The Experimental Bio 2012 session, Fructose, Sucrose and High Fructose Corn Syrup: Relevant Scientific Findings and Health Implications, was fascinating and confirmed what I already knew: While we have a caloric consumption issue to work on as a nation, sucrose and HFCS are metabolically the same.

Here are my take-away points, many of which respond to the initial questions I received before the session.  If you want to see my responses you can see them in the comments section.

When looking at studies:

  • Fructose-only protocols don’t model the human experience, neither in dose nor ratio. Many studies use fructose doses that are above the 95th percentile of what we consume according to NHANES consumption data. See more here.
  • Since rats have no prefrontal cortex, “addiction model” studies in rats can’t be applied to humans.
  • Sucrose and HFCS behave the same metabolically – hunger, satiety hormones, glucose, insulin, triglycerides.

When talking about pure fructose:

  • There is a metabolic difference following the consumption of fructose vs. glucose, but these sugars are typically not consumed in isolation.
  • While pure fructose is more lipogenic than glucose, only about 3 grams of fat is generated with extreme addition of carbohydrate.

Why more research is needed:

  • Calories count. Overall calorie intake has increased since 1970, while added sugar intake has declined. There is something more to this picture.
  • A diet too high in sugars is only one part of a poor dietary pattern. There’s a clear need for more sugar research using normal diets and eating patterns.
  • Regulation can’t occur without showing totality of evidence and a strong causal relationship, and cannot consider “observational” evidence.

At the end of presentations there was a Q & A session, where I sensed that many of the science-savvy audience members had similar takeaways.  Many stepped up to the microphone after the presentation and challenged the notion that sugar is the root cause of many ills and asked some great questions.

Each of the five speakers had a chance to present their take on the biochemistry and potential health implications of fructose, sucrose and HFCS. You can see the summary of their presentations here.

I was a consultant to the Corn Refiners Association when this article posted, but my opinions and statements are my own.