Well, We’re Doomed: Science Says High Fructose Corn Syrup as Addictive as Cocaine


We’d like to think there’s a big difference between handing a kid a can of soda and offering him a line of cocaine, but new research on the link between high fructose corn syrup and addiction suggests otherwise. Canadian researchers from the University of Ontario studied lab rats’ reactions to increasing doses of high fructose corn syrup (you know, the sweetener that’s in everything from soda to bread) and determined that it produced reactions “similar to those produced by drugs of abuse such as cocaine.”

Once the rats were all hopped up on high fructose corn syrup, they were given access to a lever that controlled how much syrup they received. The more concentrated the syrup, the harder the rats worked to obtain it . . . which, coincidentally, is also true of serious cocaine addiction. The Canadian researchers hypothesized that an unacknowledged addiction to the high fructose corn syrup that sweetens most of our favorite foods could be responsible for the planet’s growing obesity epidemic. If it’s true, this could be a major blow for snack food and soda companies, many of which have gotten away with selling products containing much more high fructose corn syrup than the federal limit would allow.

Of course, this doesn’t mean we’re gearing up for a full fledged drug war on soda and candy bars (despite what Mayor Bloomberg might think). Still, it might be a good idea to keep an eye on the nutrition label of our favorite snack foods, and if we start seeing people go into shock from candy bar deprivation . . . well, then we’ll know we have a problem.

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13 replies on “Well, We’re Doomed: Science Says High Fructose Corn Syrup as Addictive as Cocaine”

I don’t know. Did they have a control group that used a cane sugar syrup or another flavoring that is appealing to rats? Is it the corn syrup specifically or all sugar? Whenever I see “science says” I think: very generalized article coming up.

No mention of a control. And don’t just assume all studies are scientific. Especially ones that were working toward a specific outcome, like this one.

Thank you! There’s just no science that the body treats HFCS any differently than “evaporated cane juice”. You can’t compare A to B and insist that it proves a relationship between A and C.

Good thing we are not rats. Or that this was not even remotely scientific to begin with. Or at leas the conclusion they drew from it.

Withing 15 minutes, HFCS is broken down by your body into EXACTLY the same substance as sugar.

Actually not really, there are different types of sugars, glucose being the main building block. HFCS is part glucose and part fructose, glucose can be metabolized naturally quickly by any cell in the body, fructose has to be broken down biochemically through a series of pathways in the liver before being metabolized.

Re: your first paragraph, you could be right, but an analysis of the actual study would be more worthwhile than your emotional reaction. You’re just looking at the conclusion, and because you can’t make sense of it, you’re bashing it.

Re: your second paragraph, that is just plain false.

Personally I can’t stand HFCS for its taste alone. It gives everything it is in a syrupy muted sweetness as well as a completely different mouthfeel than things made with cane sugar. Throw in how it is made and the fact it is all from GMO agriculture and I will not touch the stuff.

I can’t say I found it addictive. I tend to avoid foods containing it because of that sticky “bad breath aftertaste” alone. Cane sugar just tastes better. As for whether it’s more harmful than cane sugar, that has to depend, to a great extent, on how fast one’s body converts cane sugar (sucrose) into glucose and fructose. The less production of the enzyme “sucrase”, the slower your conversion will be. It’s possible that HFCS in large quantities will over-power the liver with a rush of fructose, while the same amount of cane sugar will feed it gradually. Note that most of the industry-sponsored studies assume consumption of only 50g of HFCS per day, much less than that of the average soda drinker. That said, the biggest villain here is fructose itself, which is added directly to products like “diet” yogurt and other deserts. Anything with HFCS, fructose, “aguave nectar” or “invert sugar” should be considered suspect. Also, avoid most refined fruit juices, even those labeled “all natural”; if you can see through it, it’s at least as bad as sugary soda.

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