Sunday, October 17, 2010

High-Fructose Corn Syrup is Sweet Poison, Honey Is Yummy -- Against "Pulling a Campbell"

I'm sure you've seen the commercials.  A spiffy salesman walks on screen, smiles, and says "Hi, I'm from the Corn Refiners Association, and I'm here to sell you the new American Dream.  You can have all the degenerative diseases of modern civilization in a package deal so cheap it's practically free.  All you have to pay for is the plastic bottle and the health care bill."

Well, they don't go quite like that.




The Corn Refiners don't allow embedding, so here's a link to one.

"Like any parent, I have questions about the food my daughter eats, things like high-fructose corn syrup.  So I started looking for answers from medical and nutrition experts.  What I discovered is that, whether it's corn sugar or cane sugar, your body can't tell the difference.  Sugar is sugar.  And knowing that makes me feel better about what she eats.  And that's one less thing to worry about."

"See sweety, now I have two ways to make sure you're part of the epidemic of childhood obesity and fatty liver disease, just like all your friends."

Research supports the Corn Refiners Association's claims on this one.  Although a recent study claimed that high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) causes obesity while sucrose does not, this study was thoroughly unconvincing.  Over 8 weeks, rats with 24-hour access to control chow, sucrose, or HFCS had no difference in body weight.  Rats with 12-hour access to HFCS had increased body weight, and rats with 12-hour access to sucrose did not.  They didn't restrict any of the control rats to 12-hour access. 

Their main finding was that over seven months, female rats with 24-hour access to HFCS had increased abdominal and uteral fat and increased blood levels of triglycerides, but rats with 12-hour access to sucrose or HFCS did not.  None of the rats had 24-hour access to sucrose!  And none of the male rats were fed sucrose.  Give me a break.  Control your variables, please.  There was zero, zip, zilch difference between 12-hour access to HFCS and 12-hour access to sucrose. 

Three points for the Corn Refiner's Association.  HFCS and refined sucrose thus far appear to be equivalent. 

As David Gillespie, author of the book "Sweet Poison," says, "HFCS makers have cleverly hit back with research that shows that HFCS is no worse for you than sugar, and in my humble opinion that's rather like saying that running someone over with a red truck is no worse than running them over with a blue truck."

Uh, three points for David Gillespie, and the Corn Refiners' Association is disqualified for running us all over with trucks.  Gillespie can take the penalty shots.

Here's his web site, and here's his interview with Jimmy More.

And here's another cute HFCS commercial.

"It has the same calories as sugar, hunnie, and it's fine in moderation."

Aww, sweet.  Poison.  Wrong kind of sweet.

Speaking of honey, however, research suggests that the fructose in honey doesn't behave anything like the fructose in refined sweeteners.  Isn't that a sweet surprise! 

Many of us may be tempted to look at the research on fructose and sucrose and condemn honey because it contains fructose or condemn fruit because it contains both sugars.  This is a bit like condemning milk and meat because casein promotes cancer growth in certain situations.  Very bad idea.  Let's take a look at some of the data from this study.

They fed weanling rats for two weeks on diets that were 65% (by weight of dry matter) starch, honey, or purified glucose and fructose purchased from Sigma.  They provided glucose and fructose at the same ratio at which they occur in honey.

Purified fructose increased triglyceride levels, as expected.  Honey seemed to increase triglyceride levels, but the increase was not statistically significant.  This means it wasn't large enough to be sure it wasn't a result of random variation.  It is possible that with a larger number of rats, honey would show a significant increase, but it is possible that if the experiment were repeated again, it would not show a difference at all. If honey fructose does raise triglyceride levels, it clearly does not raise them as much as purified fructose does.

The difference in other more important outcomes was even more striking.  Purified fructose, but not honey fructose, decreased blood levels of vitamin E.  This suggests that it promoted oxidative stress.

Purified fructose, but not honey, seemed to promote inflammation.  The following graph shows a marker of nitric oxide.  Nitric oxide is very important to blood vessel function in small amounts, but large increases are usually a sign that immune cells have been activated to create an inflammatory state. 


Whoa, big increase with the purified fructose!  None with the honey.  Honey fructose just doesn't seem to promote inflammation the way purified fructose does.

After all this they took some heart tissue and mixed it with iron sulfate and vitamin C.  The combination of high doses of iron and vitamin C can create oxidative stress.  This test shows how susceptible the heart tissue would be to suffering damage in the face of oxidative stress.

Once again, purified fructose poses harm while honey fructose does not.

Oxidative stress is basically the process of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) breaking apart like shattering glass, leaving behind shards that can then damage proteins, DNA and other molecules critical to cellular structure and function.  For a basic beginner's introduction to this concept, see my new article "Precious Yet Perilous -- Understanding the Essential Fatty Acids."  If you're sick of reading for the rest of the night, kudos for making it this far.  I give a similar introduction to oxidative stress in my interview with Jimmy Moore.  No reading required.

Understanding exactly why honey fructose doesn't have the same perilous effects as purified fructose will be awfully difficult.  Honey contains at least 180 different substances.  Some of these are antioxidants, and others affect the intestinal flora in ways that alter systemic lipid metabolism.  In future posts, I'll try to unravel this mystery.

For now, we should all consider it incredibly clear that we cannot attribute the effects of isolated fructose to the fructose in honey and fruit. 

I suggest we call this type of logic "Pulling a Campbell."  We perform a reductionist study and form a "holistic" conclusion.  God forbid we insist on performing a holistic study in order to form a holistic conclusion -- that would be far too "reductionist."

On the other hand, since honey is a plant food we would never catch Dr. Campbell making this particular logical error (unless, of course, he subscribes to the animal rights-oriented vegan view that honey exploits bees and is therefore an animal food).  Many others, however, would certainly make the error, and we might be able to call it "pulling a paleo."  Nevertheless, Dr. Campbell is a phenomenal researcher, and has spread this type of reasoning to the far corners of the earth with his phenomenally best-selling The China Study.  Call the logical error whatever you'd like; I'll let you decide. 

But let's stick to science and study honey and fruit if we want to make conclusions about honey and fruit.

49 comments:

  1. Thanks for the informative article. I was wondering about honey. We have been decreasing our sugar intake (already cut out most HFCS) and I was concerned about the affects of honey on the body.
    Jana

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  2. Thanks Chris! Honey is quite fascinating. I'm a big fan of raw honey, personally.

    I take it that there is more to come on honey? I can't wait to hear more.

    I've heard that some studies have shown that honey (not sure if it was raw honey specifically) can have a beneficial effect on insulin sensitivity. Do you suppose you could track down such a study and take a look?

    Once again, thanks.

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  3. Hi Jana,

    You're welcome. I wouldn't take this study to indicate that it's just fine to consume 65% of one's diet as honey, but I do think that it suggests that honey should be grouped with "healthy carbohydrates" and not "sugar." The distinction between "refined carbohydrates" and "whole food carbohydrates" is probably more important than the distinction between "complex carbohydrates" and "simple sugars." Still, many people probably need to decrease their carbohydrate intake.

    Hi Nathaniel,

    Raw honey is pretty awesome. There will be lots more to come on fructose, including posts on honey and fruit, but I'm really slammed with other stuff right now, especially in the next couple weeks. Luckily, much of my work right now involves researching this stuff, so as I uncover it I'll post about it. You're welcome!

    Chris

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  4. This is a really great piece, Chris.

    On this, though, you raised my eyebrows: "On the other hand, since honey is a plant food we would never catch Dr. Campbell making this particular logical error."

    Actually, I'm quite sure that many vegans don't eat honey, because it's an animal product. Sure, it's plant nectar, but it requires the exploitation of bees. (I'm not kidding. See this article: http://www.vegetus.org/honey/honey.htm)

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  5. And then, there's this. The illustrious "vegsource": http://www.vegsource.com/jo/qa/qahoney.htm

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  6. Thanks for the mention Chris! - I'm really enjoying the blog - even when you don't mention me ;-)

    Re Honey (or should we be calling it 'Bee Sugar'? - to keep up with current naming trends) ... here's a more recent (human) study with less exciting results (for honey fans) ... http://www.liebertonline.com/doi/abs/10.1089/jmf.2008.0188

    Cheers
    David.

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  7. I don't know if honey could be classified as "helthy carb" instead of "sugar".

    From "Role of sugars in human neutrophilic phagocytosis" (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4748178), after 12h fast, 100g of carbs from glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey and orange juice, decreased phagocytosis activity by about 50%, in humans. Starch, on the other side, reduced phagocytosis very little.

    What do you think?

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  8. Thanks Chris! I've been waiting for someone knowledgable to critique honey in the diet!

    I don’t think that honey is the boogie man that some in the Paleo community make it out to be. Using it wisely (and sparingly) should not be a problem. I always use it in conjunction with LOTS of saturated fat (a cheesecake or homemade full cream ice cream for example). This helps to dilute the concentration of sugars hitting the bloodstream. Main-lining it by pouring it on pancakes and gobbing it into beverages is probably not wise on a regular basis.

    Here are two very intresting articles from Pub-Med regarding honey. Anybody currently condemming honey should check these out!

    Effects of daily consumption of honey solution on hematological indices and blood levels of minerals and enzymes in normal individuals.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12935325?itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum&ordinalpos=9

    Natural honey lowers plasma glucose, C-reactive protein, homocysteine, and blood lipids in healthy, diabetic, and hyperlipidemic subjects: comparison with dextrose and sucrose.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15117561?itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum&ordinalpos

    I look forward to reading more on the subject Chris! Keep up the great work!

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  9. You aren't suggesting that a substance consumed in its normal synergistic setting of a whole food might somehow behave differently or affect us in a different manner than its purified isolated counterpart, are you?

    Naw, didn't think so. :-)

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  10. Some hunter/gatherer populations did consume honey in large quantities seasonally (without known ill effect). And our modern studies may show that honey doesn't specifically damage us. However, I am very concerned that we are all now nutrient deficient. On nutritiondata, the best that 279g of honey can do is give you 14% of your manganese. So eating honey instead of any other whole food will lead to a lower nutrient intake, putting one at increased risk for long-term health problems.

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  11. Hi Monica,

    Thanks for your comments. I am aware that vegans consider honey and animal food, although to my knowledge Campbell has never openly subscribed to that view and his objection to animal foods seems to be largely dependent on their content of animal protein, so I would think that his paradigm would be more likely to see honey as a plant food. Nevertheless, I'll try to modify the sentence to add a little clarification.

    Thanks!
    Chris

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  12. Hi David,

    You're quite welcome! My pleasure. :) Thanks for coming over to my blog. I do hope to read your book soon, although I'll likely continue to be very book-deficient until I graduate in May, give or take.

    That study seems less exciting all around because it didn't find anything. In women, but not in men, LDL-cholesterol rose in response to sugar but not in response to honey. This is a point for the honey team if it's a point for anyone, but the difference looks more like regression to the mean than an effect of sugar. This study seems to suggest that two weeks of sugar or honey have no effect on anything important, although who knows what they were eating less of instead. Thanks for passing it along!

    Chris

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  13. Hi Mario,

    Interesting study. It's unfortunate that their methods are not reported in very much detail. I'd like to know what type of starch they used, and whether they fed honey or honey-derived/honey-like carbohydrate is ambiguous, although I assume they fed honey.

    This does not contradict the concept that the unique effects of fructose are unique to purified fructose and are not properties of honey fructose, which was the main point of my post, but it does contradict my statement a few comments ago that the refined/whole carbohydrate distinction is more meaningful than the complex/simple carbohydrate distinction. That said, I wouldn't ever recommend someone eat 7 tablespoons of honey at once. I doubt these effects would have occurred in response to a mixed meal in a healthy person.

    Thanks for passing it along!
    Chris

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  14. Hey Jenny,

    Thanks for your commensts, compliments, and studies! I'll try to look at them soon!

    Michael,

    Psh, oh no I did-nt. I would never.

    Greg,

    I agree, it's very important to look at the nutrient-density of the diet as a whole. Thanks for commenting.

    Chris

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  15. Thanks for the article, Chris. Looking forward to further explanation of fructose. I know Dr. Mercola is painting all fructose as pretty much dangerous.

    I just finished reading an interesting article on insulin that goes into "cognitive miserliness" or why intelligent people think irrationally. http://weightology.net/weightologyweekly/?page_id=724.

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  16. Hi Chris,
    I'm a big fan of your website, but haven't posted before because I've always largely agreed with you. But on this I have to say I disagree... it's an interesting observation, but I think we'd need a lot more evidence to exonerate natural fructose. I'm a bit skeptical of the study. Rats were fed ad libitum, and in my (admittedly quick) read, I didn't see any mention of measuring total consumption of honey vs. purified glucose/fructose. It wouldn't be too surprising if the rats fed honey ate less of it. I certainly would have trouble eating anywhere close to that much honey, though my childhood sugar addict self could easily down a gigantic coke or eat piles of candy sweetened with HFCS. Honey has a particular, strong flavor to me that I like only in small quantities. If the rats did eat less honey than purified fructose, we might see the results they show: triglycerides in honey-fed rats elevated above controls, but not as much as in fructose-fed rats. In any case, I think we should be very hesitant to conclude that honey is different from other sources of fructose without a compelling mechanism to explain the difference. Biologically, it seems very likely that fructose itself causes many of the changes associated with metabolic syndrome: the chemical processing of fructose explains in detail how and why people who eat sugar get fat and develop high triglycerides and high blood pressure, among other things. The theory isn't based merely on an observed association between consumption of refined sugars and metabolic syndrome; it's a well developed theory that implicates fructose as the key component in sugars. You bring up an interesting idea that other chemicals in honey might have a protective effect, preventing the damage from fructose. It's possible, but to me it seems unlikely. It would be very surprising if honey happened to contain just the right substance to prevent people from getting sick by eating sugar. After all, bees don't make honey as food for people; why should they put in medicine along with the poison? I'm always very skeptical of hypothesized "protective" elements in food. It's been done too many times before to explain away inconvenient observations: a classic example is the nonsense about red wine protecting the French from their "dangerous" high fat diet. At the least, if we're going to hypothesize that there is a protective element in a food, I think we should have a compelling case for it. A potential protective element in honey might be fructooligosaccharides. One article claims that they reverse the negative effects of fructose in rats: http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/abstract/133/6/1903?maxtoshow=&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&minscore=5000&resourcetype=HWCIT
    This would seem to be just that surprising protective substance, but I'm still skeptical. I haven't read the study, and I don't trust any study without reading it. Were those rates also fed ad libitum? Was fructose the same percentage in both diets? And there's still no mechanism to explain how FOS could reverse the effects of fructose. It's nice to think that natural foods are intrinsically better for you, but we have a very compelling theory: eating fructose causes production of triglycerides, uric acid, and AGE, causing metabolic syndrome (perhaps especially when fructose is combined with glucose). If this theory is right, it would be an amazing miracle if another component of certain foods could prevent all of these detrimental changes, and I won't believe in miracles without lots of compelling studies and, ideally, a compelling explanation of how it works. Anyway, I'm very curious to see what you'll come up with on this...
    Jeremy

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  17. Jeremy,

    That is a good and important point about food intake. Food intake would probably have been hard to accurately measure because the honey diet would be stickier and there would be less spillage in the cages. Body weight was slightly higher in the honey group, but not significantly so, and the same is true of plasma fructose, so it seems unlikely they ate much less. Nevertheless I emailed the corresponding author to ask, hopefully, since it is old, the email won't bounce. If I hear back I'll let you know.

    I agree that this is related to fructose metabolism. However, most of the issues with fructose metabolism are a result of fructose hitting the liver very rapidly in large quantity and glucose being distributed through the body more evenly. I agree that fructose has better potential for AGE formation in the liver. However, intestinal metabolism of fructose could affect how quickly it hits the liver, and antioxidants (and anti-glycation agents) will protect against AGE formation. These are certainly plausible mechanisms. Of course they deserve our skepticism and study.

    My conclusion was "But let's stick to science and study honey and fruit if we want to make conclusions about honey and fruit." Certainly you agree with this?

    Thanks for writing,
    Chris

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  18. Yes, that does seem very sensible! However, I think there's an interesting question here: to what extent should a study's results generalize? On the one hand, we don't want to overgeneralize, like Campbell with casein -> all animal protein. But on the other hand we don't want to refuse all general claims because the specific instances haven't been demonstrated. For example, we wouldn't want to have to test each individual kind of fruit because studies on apples don't prove results for mangoes. Or, in a more realistic example, assuming we think fructose is harmful, should we be required to do studies on agave nectar, which is 90+% fructose? It might be different if it comes from agave nectar -- it might be worth studying. But should we refrain from drawing any conclusions until we've formally tested it? Probably not. I don't think those who recommend avoiding honey and fruit because of the fructose content are being unscientific in the same way as Campbell. Campbell studied casein and concluded that all animal protein is bad. Researchers on fructose studied fructose and concluded that fructose is bad. That's not really "pulling a Campbell" in my view (great new expression, by the way!). It's legitimate to assume that if fructose contributes to metabolic syndrome, it does so regardless of the source in the diet. It might not be true -- but the burden of proof falls on those who wish to show that the source of the fructose matters (or that other components of whole food mitigate the effects). Researchers need to be cautious to avoid two equally problematic tendencies: oversimplification and overcomplication. There is plenty of both out there. There are lots of people who oversimplify: the classic "a calorie is a calorie" or the anti-cholesterol campaign are great examples of trying to make things less complicated than they really are. But there are plenty of people who do just the opposite: for example, a common trend today seems to be assuming that just about every chemical in every plant is important to human health. It's a fine line to walk, trying to make everything as simple as possible - and no simpler.

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  19. Jeremy,

    You've raised good questions. The ability to generalize is always a matter of the continuous variable of confidence in the generalization rather than a categorical dichotomous variable of "legitimate" and "illegitimate."

    However, I think there are a few useful criteria. If you have not shown any generalizations to be true, no generalizations at all should be made. If you have made some generalizations, you have a measuring stick you can use to test your ability to generalize. If you showed something was true using isolated fructose, strawberries, mangoes, and pears, then I would think we could generalize to other fruits with high confidence. The more fruits that are tested, the more our confidence asymptotically approaches 100%. If, on the other hand, you found that it was true of some fruits and not others, then you have very little legitimate confidence in generalizing until you've discovered the mitigating or enabling factors present in some fruits and not others. If you find that it is true of isolated fructose and not of any of the fruit you've tested, then you have to treat the generalization with extreme skepticism and consider it likely to be only true of isolated fructose until you've discovered other situations to which the effect *can* be generalized.

    I absolutely do think it is unscientific to generalize from isolated fructose to honey and fruit with no evidence favoring this generalization. I don't think it is unscientific, however, to choose to abstain from these foods due to the uncertainty. It certainly is not unscientific to express concern that the effect *might* be generalizable. However, it is very unscientific to make the generalization as if the evidence supported the generalization.

    "Pulling a Campbell"? Depends on the level of detail. Campbell substantially distorted his work in his book. With respect to proper generalizations, his work implicated the total level of protein in the diet. Generalizing from protein within the context of a purified diet to protein in foods is extremely unscientific, and generalizing in the same way with fructose qualifies as "pulling a Campbell" in my opinion.

    There are some studies feeding humans honey and fruit so hopefully I'll be able to elucidate the generalizability factor in future posts.

    Thanks for your comments!

    Chris

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  20. Hi Chris,

    What ratio of Fructose/Glucose is honey? I would have liked the study to include plain old table sugar, as this is the way most people consume too much fructose. Should we be worried about table sugar or only if it is above a certain intake? I've been following David Gillespie's recommendations to minimize table sugar, and to substitute powdered glucose for table sugar where a sweetner is necessary.

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  21. Hi Chris,

    Nice article.

    If all rats roughly ate the same amount of calories (that's a big if), this is what I take from the study:

    1) Fructose in isolation is harmful for rats: it's pro-oxidant and inflammatory.
    2) Fructose in the context of honey is significantly less harmful for rats. This suggests that honey contains substances that blunt the action of fructose. So far, honey is looking pretty good.
    3) Honey is a bit worse than the control: 37% more triglycerides and 15% more NOx, the latter suggesting slightly more inflammation. But the control is refined wheat starch(!), i.e., empty carbohydrates and no protective substances. Now, honey isn't looking that good anymore.
    4) The antioxidants in honey seem to fail at lowering oxidation in rats, as the vitamin E and TBARS values are similar for the honey and control groups. This would suggest that antioxidants in honey are just sufficient to counteract the fructose, leaving no more honey antioxidants for the rat's benefit.

    The last point is very similar to findings in human intervention studies discussed by Peter Dobromylskyj at Hyperlipid. In these studies fruit failed at lowering LDL oxidation in humans, despite the high antioxidant content.

    This makes sense: fructose is pro-oxidant, which would cause fruit or honey to spoil faster. The antioxidants contained in fruit and honey are there solely to slow down fruit's and honey's own spoilage due to fructose. A protection for self preservation, so to speak.
    The question is: can it protect the human body equally well, after the fruit or honey is digested and absorbed in the body? My guess is that the protection would be less efficient due to the different context.


    John

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  22. Chris,

    I don't have much to comment on this, but I really enjoyed this post. I'll look forward to future posts about honey as well, since it sounds like you have still more to say about the subject.

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  23. Melvin Page, a contemporary of Weston Price, found that optimal blood markers for bone health were fasting glucose of 83 and a calcium:phosphorus ratio of 10:4.

    The reason that sucrose affects dental and bone health is that is messes up your Ca:P ratios for over 24 hours.

    Page measured the effect of sucrose vs honey on Ca:P ratios and found that sucrose distorted them much more than honey did, that honey by this metric is much better for your teeth and bones than sucrose.

    His best book is Degeneration Regeneration, available from the Price-Pottinger foundation, but his book on Amazon is good: Your Body is Your Best Doctor!: Formerly, Health Versus Disease. Fascinating stuff.

    Another good book is The Sugar Fix, by Dr Johnson: he talks about the effect of fructose on uric acid levels, and the importance of limiting daily fructose intake to no more than 35g, ideally less than 25.

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  24. Hi Carroll,

    The fructose-to-glucose ratio of honey used in the study I cited was 1.24 and it was similar in the studies Mario and David posted links to.

    It would have been interesting to use sucrose, although a little more complicated to get the diet to be the same ratio as honey. It shouldn't have made too much difference because sucrose is readily digested to glucose and fructose before it enters circulation.

    I think powdered glucose is likely to be much safer than refined sucrose. The interesting puzzle to solve will be whether refined glucose or unrefined natural sweeteners win out.

    Chris

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  25. Elliot,

    Thanks for your comments, and thanks for the article. I will try to read it when I get a chance.

    Chris

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  26. Hi John,

    Thanks for writing. You make several interesting speculations that are worth discussing and pursuing in further research, although I think to consider them more than that would be to read too much into that data.

    Honey may have raised triglycerides, or it may not have. A larger study with more rats would give us a better idea. The increase in NOx is very small and not statistically significant, so I do not think we can have any confidence that it actually is increased by honey. That said, if it is, it certainly isn't evidence of increased inflammation. Like I said in the article, nitric oxide is produced both for beneficial purposes in small amounts by endothelial cells and in large amounts by activated immune cells. A small increase could easily indicate a beneficial increase in vascular function. It is important to remember that the TBARS value was derived after exposing the isolated tissues to strong oxidants. Honey antioxidants may have lowered in vivo oxidative stress without lowering oxidative damage in this ex vivo model, and it is also possible that vulnerability just isn't high enough on the control diet to show an effect. I think it is an open question that would have to be studied from a variety of other angles before we can conclude anything.

    The food intake remains an "if," even though the indirect indicators (body weight and plasma fructose) do not suggest decreased food intake in the honey group. That said, if honey contains factors that reduce food intake and this translates across species, this is not a confounder but an additional beneficial property of honey.

    Could you post the link to the specific blog post from Hyperlipid you are referring to?

    Thanks,
    Chris

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  27. Hi Nathaniel,

    Thanks for your encouragement and continued support. I'm glad you enjoyed the post and I look forward to posting more on the topic and contributing to your continued enjoyment.

    Hi Tim,

    Thanks for your comments and book recommendations. I dicovered Richard Johnson recently from Jimmy Moore's show: http://www.thelivinlowcarbshow.com/shownotes/438/dr-richard-johnson-ep-223/ His book is on my list. I've heard of Page's work but haven't read any of his books myself and they definitely belong on my eventual list, probably post-graduation. Fructose is becoming an important part of my dissertation work so Johnson's work is probably an important pre-graduation read.

    Chris

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  28. I fixed a minor error -- I changed "Honey contains at least 290 different substances" to "...180 different substances."

    Chris

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  29. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for your reply. I agree with you that my comment was largely speculative. I got a little carried away because it seemed to fit nicely with the human studies that Peter discussed at Hyperlipid. A nice example of me demonstrating confirmation bias.

    About the link: Peter actually did a series on fruit and vegetables, so I'll just give you the links to all posts. Part 1 (re-post), part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10, part 11, part 12.

    (Continued in the post below)

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  30. For me, two studies, that Peter discusses in parts 1 and 4 of his series, stand out.
    The first one is "Changes in dietary fat intake alter plasma levels of oxidized low-density lipoprotein and lipoprotein(a)". The investigators were very surprised when their findings seemed to disprove the ideas that 1) lower saturated and total fat intake is heart healthy, and 2) fruit and vegetable antioxidants lower heart disease risk by lowering oxidized LDL.
    They put 37 women on 2 diets (crossover design) both of which were lower in saturated and total fat than their normal diets. One diet was low in fruit and vegetables, the other high. Both diets increased oxidized LDL and Lp(a). And even though the high fruit and vegetables diet successfully raised plasma antioxidant levels, it did not lower oxidized LDL significantly. Perhaps this means that, as I speculated before, the plant antioxidants were used up to 'disarm' the plant pro-oxidants, leaving little antioxidants to lower LDL oxidation.

    The other study is "Green tea extract only affects markers of oxidative status postprandially: lasting antioxidant effect of flavonoid-free diet*". This study had 16 participants. The green tea extract didn't show long term effects. However, due to the study's design, it can be considered a study on the effects of a 10 week diet without fruit and vegetables, except for potatoes and carrots. The result was a decrease in oxidative damage markers for DNA, protein and lipids.
    In the discussion section the investigators speculate that the oxidative stress reduction is partly due to the removal of fruit and vegetables. I wonder if that can be concluded from the data. Let's say that the influence of the increased beta-carotene from the carrots can be ruled out (the paper contains a reference to a a study by Van Poppel et al. that supports this idea. And so does another study by Collins et al. However, this study by Kiokias et al. doesn't).
    Then I still see a problem: there is no information in the paper about the participants' habitual diets, except that they contain some vitamin C. That makes it impossible to reliably pinpoint the cause of the oxidative stress in the habitual diets from the paper (but perhaps the investigators had more information). Therefore fruit and vegetables are just two possible suspects. Sugar and/or HFCS would be plausible others.


    John

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  31. For me, two studies, that Peter discusses in parts 1 and 4 of his series, stand out.
    The first one is "Changes in dietary fat intake alter plasma levels of oxidized low-density lipoprotein and lipoprotein(a)". The investigators were very surprised when their findings seemed to disprove the ideas that 1) lower saturated and total fat intake is heart healthy, and 2) fruit and vegetable antioxidants lower heart disease risk by lowering oxidized LDL.
    They put 37 women on 2 diets (crossover design) both of which were lower in saturated and total fat than their normal diets. One diet was low in fruit and vegetables, the other high. Both diets increased oxidized LDL and Lp(a). And even though the high fruit and vegetables diet successfully raised plasma antioxidant levels, it did not lower oxidized LDL significantly. Perhaps this means that, as I speculated before, the plant antioxidants were used up to 'disarm' the plant pro-oxidants, leaving little antioxidants to lower LDL oxidation.

    (Continued in the post below)

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  32. The other study is "Green tea extract only affects markers of oxidative status postprandially: lasting antioxidant effect of flavonoid-free diet*". This study had 16 participants. The green tea extract didn't show long term effects. However, due to the study's design, it can be considered a study on the effects of a 10 week diet without fruit and vegetables, except for potatoes and carrots. The result was a decrease in oxidative damage markers for DNA, protein and lipids.
    In the discussion section the investigators speculate that the oxidative stress reduction is partly due to the removal of fruit and vegetables. I wonder if that can be concluded from the data. Let's say that the influence of the increased beta-carotene from the carrots can be ruled out (the paper contains a reference to a a study by Van Poppel et al. that supports this idea. And so does another study by Collins et al. However, this study by Kiokias et al. doesn't).
    Then I still see a problem: there is no information in the paper about the participants' habitual diets, except that they contain some vitamin C. That makes it impossible to reliably pinpoint the cause of the oxidative stress in the habitual diets from the paper (but perhaps the investigators had more information). Therefore fruit and vegetables are just two possible suspects. Sugar and/or HFCS would be plausible others.


    John

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  33. What about Insulin secretion : Honey versus the rest? - JayCee

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  34. I have been subscribed to this newsletter for months and I never get anything. Doesn't it go to email addys? I don't do Facebook (don't get me started on why) and I don't do "feeds" of any kind either. I suppose that puts me in the museum section, huh?

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  35. Hi,

    What constitutes refined? How is High Fructose Corn Syrup, different from Fructose?

    For example, no doubt juicing fruits (fructose) and vegetables (sucrose) will spike your blood sugar higher and faster than eating it, but would this be considered "refinement" and therefore liver toxic?

    Also, there's sugar substitutes that come from fruits (luo han guo), and or plant leaves (stevia herb) that are several order of magnitude sweeter, and therefor only a fraction is needed, but would these extracts also be considered refined?

    Finally, do sugar alcohols (zero calories) compare to fructose, in terms of insulin reaction and in terms of fatty liver?

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  36. chris, wondering if you are familiar with dr. ron fessenden's book the honey revolution? here's a link to his website with articles he's written. i haven't been able to make it through the book yet but he claims that honey is processed very differently by the body than other sugars, and recommends consuming honey right before sleep for brain fuel, and right before exercise for muscle fuel.
    http://www.worldclassemprise.com/custom.aspx?id=20

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  37. I've just discovered your blog and read this post with interest as I am trying to cut sugars out from my diet and wondered about honey.

    With respect to the issue of protectiveness, I recently watched Robert Lustig's talk "Sugar: the Bitter Truth". He says that when fructose is consumed in the form of fruits (not juices) the fibre has a protective effect. Thus he concludes that getting your fructose in the form of fruit is not nearly as bad as getting it without the added fibre (and perhaps other nutrients).

    Now, I know honey doesn't contain fibre, but I'd love to know if there are any constituents that affect fructose metabolism and the overall handling of fructose, that might somewhat mitigate the harmful effects of fructose. Or at least make it a healthier choice than sugar.

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  38. Ruralaspirations,

    Thanks, I'm glad you're enjoying the blog. The study I review in this case would suggest that there are substances in honey making the fructose less harmful or perhaps not harmful. There are hundreds of substances in honey and I think it will be a long time before we understand the particular details of how they affect its metabolism.

    Of course, in animal experiments they usually normalize vitamin and mineral intakes to control for those confounding factors. In a real diet, they're really confounders. If you ate a large percentage of your calories as honey I think you'd be displacing important nutrients from other foods.

    Chris

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  39. I think Jeremy has a point about honey, even if it doesn't apply to this study,

    And it applies very much to molasses, to maple syrup to some degree, and to many of the largely-unrefined darker sugars.

    I've never believed the minerals in these make them THAT much better than refined white sugar. That would mean white sugar is just fine if you gnaw a bone with it. But... NO ONE CAN EAT MUCH OF THESE!

    Especially molasses. I always made gingerbread with real blackstrap molasses, and... you can barely sweeten it before the molasses taste overwhelms the ginger.

    Even maple syrup, my personal favorite of these... well, I CAN eat a piece of maple sugar candy. But not... one after the other like you can "normal" candy.

    Ever take a spoonful of honey to coat your throat when sick? You don't exactly want a second spoonful... it's... too much.

    Whereas... white sugar has NO flavor except sweet. You can add as much as you want to things. Then you can add more. Coffee with 2 tsp sugar doesn't taste *that* different from coffee with 1 tsp.

    IME, the other flavors in the natural sugars limit consumption in a way that white sugar just doesn't.

    I think a household of people eating sugar as much as they wanted who do not buy white sugar are going to have lower sugar consumption just cause you only want to eat so much of that stuff.

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  40. "Oxidative stress is basically the process of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) breaking apart like shattering glass, leaving behind shards that can then damage proteins, DNA and other molecules critical to cellular structure and function"

    Hi Chris,

    Not sure if this will get noticed considering the age of the post, but I wondered if you might have any opinion about these seemingly harmful effects of sugar taking place because they are in the context of a diet containing PUFA (the rats in the study were fed corn oil as their fat source)

    Would it be plausible to see much different effects if the fat source was mostly saturated?

    thanks

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  41. Hi JPatti,

    I agree with you. I would not discount the effects of beneficial substances, nor would I equate those with those from bones, but I do think there are appetite regulators in these and many other natural foods.

    Anonymous,

    Yes that would probably help, but refined sugar contributes to oxidative stress even on a very low-fat diet.

    Chris

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  42. "Yes that would probably help, but refined sugar contributes to oxidative stress even on a very low-fat diet."



    Hi Chris, thanks for the reply. Do you know if honey and fruit have this same effect?

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  43. In the context of a very low-fat diet, I should have added to the above post.

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  44. Hi Anonymous,

    The study I wrote about in this blog post suggests that honey does not promote oxidative stress in the way that refined sugar does. I suspect this is also true of fruit and will write more about that in the future.

    Chris

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  45. There is no evidence that refined sugars promote oxidative stress. Most oxdidation of cells is from Industry and Modern Medicine. There is evidence that Fructose leads to weight gain and in my experience it does. Honey and raw honey is 40% fructose.

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    Replies
    1. This post provided some evidence of that. There are other studies...

      Chris

      Delete
  46. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23181629

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  47. Fractose in syrup is associated with diabetes type 2.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23181629

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  48. chris, wondering if you are familiar with dr. ron fessenden's book the honey revolution? here's a link to his website with articles he's written. i haven't been able to make it through the book yet but he claims that honey is processed very differently by the body than other sugars, and recommends consuming honey right before sleep for brain fuel, and right before exercise for muscle fuel.
    obat infeksi saluran kemih pada wanita dan pria

    ReplyDelete

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