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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Sucrose consumption linked to increased risk of type 2 diabetes

Sucrose, sugar’s more natural form, found to be “as harmful” as high-fructose corn syrup


By MONICA MANMADKAR — science@theaggie.org


According to a study published by UC Davis researchers in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, consumption of sweetened beverages has been linked to increased risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Participants between the age of 18 to 40 were assigned to three beverage groups and instructed to drink three servings of a sweetened beverage for 16 days. In order to control the study, participants lived in the research center for the first and last 3.5 days of the study and ate a uniform diet on those days. Each group’s beverages were sweetened with a different sweetener: one with sucrose, another with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and a third with aspartame. Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that is 200 times sweeter than sucrose. 

“Throughout the two-week span, liver fat and insulin sensitivity significantly changed within the two groups that were consuming the sucrose- and HFCS-sweetened beverages,” Dr. Kimber Stanhope, a co-author of the study and a researcher and nutritional biologist at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, said. 

Stanhope explained that their lab has been studying sugar and its effects on the body for many years. She said that she has found that usually, people only associate the negative effects of sweetened beverages with the consumption of aspartame-sweetened beverages; however, sucrose- or HFCS-sweetened beverages can also have negative effects. 

The study found that consumption of any of the sweetened beverages significantly increased liver fat and decreased insulin sensitivity in participants. These results indicate that young, healthy adults can be at an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease after consuming sugary drinks for just fourteen days.

“Our findings offer an important insight into how acute exposure to added sugars in the diet can put one at risk for severe chronic diseases,” Dr. Desiree Sigala, another researcher and a postdoctoral scholar in nutritional biology at UC Davis, said.

Sigala said that her interest in nutrition and human health was inspired by witnessing diet-related health disparities growing up in a predominantly Hispanic community in Central California. Following these results, Sigala said that she and her team are continuing to look at chronic disease risk factors associated with added-sugar consumption, investigating consumption over a longer period of time and in a more controlled situation where a carefully-formulated diet is provided. 

The researchers hope that these findings can have a positive impact on public health policy and create formative changes in the food environment — particularly in low-income and Black and Brown communities where access to affordable nutritious food has historically been limited and chronic disease prevalence has been disproportionately heightened.


Written by: Monica Manmadkar — science@theaggie.org