fructose vs starch

By Jonathan Wright  

November 6, 2015 


Researchers from UCSF and Touro University recently published a study on the effects of restricting the daily intake of “fructose” in the diets of 43 children at the Obesity clinic at UCSF, replacing it with starches. The question was to determine whether sweeteners (fructose/sugar) or calories (Starches) were truly the problem when it came to obesity and diabetes. "We replaced virtually every aspect of their metabolic syndrome," said Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, San Francisco and lead author of the study.

Dr Lustig currently maintains that both sugar and HFCS are processed by the body in the same way and therefore uses the terms interchangeably. The problem with that is it goes against his sworn affidavit to the United States District Court Western District of New York dated September 2013 where he clearly states: "Sucrose (Sugar) and HFCS have different metabolic effects including that the fructose content of HFCS-55, HFCS 65, HFCS 90 and Crystalline Fructose is higher than that in sucrose which is made up of 50% glucose and 50% fructose" (Citizens for Health has petitioned the FDA to change the HFCS labeling system so that it identifies the fructose level of the HFCS i.e. - HFCS 55 contains 55% fructose, HFCS 65 contains 65% fructose, etc.)

Dr. Lustig makes two points about the fundamental difference between sucrose (sugar) and HFCS in his court affidavit. One, the fructose in sugar is bound differently than the fructose in HFCS. Two, the amounts of fructose in HFCS significantly exceed the amounts of fructose in sugar. These differences make all the difference in the world. This means, he states in his affidavit, “…fructose from HFCS is metabolized differently from sugar (sucrose) and because the percentage of fructose in some foods containing HFCS have been shown in peer reviewed studies to exceed 65%, HFCS is clearly a significant factor in increased dietary food and energy (caloric) intake in the population.”

We are totally with Dr. Lustig when he laments the drinking of caloric sodas -95% of which are sweetened with HFCS- and which Dr Lustig also calls out in his affidavit, “Coca Cola, Sprite and Pepsi contained on average 64-65% fructose.” In this recent study Dr Lustig and his team found that reducing the intake of sweeteners from 28% to 10% of the children’s diets, while still on a heavily processed diet, lead to a reduction in insulin levels within 10 days. This is not exactly news to Dr Lustig, if we refer back to the affidavit where Dr Lustig states “Since fructose is metabolized differently than glucose it can and does lead to insulin resistance.…. HFCS bypasses the insulin-driven satiety system, suppressing ‘the degree of satiety’ that would normally result from a meal of glucose or sucrose.” HFCS, unlike glucose or sucrose (sugar) he says, leads to overeating. “

Dr Lustig tries to make the case that since the insulin levels dropped and the cholesterol and lipid levels improved then ‘sugar’ must be the problem. Yet referring back to the affidavit he makes a very clear statement, “Fructose is a major cause of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.” The primary fructose he is referencing, based on the report of his study, is fructose from HFCS. That is also true of the American diet.

We support and urge the removal of HFCS from manufactured food products, including sodas, as does Dr. Lustig. We also urge the use of sucrose in moderation. We think the distinction between fructose in HFCS and in sucrose is important for consumers to make sound decision which will fulfill Dr. Lustig’s agenda to cut down disease traced to fructose. Consumers also need to know that, while sugar consumption per capita in 2009 equaled that in 1909, HFCS consumption has skyrocketed during the past thirty years the same period of time that diabetes and obesity have exploded into national epidemics. There is no place for HFCS in the diet. There is a place for sweetness. Even the children in Dr. Lustig’s study got 10% percent of their calories from “sugar”. Unfortunately we do not know, when reporting this fact, whether Dr. Lustig was talking about sucrose or HFCS.