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High-Fructose Corn Syrup Can Make You Both Fat and Stupid

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The laughable habit of ordering a huge fast-food meal and washing it down with a diet soda might actually be smarter than it sounds, if the results of a new study published Tuesday are any indication.

The nutrition industry's favorite bogeyman, high-fructose corn syrup, took yet another massive hit when a UCLA study in the Journal of Physiology showed the ubiquitous additive makes lab rats less clever.

The study addressed the interaction of omega-3 fatty acids and high fructose intake. It found that rats fed a diet deficient in omega-3s had difficulty navigating a maze they'd already been trained to find their way through, and that a steady diet of HFCS as their drinking water only made their difficulties worse. On the other hand, the rats fed both HFCS and omega-3s did better all around than did the sugar-only group.

The researchers were less surprised to find that HFCS also gave the rats metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance, often precursors to diabetes, obesity, or both.

The study results were limited to the effects of HFCS, not sugar derived from beets or cane or fructose from fruit.

"Our findings illustrate that what you eat affects how you think," UCLA professor Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, one of the co-authors of the study, said in a press release. "Eating a high-fructose diet over the long term alters your brain's ability to learn and remember information. But adding omega-3 fatty acids to your meals can help minimize the damage."

This is foul news, not only for the legions of people who insist on drinking regular Coke (KO) and Pepsi (PEP), but for the Corn Refiners Association. The six-member group, which includes Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Tate & Lyle Americas (TATYY.PK), has been fighting a losing battle trying to rehab HFCS' image. Despite any real evidence to support the idea, it's now a given that sugar is somehow better for you than HFCS.

Seeing the writing on the wall, ConAgra (CAG), Starbucks (SBUX), and Kraft (KFT) have removed the offending ingredient from some or all of their products, the Wall Street Journal notes. That list of sinking ship deserters is only likely to get longer as more studies are undertaken.

The corn refiners have even tried to lobby the Food and Drug Administration to change the blackened name of its product from "high-fructose corn syrup" to "corn sugar," an effort unlikely to bear fruit anytime soon.
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