So today I decided to quit (or at least seriously cut back on) caffeine, artificial sweeteners, alcohol and carbs. So you can blame any behavior you don’t like on that – for a couple of days anyway. (And if you see me drinking a diet coke, please remind me that I’m cutting back!)

On that note, a new study (yet another study) shows that consuming fructose actually changes the way our bodies process sugar. Fructose is mostly commonly consumed as high fructose corn syrup that is added to just about every packaged food.

The researchers found that lipogenesis, the process by which sugars are
turned into body fat, increased significantly when as little as half
the glucose was replaced with fructose. Fructose given at breakfast
also changed the way the body handled the food eaten at lunch. After
fructose consumption, the liver increased the storage of lunch fats
that might have been used for other purposes.

I don’t think they’ve figured it out yet, but I think it’s fascinating that the calories in, calories out model is finally being challenged.

17 Replies to “Warning!”

  1. The thing I don’t get about the concern over “high fructose corn syrup” is that sucrose (table sugar) has almost exactly the same amount and ratio of fructose and glucose as HFCS (50/50 vs. 55/45), and as far as I’ve been able to tell has almost the same metabolic effect.
    The biggest problem with HFCS is that it’s become so cheap (via corn subsidies mostly) that we’re taking in more HFCS than we otherwise would if we were just buying regular sucrose. This issue I understand, but “hating” on HFCS because fructose is bad (again, vs. sucrose) seems misguided.

  2. Luis: You are wrong. Both beet and cane sugar are 100% sucrose. I don’t know about the table sugar you can buy in your country but AFAIK it’s always either beet or cane sugar.
    Also, table sugar has somewhat regular crystals that look very similar. A mix would not produce such crystals, or two types of crystals.

  3. This “low carb” thing really seems to be a UK/US thing. Don’t do it, carbs are essential for your performance. What you might look at shifting towards consuming more complex carbs instead of simple ones. As a nice side effect complex carbs often come with food rich of fibres, which keeps your digestion healthy.

  4. Stormy,
    You wrote “I don’t think they’ve figured it out yet”. I think it has pretty much *has* been figured out (in terms of human weight gain/loss). Your “calorie-in-calories-out”
    description pretty much sums it up. Eat less calories (even if you include a fructose-laced apple) and exercise more and you will be fine. This scientific article (as opposed to this news article which does a poor job of summarizing a complex scientific work) is talking about a minor detail. In fact, Elizabeth Parks (the author of the study) addresses exactly this when she says:
    “There are lots of people out there who want to demonize fructose as the cause of the obesity epidemic,” she said. “I think it may be a contributor, but it’s not the only problem. Americans are eating too many calories for their activity level. We’re overeating fat, we’re overeating protein; and we’re overeating all sugars.”
    In other words, calories-in-calories-out.

  5. Stormy,
    I forgot to add in the last message. There is a reason calorie-in-calories-out *is* the correct way to think about human weight gain/loss. Thermodynamics. At the end of the day, a fructose or glucose molecule can only produce a given number of adenoside triphosphate (ATP) molecules. These ATP molecules are then used to build fat (or drive muscle). The rough measure of how many potential ATP molecules can be ultimately derived from a meal is… drum-roll please… calories. Your body decides for the most part whether to produce fat or drive muscle based on … drum-roll please… your activity level. So, eat less, exercise more.
    There is no way to get around these thermodynamic constraints. They are fundamental.

  6. Hey Stormy,
    I’m actually kind of doing the same, I’ve never been into alcohol at all (which makes life at Dublin kind of hard btw). However, after a while a realized that caffeine was making me unable to sleep properly, so I had to leave diet coke, which is the drink that I used to have since I was 12.
    Now I’m just drinking 7up or Sprite, which at some point I would like to replace for something less sweet. However is really hard to find popular drinks that are healthy at the same time.
    Anyway, my point is, I support you!

  7. There is nothing wrong with fructose or glucose or sucrose when consumed reasonably! The problem is that highly processed foods contain insane amounts of sugars and fats. For example take a can of cola, 7up, or sprite. They contain about 35 .. 45 grams of sugars. Now, go take a scale and measure 40 grams of sugar. Sit back and look at that heap, impressive! It’s much better to drink water instead. Even juices have plenty of added sugar for better taste. Again, it’s better to drink water and eat fruits. A simple change in your eating habits can make already a big difference in your weight without doing any exercises.

  8. The paper’s abstract is available from
    http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/abstract/138/6/1039 for those of you playing at home. I have some concerns about the methodology: my statistically-minded friends inform me that a sample size of at least 11 would be required for the effect size they’re trying to demonstrate.
    Having spent two months on a bariatric surgical unit here in Australia, I can say without hesitation that the overwhelming majority of candidates for weight-loss surgery eat too much in absolute terms, and eat too many carbohydrates (in sugars or complex carbs) in relative terms. However, I don’t know how many people in this thread fit into the category of morbid obesity.

  9. Yep, I do think it’s a reaction to GUADEC and OSCON. 🙂 Thanks for all the support.
    As far as studies go, I like to read them and realize how many answers we don’t have yet. No one study is enough to make dietary recommendations. They all need to be confirmed in multiple ways, especially if you’re going to make recommendations on them. That’s one of the main problems with having a country or world wide recommended diet. You have to be extremely careful of making recommendations to millions of people. That said, I think a lot of conventional wisdom is now being tested. Not that I think we need lots of studies or tests to know the average amount of soda and high-fat, high-sugar, high-carb, prepackaged foods we eat (at least in the US) is not really good for us!
    Oh – on the low carb thing – I’m still eating veggies and things. Primarily cutting back on baked goods, sugary things, etc.

  10. On the calories in/calories out. Yes, I think by eating less and exercising more, you can lose weight. (As a teenager I went through a period where I kept myself at 1200 calories a day for long periods of time. Imagine me, current height, 40 pounds less. And if I could figure out what snapped me out of that phase, I would dedicate myself to helping people with eating disorders.)
    But I think our bodies treat energy in a much more complicated way than calories in, calories out. That’s an oversimplification and science is just starting to figure it all out.
    The example that really changed my mind when Gary Taubes (author of Good Calories, Bad Calories) pointed out that there are a lot of obese women in developing countries with starving kids. There’s no way they are eating food that would save their kids. Lots of other things play into the weight story and the way our bodies process energy.
    (Also, I’m not giving up Diet Coke to lose weight – but I think Diet Coke, as something I consume a lot of, is affecting me in one way, shape or form.)

  11. Luis: heh. This must mean I’m not a Coke tasting expert since to me, Diet Coke and standard Coke are quite similar 😉
    Or maybe it’s just that I never drink Diet Coke…

  12. It’s nice to see people taking good care of themselves!
    While excessive alcohol (and to a lesser degree caffeine) is notoriously bad for our health, cutting down sweeteners and carbohydrates is a very controversial subject. You can certainly live without sweeteners, but most health professionals (myself included) believe the Atkins diet is just crazy.

  13. One of my favorite pithy sayings: The body is not a bomb calorimeter.
    Good luck on getting in control of what you eat. In the times of my life when I felt in full control of my consumption of caffeine (in particular) were the times when I most enjoyed it.

Comments are closed.