AURORA, Colo. — Fructose, a naturally occurring sugar found in numerous fruits and vegetables, is also a driving force behind the global issue of obesity, new research warns. Scientists at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus are officially calling fructose a “central conduit” of obesity.
While this isn’t the first study to link fructose to obesity, this latest research gathered a large amount of work to construct a fully formed argument for how fructose drives weight gain and related diseases like diabetes and fatty liver disease.
“This is an in-depth review on a hypothesis that puts nature at the center of weight gain, examining how fructose works differently than other nutrients by lowering active energy,” says Richard Johnson, MD, professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and study lead author, in a university release. “We determine a recently discovered function of fructose in survival that stores fuel in case resources become scarce. This is known as the ‘survival switch.’”
Fructose is the primary source of sweetness in fruit, but primarily consumed in Western societies as table sugar and high fructose corn syrup – which are much different than the nutrition ingested by our ancestors just before the leaner winter months. Prof. Johnson and his team theorized that fructose works differently than other nutrients by lowering active energy, and damaging mitochondria.
The study’s results indicate that fructose stimulates food intake and lowers resting energy metabolism, similar to an animal getting ready to hibernate. Moreover, the findings show that consuming fructose can promote weight gain, insulin resistance, elevated blood pressure, and fatty liver, just to name a few of the related metabolic issues.
“This work puts together in one place the full argument for how a particular carbohydrate, fructose, might have a central role in driving obesity and diabetes,” Prof. Johnson concludes. “This is a very exciting, new hypothesis that unites other hypotheses to point to the specific role fructose plays in the onset of obesity. And we can trace it back to our ancestors, as well as learn from hibernating animals, exactly how fructose causes this ‘switch’ within us.”
The study is published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences.