High-fructose corn syrup and sucrose have equivalent effects on energy-regulating hormones at normal human consumption levels

Nutr Res. 2013 Dec;33(12):1043-52. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2013.07.020. Epub 2013 Aug 30.


Intake of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has been suggested to contribute to the increased prevalence of obesity, whereas a number of studies and organizations have reported metabolic equivalence between HFCS and sucrose. We hypothesized that HFCS and sucrose would have similar effects on energy-regulating hormones and metabolic substrates at normal levels of human consumption and that these values would not change over a 10-week, free-living period at these consumption levels. This was a randomized, prospective, double-blind, parallel group study in which 138 adult men and women consumed 10 weeks of low-fat milk sweetened with either HFCS or sucrose at levels of the 25th, 50th, and 90th percentile population consumption of fructose (the equivalent of 40, 90, or 150 g of sugar per day in a 2000-kcal diet). Before and after the 10-week intervention, 24-hour blood samples were collected. The area under the curve (AUC) for glucose, insulin, leptin, active ghrelin, triglyceride, and uric acid was measured. There were no group differences at baseline or posttesting for all outcomes (interaction, P > .05). The AUC response of glucose, active ghrelin, and uric acid did not change between baseline and posttesting (P > .05), whereas the AUC response of insulin (P < .05), leptin (P < .001), and triglyceride (P < .01) increased over the course of the intervention when the 6 groups were averaged. We conclude that there are no differences in the metabolic effects of HFCS and sucrose when compared at low, medium, and high levels of consumption.

Keywords: AHA; AUC; Active ghrelin; Added sugar; American Heart Association; BMI; Fructose; HFCS; Insulin; Leptin; Metabolic effects; Obesity; area under the curve; body mass index; high-fructose corn syrup.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Area Under Curve
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Sucrose / pharmacology*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Fructose / pharmacology*
  • Ghrelin / blood
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Leptin / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity* / blood
  • Obesity* / etiology
  • Peptide Hormones / blood*
  • Postprandial Period
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sweetening Agents / pharmacology
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • Uric Acid / blood
  • Young Adult
  • Zea mays*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Dietary Sucrose
  • Ghrelin
  • Insulin
  • Leptin
  • Peptide Hormones
  • Sweetening Agents
  • Triglycerides
  • Uric Acid
  • Fructose