Study: Fructose linked to overeating

Fructose, a common sugar in American diets, can rewire the brain to stop you from feeling full

Topics: Health, Diet, Obesity, Sugar, life, Science, Research, Diabetes, ,

Study: Fructose linked to overeating (Credit: Steve Cukrov via Shutterstock)

This is your brain on sugar, folks.

Scientists at Yale University have used scans of the human brain to show that fructose, a monosaccharide found in everything from fruit to chicken nuggets, can trigger brain function that leads to overeating. According to the study, research subjects given a fructose beverage were less likely to feel “full” than subjects given a glucose beverage.

As reported by the Associated Press, researchers used MRI scans to monitor blood flow in the brains of 20 young, average-weight people before and after they consumed drinks containing fructose or glucose. Brain scans revealed that drinking glucose “turns off or suppresses the activity of areas of the brain that are critical for reward and desire for food,” said Robert Sherwin, an endocrinologist who led the study. Adding that with fructose, “we don’t see those changes. As a result, the desire to eat continues — it isn’t turned off.”

While the study does not prove that fructose causes obesity, researchers believe their findings show a strong link. According to Dr. Jonathan Purnell, an endocrinologist at Oregon Health & Science University, “It implies that fructose, at least with regards to promoting food intake and weight gain, is a bad actor compared to glucose.”

More than 30 percent of all American adults – and 20 percent of kids — are obese. Fructose and glucose are common to most processed foods and beverages, and consumption has risen dramatically in the last several decades. Want to avoid them? Experts recommend cooking at home more often, and limiting processed food whenever possible.

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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