Weight Gain May Be Influenced By Fructose Consumption

SC CTSI K scholar Kathleen Page shows that glucose drinks suppress brain activity that regulates appetite.

January 13, 2013

Note: USC researcher Kathleen Page, MD, is an SC CTSI KL2 Alumnae. As part of the program, she recieved support and acquired skills needed to secure a subsequent K23 Career Training Award to continue this research.

Feeling hungry after drinking something sweet? It could have something to do with the type of sugar you consumed, according to research at Yale University led by SC CTSI K Scholar Kathleen Page, principal investigator and assistant professor of medicine at the USC Keck School of Medicine.

Kathleen Page

The research determined that fructose and glucose, the two forms of simple sugars, are processed differently in the brain. The difference was apparent after study participants consumed drinks containing fructose or glucose, and is a potential explanation for why we gain weight.

“We saw that fructose did not cause feelings of fullness, whereas the participants reported an increase in feelings of fullness after the glucose drink,” said Page, who is also chair of the Maternal-Child Health section of the USC Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute.

The research was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and was conducted while Page was on faculty at Yale. Research funding was provided by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has posted a podcast of Page discussing the research.

The study used functional magnetic resonance imaging to map changes in the brains of 20 test subjects who consumed sugary drinks. The researchers found that the glucose drink suppressed activity in the hypothalamus and other brain regions that regulate appetite, motivation and reward processing, while the fructose drink did not. The different responses to fructose were associated with reduced levels of the hormone insulin, which sends signals to the brain that a person has had enough to eat.

Fructose, found with glucose in many fruits and vegetables, as well as table sugar, is an ingredient in high-fructose corn syrup, a popular sweetener. High-fructose corn syrup is found in certain soft drinks and processed foods, and consumption of the sweetener has been on the rise over the past few decades. Rates of obesity have increased in parallel, the researchers noted.

In continuing research, Page’s team is studying whether obese people have exaggerated brain reward and hunger responses to fructose and whether different ethnic groups respond differently to fructose and glucose.

The original article was published on the Keck School of Medicine website

Learn more about the SC CTSI KL2 Scholar program

NIH Funding Acknowledgment: Important - All publications resulting from the utilization of SC CTSI resources are required to credit the SC CTSI grant by including the NIH funding acknowledgment and must comply with the NIH Public Access Policy.