Fructose messing with the Gene Pool

By January 17, 2009Uncategorized

ABC’s Steve Austin was kind enough to invite me for a chat on his show this morning. As is usually the case with Steve, he was bristling with the latest news in the world of sugar research. He asked me about a story doing the rounds on the wire last night.

The story suggests that “Human genes remember a sugar hit for two weeks, with prolonged poor eating habits capable of permanently altering DNA”. Being a less that trusting soul especially when it comes to newswire reporting of science ‘breakthroughs’, Steve asked me to dig a little further.
You won’t be surprised to find that the actual study was quite a bit less sensational than the newswire would suggest. But it is I think an important step forward in understanding exactly how bad fructose is for us.
Researchers have known for a little while now that you become more prone to heart disease if the arterial walls become inflamed. They have also known that there are many sources of the inflammation including cholesterol, other fatty acids and blood sugar levels.
This study proves that (in mice at least), the inflammation has a genetic component which permits the inflammation to continue well beyond the hour or two that blood sugar is elevated. In fact, in healthy mice, the inflammation continued for 6 days on average.
Ok but that appears to be just standard operating procedure for the mouse (and presumably human) body. These mice were not diabetic or suffering from heart disease and they were being fed normal diets. The authors noted that they could get the inflamed state to continue by continuing to induce blood sugar spikes.  
Whether this amounts to a genetic change that could be transferred from human generation to human generation is the kind of rampant speculation that only a newswire journalist could sanction based on the (lack of) evidence.
The interesting bit (yes there is one in amongst all this science) comes when you combine these results with earlier studies which showed that sustained high levels of leptin stop the body fixing the inflammation caused by the sugar spike.
And as any reader of Sweet Poison will tell you (you will won’t you?), one of the consequences of eating fructose is that your body overproduces massive quantities of leptin.
So there we have it. We know that fructose messes with your hormones and makes you fat. Study after study has also observed that it is likely to give you heart disease. This latest study may give some real insight into exactly how that happens. 
If further research bears out the journalists’ theories (about passing from generation to generation) it may also mean that (fructose fed) parents may automatically produce children prone to heart disease whether they personally eat fructose or not.

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