as with glucose (cane sugar). Could it be that by going back to old fashioned sugar, our obsession with sweets in America might begin to go away? If something simple like putting babies to sleep on their backs can dramatically reduce crib death, why couldn’t an equally simple thing like changing the ingredients of sweetened beverages end the obesity epidemic? Something to think about.
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