High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) widely used in a variety of processed foods, sodas and drinks, has been implicated in the obesity epidemic that United State is currently facing. Now, a new study claims the sweetener rapidly causes liver damage even in the absence of obesity.

The study, appearing online in the latest edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition involved rats for the research. It found that intake of high-fructose diet caused damage to liver even with no weight gain in just a short span of six weeks.

Kylie Kavanagh, D.V.M., assistant professor of pathology-comparative medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and lead author of the study stated, “What surprised us the most was how quickly the liver was affected and how extensive the damage was, especially without weight gain as a factor. Six weeks in monkeys is roughly equivalent to three months in humans.”

Animal study
In order to determine whether consumption of fructose is linked to liver damage, the researchers conducted an animal study. The trial was designed to prevent weight gain.

It involved 10 middle-aged similar weight and size primates who had never eaten fructose. The animals were split into two groups on the basis of body shapes and waist circumference.

Diet of one group was supplemented with 24 percent fructose while the control group was assigned to a negligible amount of HFCS (0.5 percent) for a period of six months. Both groups received the same total number of calories each day.

For the purpose of the study, investigators weighed the animals weekly, and measured their waists. Blood tests were carried out at regular intervals to look at biomarkers in the blood that reveal liver health. In addition, they focused on the types of bacteria present in the intestines of the monkeys by taking stool samples.

Revelations of the study
It was noted that a type of intestinal bacteria was moving rapidly to the liver in high-fructose group causing damage to it.

Kavanagh stated, “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. 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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