Epidemiological research has consistently shown that drinking sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) links to increased energy consumption, and people do not compensate for the extra calories from SSB by eating less food, resulting in an increase in total caloric intake.1 It is thus believed that SSB is a major contributor to obesity and related health problems such as diabetes and metabolic syndrome.2 Now, a new experimental study demonstrated that, aside from increased calories, the type of sugar in SSB has differential effects on glucose and lipid metabolism and vascular function.3 Hint: fructose is worse.

In this study, led by researchers from the School of Pharmacy and Food Sciences at University of Barcelona (Spain), female rats were given either 20% weight/volume liquid fructose or liquid glucose in addition to their normal solid food for 2 months. (The ingestion period in rats roughly corresponded to 6 years of consumption in humans.4) Animals in the control group received plain water and their normal solid food. They found that:

  • Caloric intake was increased in both groups, but only the fructose group exhibited a significant increase in total body weight and liver weight
  • Synthesis of fatty acids in liver (hepatic lipogenesis) was induced in both groups, but plasma triglycerides were increased only in the fructose group
  • Insulin signaling in liver and aorta was impaired in both groups, but the effect was more pronounced in the fructose group
  • Additional findings suggested the fructose group had more adverse vascular functions.

The study results were published in the February, 2017, issue of the American Journal of Physiology—Heart and Circulatory Physiology.

Why is this clinically important?

The main sugar compound used by the beverage industries in the U.S. is high-fructose corn syrup and the largest source of fructose in the typical American diet is SSB.5

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data (NHANES 2009-2010), 50.6% of U.S. adults consumed at least 1 SSB (i.e., regular soda, fruit drinks, sweet tea, and sports or energy drinks) on a given day.6

A large-scale meta-analysis has found that individuals with high SSB intake (most often 1-2 servings/day) had respectively 26% and 20% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome than those who drank none or less than 1 serving/month.7

Click here to read the abstract


  1. Vartanian, LR, et al., Effects of soft drink consumption on nutrition and health: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Public Health, 2007. 97(4): p. 667-75.
  2. Schulze, MB, et al., Sugar-sweetened beverages, weight gain, and incidence of type 2 diabetes in young and middle-aged women. JAMA, 2004. 292(8): p. 927-34.
  3. Sanguesa, G, et al., Type of supplemented simple sugar, not merely calorie intake, determines adverse effects on metabolism and aortic function in female rats. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol, 2017. 312(2): p. H289-H304.
  4. Sengupta, P, The Laboratory Rat: Relating Its Age With Human’s. Int J Prev Med, 2013. 4(6): p. 624-30.
  5. Vos, MB, et al., Dietary fructose consumption among US children and adults: the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Medscape J Med, 2008. 10(7): p. 160.
  6. Kit, BK, et al., Trends in sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among youth and adults in the United States: 1999-2010. Am J Clin Nutr, 2013. 98(1): p. 180-8.
  7. Malik, VS, et al., Sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis. Diabetes Care, 2010. 33(11): p. 2477-83.

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