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Childhood diabetes, food sweetener link

18 December 2009

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Category: Research & medical benefits

sugar–cube–spoon.jpgA new study has shown that the food sweetener fructose can cause dangerous body fat deposits and trigger diabetes and heart disease in humans.

Initial research in rats showing the potential health problems of a diet rich in fructose have let to a new study in humans with worrying results. According to the findings, the commonly used food sweetener can lead to fatty deposits around internal organs and can contribute to obesity, diabetes and heart disease.Derived from corn, fructose is a sugar widely used in foods such as yogurts, cakes and fruit drinks. Naturally present in small amounts in fruit, it is also a cheaper substitute for another popular form of sweetener, glucose. However, unlike glucose, it cannot be broken down by the digestive system and often arrives intact at the liver. There, it interferes with natural digestion processes involved in burning and storing fat.

Previous studies in rats found that consuming fructose led to insulin resistance, resulting in diabetes. There was also evidence showing signs of dyslipidemia, a condition where abnormally large quantities of fat are found within the body.

Now, scientists have been able to support the earlier finding in rats with studies on humans. Over ten weeks, sixteen volunteers were given strict diet with high levels of fructose and were monitored. A second group were given high levels of glucose instead of fructose. The researchers found the group with fructose in their diet had produced new fat cells around vital organs such as the heart and liver. There were also early signs of processing abnormalities which may give rise to heart disease and diabetes. None of these changes were observed in the group on the glucose-rich diet.

The research could help parents and consumers make better informed decisions about diet.