Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sweet Things!

This month, we’re going to discuss all things sweet and sugary. This week’s topic is high fructose corn syrup.

High fructose corn syrup is the major sweetener used in commercially made food. However, there some controversy about the safety, efficacy, necessity and even taste of this common product. This is the first article in a series that discusses the science behind the metabolism, flavor, and use of this food (by product? That seemed inflammatory.)

First, the actual food itself. Sucrose, which is plain table sugar, is a dual-sugar molecule, a disaccharide, made of one molecule each of fructose and glucose. Fructose is the common sugar found in fruit or pure fruit juices, and glucose is the sugar produced by our bodies. So common sugar has a 50:50 ratio of fructose to glucose. High fructose is a mix of the sugars with a greater percentage of fructose: in a ratio of approximately 55:45.

Increased fructose consumption is linked with increased risks of type 2 diabetes and obesity. This is due to the way that fructose bypasses the body’s need to use insulin to metabolize the ingested sugar. Also, because fructose reduces the amount of leptin produced, the body is less apt to feel satisfied when consuming foods with more fructose than glucose. However, we use sucrose, which combines the two sugars. Does this mean that a foods with the 5% extra fructose are worse for us overall?

Finally, why do we even like sugars? What mechanisms does our body and brain use to determine what tastes sweet and why we enjoy it? How does the presence of sugar, and especially this kind of sugar, change the way we eat and why? We’ll discuss all of these topics over the next few days.

Part 2: Glucose, Fructose and Insulin

Part 3: Leptin, Aldosterone, and Bikini Season

Part 4: The Difference Between Bread and Cake, Bone and Tendon: How Sugars Work in our Bodies.