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Reuters Health Information (2006-10-31): High fructose intake may be hepatotoxic, animal studies indicate


High fructose intake may be hepatotoxic, animal studies indicate

Last Updated: 2006-10-31 13:24:13 -0400 (Reuters Health)

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The suspicion that sugary soft drinks are involved in the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is strengthened by results of animal experiments reported at the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) annual meeting in Boston.

Dr. Ina Bergheim, from the University of Hohenheim in Germany, and associates, tested the effect of sugar-sweetened water on hepatic steatosis in mice. The animals had free acces to water containing 30% glucose, 30% fructose, or 30% sucrose. A control group was given a solution containing an artificial sweetener.

Animals fed the sugared drinks ate less chow, but they had higher overall calorie intake and weight gain. Examination of the animals' livers showed that hepatic lipid accumulation was significantly higher in the sugared water group, especially for fructose, and their serum levels of liver enzymes were elevated.

The investigators also observed that indicators of lipid peroxidation, including mRNA levels of tumor necrosis factor alpha and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1, were significantly higher in the fructose group.

"These data support the hypothesis that high fructose consumption may not only confer pathologic effects on the liver through over-feeding, but may be directly hepatotoxic by inducing increased oxidative stress," Dr. Bergheim's group concludes in their meeting abstract.

Dr. Adrian Di Bisceglie, chair of the public policy committee for AASLD and professor of internal medicine at St. Louis University, noted that the epidemic of obesity has been partly to blame for the increasing prevalence liver disease in the US.

He pointed out that consumption of high fructose corn syrup, in foods such as soft drinks, has sky-rocketed over the last decade. "This study suggests that liver disease is not just a consequence of obesity or fat consumption," but that refined sugar is also a culprit.

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