Obesity—A Disease With Many Aetiologies Disguised in the Same Oversized Phenotype

Has the Overeating Theory Failed?

Peter Stenvinkel


Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2015;30(10):1656-1664. 

In This Article

High-fructose Corn Syrup—Should We Blame President Nixon for the Obesity Epidemic?

Given the reported disconnection between hypercalorism, insulin resistance and overweight, the effects of specific nutrients on insulin sensitivity and fat storage need more studies. Many consider sugar (or other fructose-containing compounds) as empty calories. The monosaccharide fructose is found in fruits and vegetables, sucrose and in high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). As fructose intake does not elicit an increase in glucose and insulin levels, its potential for weight gain has been regarded as low. However, the marked increase in fructose intake since the introduction of HFCS by the agricultural expert Earl Butz during the Nixon administration in the early 70s[31] has paralleled the rise in BMI in the USA.[32] Vos et al.[32] showed that 25% of US adolescents consumed ~15% of calories from fructose; the largest source of fructose was beverages (30%), grains (22%) and fruit or fruit juice (19%). There are no reasons to believe that the fructose intake is substantially lower in other parts of the industrialized world as the sugar consumption has tripled in the world during the past 50 years.[3] Whereas our ancestors had problems to find sugar (fruits at seasons and honey), the agricultural and industrial developments have made sugar cheap and abundant. In Sweden, the intake of soft drinks have increased from 22 to 90 L/year between 1960 and 2006, and it has been estimated that only 16% of the total calorie intake is provided by nutrients with health-promoting effects, such as vegetables, berries, nuts and wholegrain products.[33]