Monkey study shows more evidence of high fructose diet harm

Posted by
July 9, 2013

A study recently performed on monkeys by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., not only found that a diet high in fructose caused very rapid liver damage, even without weight gain, but has also spurred the planning of a new “real world study” to begin next year, this one using high fructose corn syrup.

“The results of this were actually quite surprising,” the study’s lead author Kylie Kavanagh, D.V.M. told Food Identity Theft in a phone interview. “No one really expected that we would see that degree of liver damage that quickly, in only six weeks.”

The study, published in the June 19th online edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, involved feeding the animals a calorie-restricted diet, 24 percent of which consisted of fructose derived from corn. Each week, the researchers measured indicators of liver damage in the primate’s blood, and checked levels of intestinal bacteria.

“We didn’t think we’d see that downstream step, where that bacteria was passing through the intestine and going to the liver, actually causing liver disease,” Kavanagh said. Apparently, “something” in the consumption of a high fructose diet causes the intestines to lose some of their protective nature, allowing bacteria to leak out “at a 30 percent higher rate,” she explained.

“What we’re feeding (in this study) is extremely high levels (of fructose). This is the equivalent of a teenager who drinks Coke all day and eats doughnuts –  it does happen, but it doesn’t represent (what’s consumed by) most of the population,” she said.  “Our next study is going to be looking at a real world scenario.”

The planned study, according to Kavanagh, will be done using high fructose corn syrup, an ingredient she calls “unavoidable,” as it is in “probably 80 percent of shelf products.” The HFCS will be administered at a “high level, but within what a reasonable fraction of the population actually consumes.”

Proves nothing ‘human’,  CRA claims

In response to the study, the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), has issued a press release from its new president, John Bode, contending that the its authors “…have failed to prove anything about human consumption of high fructose corn syrup…” and that such studies “…only lead to confusion among consumers and inhibit the development of real solutions.”

While Kavanagh believes that the CRA isn’t willing to “buy into” the results yet, she is hopeful that the corn refining industry “might be willing to make a different product other than high fructose corn syrup if the public demanded it.”

“We’ve been trying to figure out for some time why we’ve become more inflammatory, with asthma, for example, much more common. We’re proposing that there could be a dietary component to that,” she said, adding that the very low grade intestinal infection observed by the researchers is a new indicator of “why we may be seeing a whole plethora of diseases.”

Kavanagh, who is a strong advocate for reading ingredient labels, likened the use of HFCS to that of trans fats, which she noted is also “a cheap product” that “everyone thought …was fine,” but is now “disappearing from the food chain.”

“I think that high fructose corn syrup will probably go the same way,” she said. “Things take time and we have to prove them in a slow and steady manner.”