A new study suggests that fructose may alter the body's metabolism in a way that prompts it to store body fat.
Researchers say the findings may help explain the recently established link between rising soft drink popularity and obesity rates in the U.S. and other parts of the world.
"Our study shows how fat mass increases as a direct consequence of soft drink consumption," says researcher Matthias Tschöp, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati, in a news release.
Fructose is a sweetener found naturally in fruits and honey and is widely used as a sweetener in soft drinks, fruit juices, and cereal. In soft drinks, fructose is usually found in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, which contains 55 percent fructose.
Fructose: Stealth Fat Builder?
In the study, researchers compared the effects of feeding mice fructose-sweetened water, a soft drink sweetened with sucrose (table sugar), a diet soft drink, or water. The mice were allowed to drink as much as they wanted of their designated beverage.
The mice that drank the fructose-sweetened water gained significantly more body fat than the others, even though they decreased the amount of calories they ate from solid food.
"We were surprised to see that mice actually ate less when exposed to fructose-sweetened beverages, and therefore didn't consume more overall calories," says Tschöp. "Nevertheless, they gained significantly more body fat within a few weeks."