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Can sweeteners be blamed for rise in obesity?

US researchers have claimed that a cheap form of sugar used in thousands of food products and soft drinks can damage human metabolism and is fuelling the obesity crisis.

Dangerous growth of fat cells

The study by a team at the University of California claimed fructose, a sweetener derived from corn, can cause dangerous growths of fat cells around vital organs has increasingly been used as a substitute for more expensive types of sugar in yoghurts, cakes, salad dressing and cereals.

Over 10 weeks, 16 volunteers on a strictly controlled diet, including high levels of fructose, produced new fat cells around their heart, liver and other digestive organs. It was reported that they also showed signs of food-processing abnormalities linked to diabetes and heart disease. Another group of volunteers on the same diet, but with glucose sugar replacing fructose, did not have these problems.

People in both groups put on a similar amount of weight. However, the researchers said the levels of weight gain among the fructose consumers would be greater over the long term.

Fructose is not responsible for obesity

Dr. Iain Frame, Director of Research at Diabetes UK, however was dismissive of the study’s findings and said:

“The results reported from this study do not support the claim that high doses of fructose are responsible for childhood obesity or the increasing prevalence of Type 2 diabetes.

“This study used a small number of participants over a short period of time and the results are inconclusive. As the authors of the study say, further long-term and carefully controlled studies are needed to investigate the effects of fructose, sucrose, and high-fructose corn syrup.”

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