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High-Fructose Calories Are Deadly

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Many people stigmatize high-fructose corn sugar, the sweetener added to soft drinks, as an evil additive. Research at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center shows that they’re right.

A lab study at Wake Forest Baptist shows that fructose can rapidly lead to liver damage, even without weight gain. The researchers found that over a six-week study period, liver damage more than doubled in animals fed a high-fructose diet as compared to those in a control group.

“Is a calorie a calorie? Are they all created equal? Based on this study, we would say not,” says researcher Kylie Kavanagh, D.V.M., assistant professor of pathology-comparative medicine at Wake Forest Baptist.

In a previous trial, Kavanagh and his research team studied monkeys who were allowed to eat as much as they wanted of low-fat food with added fructose for seven years, as compared to a control group fed a low-fructose, low-fat diet for the same time period. Not surprisingly, the animals allowed to eat as much as they wanted of the high-fructose diet gained 50 percent more weight than the control group. They developed diabetes at three times the rate of the control group and also developed hepatic steatosis, or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

“We studied fructose because it is the most commonly added sugar in the American diet, but based on our study findings, we can’t say conclusively that fructose caused the liver damage,” Kavanagh says. “What we can say is that high added sugars caused bacteria to exit the intestines, go into the blood stream and damage the liver. The liver damage began even in the absence of weight gain. This could have clinical implications because most doctors and scientists have thought that it was the fat in and around tissues in the body that caused the health problems.”

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