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A New Reason to Avoid Sugar in the New Year

January 3, 2013

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Just in time to reaffirm your New Year’s resolution to cut down on the sweet stuff, a new report is out to confirm the harmful effects of consuming added sugar in drinks.

According to a new brain imaging study from Yale University, drinking high concentrations of fructose – a sweet sugar found in table sugars, high fructose corn syrup, and even natural sweeteners like agave nectar – does not promote a feeling of satiety and can contribute to overeating.

Scientists compared the blood flow in the brains of 20 young, healthy weight participants before and after they had drinks containing glucose or fructose.  Interestingly enough, scientists found that when participants consumed glucose – a less sweet-tasting sugar that’s rarely used as an added sweetener in foods – their brains had reduced blood flow to areas associated with hunger and cravings. They also tested for higher levels of hormones that contribute to a feeling of fullness. By contrast, consuming fructose had no effect on the brain.

The scientists concluded that when the human brain is exposed to fructose, “neurobiological pathways involved in appetite regulation are modulated, thereby promoting increased food intake.”

In other words, not all sugars are created equal, and drinks containing fructose seem to be the worst for moderating appetite and can contribute to weight gain. It’s hardly news that processed sugars are bad for you – high fructose corn syrup has been linked to Type 2 diabetes and is known to cause more weight gain than plain table sugar, even when caloric intake is the same.

Yet this study raises new questions, because fructose is found in natural sweeteners popular in health food circles, as well as fruit. Agave nectar, for example, is 90% fructose.

While there’s every reason to continue eating fruit – the abundance of vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber is incredibly health-promoting (and can perhaps even make you happier!) – it’s undeniable that too much of any type of sweetener isn’t good for you, especially when it’s consumed in high concentration in liquid form.

What’s your favorite healthy way to satisfy your sweet tooth?