You just ate a bowl of cereal for breakfast two hours ago. Now you're starving. And when you see the glazed doughnuts in the break room, you can't resist.
Should you kick yourself for having low willpower? Or maybe … just maybe … should you blame that bowl of fructose-sweetened cereal?
It might surprise you to learn that more and more evidence implicates the cereal — not you. In two separate studies, Kathleen Page and her team at the University of Southern California uncovered evidence linking fructose — the type of sweetener used in many cereals, as well as sodas and thousands of other processed foods — to increased hunger.
In their most recent study, Page and her team asked 24 people to drink a beverage containing either glucose or fructose. Then the researchers performed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans of the participants' brains as they viewed pictures of a variety of foods (for instance, chocolate cake) and described how hungry they were.
The researchers say participants who drank the fructose drink reported higher levels of hunger. In addition, fructose caused a stronger reaction in the nucleus accumbens, a "reward" center of the brain, increasing the participants' desire to eat.
In earlier research, Page and her team asked 20 people to drink beverages containing glucose or fructose. Then the researchers measured changes in blood flow to the hypothalamus, which plays a key role in regulating hunger. Glucose, but not fructose, caused a significant slowing in the activity of this brain region. The same study also showed that people drinking the fructose experienced a much smaller surge of insulin, a hormone that promotes a feeling of fullness.
Page says, "These studies have important public health implications in a society that is inundated with high-sugar foods and tantalizing food stimuli."
While she stresses that her team's findings are preliminary, this is just the latest research indicating that fructose — and especially high fructose corn syrup, or "fructose on steroids" — is bad news. Here are some other good reasons for cutting fructose-sweetened processed foods out of your life: