The controversy over the possible health ramifications of consuming high-fructose corn syrup has raged for years, with manufacturers claiming it’s no worse for us than actual sugar.
But now a new study says fructose may increase cardiovascular risk factors because it adds to visceral fat, the kind that accumulates around internal organs.
Researchers examined 559 volunteers between 14 and 18 years old, recording their body mass index, body fat, exercise habits and fat mass. They also asked what the participants had consumed in the past 24 hours.
After controlling for other factors, scientists found that higher fructose consumption was associated with known risks for cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes: increased systolic blood pressure, C-reactive protein (a sign of systemic inflammation) and visceral fat, and reduced HDL (good) cholesterol.
However, controlling for visceral fat showed the effect of fructose alone was weakened, leading to a conclusion that the fructose itself wasn’t the culprit in the rise in risk factors — its tendency to increase visceral fat was.
“To just say ‘fructose is bad’ is incorrect,” Norman K. Pollock, the lead author and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Georgia Health Sciences University, told the New York Times. “But when calorie intake from fructose is greater than 16 percent of total intake, we’re seeing these risk factors appear.”
The study was published in the February issue of The Journal of Nutrition.