A new study makes light of new findings on the excess conversion of sugar to fat and how that can lead overtime to metabolic syndrome and its associated conditions.
Developing symptoms of the metabolic syndromen, like the accumulation of fat around the waist, can up risks for otherwise preventable conditions like type 2 diabetes.
Here, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) have partnered up to study fat-related precursor signs of metabolic syndrome and how that affects risks for a lot of other things, like a fatty liver.
They published their discoveries this month in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. The researchers studied a specific pathway transforming excess sugar in the diet into fat called De Novo Lipogenesis (DNL).
DNL has been extensively researched in mice and epidemiologic studies, but there were concerns that not all findings would apply to humans due to a difference in physiology.
Since then, researchers have started to measure DNL in humans and have demonstrated that high-sugar diets and hepatic DNL can increase risks for elevated blood lipid levels, heart disease, NAFLD, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes.
More interestingly perhaps, it was found that simply removing the causative agent, here sugar from the diets of obese children, for only nine days consistently reduced DNL and liver fat and also improved glucose and lipid metabolism.
The first conclusion reached by the researchers is that health organisations worldwide need to define clearly what acceptable levels of sugar are. Sucrose, in particular, can increase both DNL and liver fat after a while.
Currently, “evidence-based” recommendations are to limit sucrose to no more than five or ten percent of daily calories, but we also now know that fructose, which is metabolised more rapidly than glucose (18.9 times faster), plays a role in DNL too.
They discuss eye-opening statistics, that eliminating 3 risk factors – poor diet, inactivity, and smoking – would prevent 80% of heart disease and stroke cases, 80% of type 2 diabetes mellitus cases, and 40% of cancer cases.
They blamen, in part, recommendations in vigour in the 1960s and 1970s, notably by the American Heart Associatio, in dietary fat, particularly saturated fat.
This recommendatio, according to the researchers has contributed to an increase in sugar consumptio, including both sucrose (table sugar, which consists of 50% glucose and 50% fructose) and manufactured high-fructose corn syrup.
There are some meta-analyses reviewed by the team to suggest as well that without excess calories, sugar consumption does not necessarily lead to metabolic abnormalities. DNL is statistically significant with five days of high-carb feeding (65%-70% of calories) and five days of overfeeding with carb or fructose in excess.
DNL is not detectable during caloric restriction but increases progressively to 20% in the fasting state and 30% to 35% in the fed state after 5 days of carb overfeeding.
Overall, there is evidence that both hyperinsulinemia and a diet rich in simple sugars, by promoting DNL, contribute to hypertriglyceridemia and liver fat accumulation and, ultimately, to metabolic syndrome.

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