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Fructose or glucose? Different sugars affect the body in different ways

May 26, 2009

School of Veterinary Medicine researchers recently investigated how different beverage sweeteners affect the metabolism and pose specific health risks to certain individuals.

On May 1, The Journal of Clinical Investigation published the 10-week study, "Consuming fructose-sweetened, not glucose-sweetened, beverages increases visceral adiposity and lipids and decreases insulin sensitivity in overweight/obese humans." Kimber L. Stanhope and Jean Marc Schwarz (co-first authors), worked with principal investigator Peter Havel, Department of Molecular Biosciences, and others to complete the study.

The team found that beverages sweetened with fructose--but not glucose--can adversely affect sensitivity to insulin. Over-consumption of fructose-sweetened drinks can also affect how the body handles fats, creating medical conditions that increase susceptibility to heart attack and stroke. 

Participants in both the "fructose" and "glucose" groups gained about the same amount of weight.

However, those who drank beverages sweetened with fructose showed an increase in fat inside the abdomen, considered more dangerous than subcutaneous fat. Further, only these individuals became less sensitive to insulin. They also showed signs of increased levels of fat-soluble molecules known as lipids in their blood, and other metabolic changes occurred in the liver. 

While the long-term role of excess fructose in cardiovascular disease and diabetes is still unknown, the journal's editors stated, "Stanhope and colleagues provide major scientific progress by demonstrating marked differences in the metabolic effects of these two major sugars." 
Thanks to the Journal of Clinical Investigation for the summaries that have been adapted for this report.

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