Dr. Richard J. Johnson says sugar plays "a major role" in obesity epidemic
Researchers from the University of Florida released their findings from a new study this week that found the rapid upward spike in obesity rates we have seen over the past couple of decades may be directly related to the increased consumption of fructose, including the sugars found in fruit, honey, table sugar, as well as other "hidden" sweeteners used in millions of products on grocery store shelves today.
Hmmmm, where have I heard this before? :)
Dr. Richard J. Johnson, professor of nephrology at the University of Florida's College of Medicine, and his team of researchers from the University of Florida and the Baylor College of Medicine observed lab rats who were fed a high-fructose diet for 10 weeks. When comparing those lab rats with the control group, there was a rise in uric acid in the bloodstream and the rats developed insulin resistance.
Analyzing these results, Dr. Johnson and his researchers concluded that fructose, which is found naturally in many fruits and vegetables as well as in most processed foods, can actually trick your body into thinking you are hungrier than you really are. As a result, they believe the consumption of fructose leads to weight gain and the onset of metabolic syndrome (which has been found to be improved by a low-carb diet according to a recent study). Metabolic syndrome currently afflicts one in four Americans and is the primary precursor to type 2 diabetes.
Dr. Johnson's study appears in the December issue of Nature Clinical Practice Nephrology (they are providing FREE access to the entire study through the end of December 2005) as well as the December online edition of the American Journal of Physiology-Renal Physiology.
Underscoring the vital importance of continuing to conduct research on how fructose contributes to obesity, Dr. Johnson said there may need to be changes made to the USDA's Food Pyramid in the future if these same results are found to occur in humans like they did in the lab rats.
“There may be more than just the common concept that the reason a person gets fat is because they eat too many calories and they don’t do enough exercise,” Dr. Johnson noted. “And although genetic predispositions are obviously important, there’s some major environmental force driving this process. Our data suggest certain foods and, in particular, fructose, may actually speed the process for a person to become obese.”
However, Dr. Johnson also says the lack of exercise as well as eating too many calories and fat have played a role in people becoming overweight and obese in the United States. But he added that the prevalence of fructose in popular foods and beverages such as sodas, jellies, packaged junk food snacks, ketchup, and table sugar has come about ever since high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) began being added to foods in the early 1970s.
Of course, many of the foods with high fructose corn syrup in them appeal to children, which is why this recent news story cited an obesity expert who blamed that ingredient for childhood obesity exploding like it has. Sadly, the President of the Corn Refiners Association is still living in denial by asserting that HFCS is a natural and healthy product that should be a part of everyone's food intake. I don't expect her to take any other position on it, but it is still disheartening to see the public being so blatantly duped.
Since HFCS started being added to foods around the world, fructose intake has increased by nearly a third while twice as many people developed metabolic syndrome, including a mind-boggling 55 million Americans. Dr. Johnson says the inexplicable link between fructose consumption and type 2 diabetes, obesity, insulin resistance, elevated triglycerides, and hypertension is undeniable.
“If you feed fructose to animals they rapidly become obese, with all features of the metabolic syndrome, so there is this strong causal link,” Johnson said, “And a high-fructose intake has been shown to induce certain features of the metabolic syndrome pretty rapidly in people.”
The uric acid that builds up in the bloodstream when fructose is consumed actually prohibits insulin from forming, which becomes dangerous since that is component that enables the body to use sugar for energy. Prolonged increases in uric acid generally leads to metabolic syndrome and all the associated risks.
“When we blocked or lowered uric acid, we were able to largely prevent or reverse features of the metabolic syndrome,” Johnson said. “We were able to significantly reduce weight gain, we were able to significantly reduce the rise in the triglycerides in the blood, the insulin resistance was less and the blood pressure fell.”
Dr. Johnson is quick to note that his researchers "cannot definitively state that fructose is driving the obesity epidemic,” he does believe there is strong evidence that it plays "a contributory role — if not a major role."
"I think in the next few years we’ll have a better feel for whether or not these pathways that can be shown in animals may be relevant to the human condition," he contended.
Interestingly, Dr. Johnson believes this study may provide people to an alternative to the Atkins diet, which he claims "cuts out carbohydrates indiscriminately.” He added that there are certain sugars in fruits and vegetables that people should consume (something my friend Roger Troy Wilson noted in his book about losing over 200 pounds!).
As someone who was on the Atkins diet, Dr. Johnson, I disagree with your conclusion on that point. Cutting out sugar from my diet has been the best thing I ever could have done to improve my body weight and overall health. Believe it or not, there are even some who are advocating CONSUMING sugar to help people lose weight. What is the world coming to?!
While inactivity is indeed a factor in rising obesity rates, the overconsumption of fructose is now being recognized (as it should!) for its role in the obesity epidemic. It is my hope that Dr. Johnson and other researchers around the world will continue to look into this and help educate people even further about the dangers of eating too much sugar. Your body can live without it!
You can e-mail Dr. Richard J. Johnson to thank him for his study on the link between fructose and obesity by writing to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want to overcome your addiction to sugar and need some FREE help to do so, have I got GREAT news for you! My friend Connie Bennett from the SUGAR SHOCK! blog has created a Fast-Track Kick-Sugar Countdown Program where you can enjoy FREE ACCESS to lots of excellent information on how you can eliminate sugar from your diet and get healthy.
The web site is located at KickSugarSpecial.com and she has reserved a spot just for YOU! This is a limited time offer only, so sign up TODAY!
And remember me this Thursday evening, December 15th, as I participate in a tele-seminar call with Connie to talk about how shunning sugar helped me lose over 180 pounds. There will be a CD available of my comments during the tele-seminar at a later date (I'll let you know how you can get it if you are interested).
It's time we wake people up to the dangers of sugar consumption before obesity gets to this point!
12-12-05 UPDATE: I received this intriguing response back from Dr. Johnson today:
Thank you. We have also had quite a bit of success here by engaging people in a diet that omits fructose and esp high fructose corn syrup.
Thank you, Dr. Johnson. Studies like yours will help educate the public about how the rat poison known as sugar is ruining the health and waistlines of the world's population. Some may think that is hyperbolizing the problem, but I don't. Sugar nearly killed me and now I'll gladly tell the whole world to stop consuming it in ANY form to lose weight and improve their health.