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High-fructose corn syrup increases risk of heart failure

High-fructose corn syrup

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(NaturalNews) The sugar fructose -- formerly embraced by the food industry as a supposedly safer alternative to glucose -- appears to cause molecular changes in the body that promote uncontrolled heart growth and increase the risk of heart failure, according to a study conducted by researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and published in the journal Nature.

Fructose is a monosaccharide sugar, like glucose and lactose. It naturally occurs in many fruits and forms 50 percent of the disaccharide sucrose (table sugar). These naturally occurring forms of fructose do not seem to cause the same damaging effects, the researchers said. It is added fructose in processed foods that is the real cause for concern.

Fructose fuels abnormal heart growth

Unlike glucose (which the brain uses for fuel), fructose does not cause significant increases in blood sugar levels or insulin activity. For this reason, scientists have assumed that fructose would not increase the risk of type 2 diabetes in the same way as glucose would. This has led to an increased quantity of fructose in processed foods, often in the form of high-fructose corn syrup.

But research has also shown that the liver converts fructose into fat more readily than it does with glucose. This can lead to a fatty liver, obesity, high blood pressure, high levels of blood fat and even insulin resistance. These are all symptoms of a condition known as metabolic syndrome... a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

The new study found that a diet high in fructose may also increase the risk of heart failure, at least in those already at risk of the disease. That's because when a person suffers from high blood pressure, their heart starts to grow in order to be able to pump harder. This can lead to a situation in which the heart has more muscle than the body can supply with oxygen (heart muscles use enormous amounts of oxygen to fuel their continual contractions).

In the absence of oxygen, muscles gain energy from a process known as glycolysis, in which they split apart glucose in order to generate ATP, the fuel source for cells that normally must be produced using oxygen.

In the new study, the researcher found that in the absence of oxygen, heart muscles produce a molecule known as HIF, which is a sign of abnormal growth processes such as cardiac enlargement or cancer. The researchers found that, in the heart, HIF causes cells to produce ketohexokinase-C (KHK-C), an enzyme that plays a key role in metabolizing fructose. The presence of KHK-C also causes glycolysis to ramp up, which in turn increases the production of HIF and KHK-C, and the heart's reliance on fructose. This positive-feedback loop has no built-in shutoff switch and can lead to pathological heart growth and eventually to cardiac failure.

The researchers also found that samples taken from heart surgery patients were, as expected, high in both HIF and KHK-C. In addition, mice with high blood pressure who had their KHK-C enzyme inactivated did not experience cardiac enlargement.

Eat fruit, not fructose

The findings provide yet another reason to limit intake of processed foods high in artificial fructose and high-fructose corn syrup, the researchers said.

"Just this surplus of fructose can help trigger the mechanism we have described if one of the stress factors is present, such as cardiac valve disease or high blood pressure," researcher Peter Mirtschink said.

There is no reason to avoid fruit, however, which does not contain dangerous levels of fructose. On the contrary, most people in the United States would benefit from increasing their fruit intake.

"Besides fructose, fruit contains plenty of important trace elements, vitamins and fibre," Mirtschink said.





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