Cancer Cells Get Fat From HFCS Too

It looks like it’s not just our waistlines that are getting larger from consuming a ton of High Fructose Corn Syrup. A new study shows that pancreatic cancer cells find fructose much easier to metabolize than glucose, making it easier for the cancer cells to grow, divide and multiply.

Researchers at UCLA fed both fructose and glucose to pancreatic tumor cells to see if the cells would react similarly to the two sugars. However, their results, published in the journal Cancer Research, showed that the cancer “can readily metabolize fructose to increase proliferation.”

Write the researchers:

They have major significance for cancer patients given dietary refined fructose consumption, and indicate that efforts to reduce refined fructose intake or inhibit fructose-mediated actions may disrupt cancer growth.

Fructose Induces Transketolase Flux to Promote Pancreatic Cancer Growth [Abstract] [Cancer Research via MSNBC]

Thanks to Brian for the tip!


Edit Your Comment

  1. slim150 says:

    hfcs isn’t in diet pepsi right? i know it has aspartame blah blah. but no hfcs as i recall correct?

    • ExtraCelestial says:

      Nope, just checked. I think it would add calories.

      • qwickone says:

        Really? Equal says 0 cal on the packet. I know they can write 0 as long as it’s actually less than 5, is that what you’re talking about?

        • Conformist138 says:

          That’s probably it. They will put 0 if they legally can. HFCS in soda will add calories; aspartame is the replacement. Aspartame isn’t good for people, but short specific medical conditions, aspartame usually is easier on the average person than HFCS. If you have a sensitivity to aspartame, you’ll know when you feel sick, possibly dizzy, and in extremely rare cases, symptoms that can mimic MS. But, again, the serious effects are rare. Unlike HFCS which pretty much just rains on everyone’s day.

    • smo0 says:

      I talked about this with a co-worker of mine after I saw that video from the “white bread vs wheat bread” post….

      It’s like choosing whether or not to be boiled in acid or tar, imo.

      Soda… is… bad… the chemicals found in either diet coke or regular coke are going to have long term adverse affects on your body…..

    • sonneillon says:

      aspartame isn’t healthy for you either. But it won’t make you fat.

      • Caffinehog says:

        Actually, it activates brain areas that make you crave food, so it just might. All artificial sweeteners (except splenda) are psychoactive substances. In fact, LSD was developed as a sweetener. (Why else would the scientist have put the stuff on his tongue?)

    • qwickone says:

      Aspartame is shown to cause Type II diabetes, FYI. The research is not definitive and they’re still working on it, but it looks like it’s just as bad for you as sugar, just no calories. I heart Equal, so I was seriously sad to learn this.

      • TouchMyMonkey says:

        Saw that little blurb myself on a poster in my doctor’s office, in case anyone thinks we’re sporting tinfoil hats. OK, I’m stopping now. It’s either real sugar or nothing.

      • BettyCrocker says:

        Got a citation for that? (from a legit source)

    • GuidedByLemons says:

      [citation needed] on all the crackpot science in the comments below me.

      If you don’t have PKU, aspartame is not bad for you, full stop.

  2. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Holy shit snacks! That is kind of messed up.

    OK, how long until people start complaining that “Of course HFCS is bad for you!” and “DUH!” and basically calling science a waste of time.

    • aloria says:

      People on the Consumerist have been saying the “well, duh, of course it’s bad for you” thing for a while, based on the knowledge that sugar is bad for you, so of course HFCS must be, too. What they’re failing to take into consideration is that there are some studies, such as this one, indicating that it may be WORSE for you than sugar.

      • montusama says:

        I honestly think sugar might be better for you in some ways than HFCS. The most obvious and the only one I really go by is that its 100% natural, while HFCS is man-made.

      • Rectilinear Propagation says:

        The “Duh” sentiment seems to come up for any post about a study, not just about HFCS. I get that some of what gets tested seems obvious but we can’t go on assumptions. We have to prove that what we think is true is actually true because that’s the only way to find out that we’re wrong or that something is more or less extreme than we thought.

        That sometimes means doing a study that doesn’t prove anything other than what was already assumed or guessed at but people seem to hate that.

    • Saydur says:

      I’ve had a loathing for HFCS for a long time. However, having scientific proof that it is not only bad for you in terms of consumption desire but that it is better at feeding cancer? Not a waste of time in the least. Any step towards the public boycotting HFCS is welcome.

    • will_o_wisp says:

      I’m a research scientist and I hear stuff like that all the time regarding many colleagues research. What a lot of people seem to not get is that it is not just a question of does “a” cause “b” but HOW does “a” cause “b”.

      I find this problem less insulting than the automatic assumption that because a study didn’t find the results someone already believed in that the scientists must somehow be under the control of “insert evil corporate entity here” and are forging the research to benefit them (stuff like the epidemiological research that found vaccines don’t increase the risk of Autism, or the other article on hazardous supplements). I haven’t yet run into this personally but I take great offense when someone smears a person’s life’s work without evidence just because they didn’t come up with what that individual had already convinced themselves of.

  3. JacobRoss97 says:

    Sugared Dr. Pepper is sounding alot better now.

    • sirwired says:

      No, it isn’t. Sucrose quickly metabolizes into 50/50 fructose/glucose, which is quite close to the 55/45 ratio in HFCS.

      • illscreech says:

        This article is really misleading, it compares HFCS to Glucose, which isn’t sweet. The implication is that sugar (sucrose) is a better choice, which is not backed up by any of the evidence provided.

    • Bativac says:

      I don’t know that sugar is really that much less unhealthy than high fructose corn syrup. My main concern with high fructose corn syrup is that I don’t care for the way it tastes in soda, so I agree with you on the sugar-sweetened Dr. Pepper (preferably cane sugar).

  4. v0rt says:

    What does this mean for those of us who eat a lot of fruit?

    • aloria says:

      HFCS != fruit sugars.

      • Garbanzo says:

        However, the claim is that the researchers fed fructose, and not HFCS, to the cancer cells. Fruit has fructose.

        • ExtraCelestial says:

          Come on. The single digit percentage (often less than 1% depending on the fruit) does not touch the 55%+ of fructose that is in HFCS.

          • illscreech says:

            Not true. As a percentage of total sugars it’s about the same. Grapes for example have among the most sugar of any fruits at 15.5 grams per 100g. 8.1 are free fructose, 7.2 is glucose and the rest sucrose. That’s 52%. Fruits with low sugar? Peaches are 8.4g sugar per 100g and are 1.5g fructose 2g glucose the rest sucrose. That’s 17% fructose, however sucrose is metablolized as 50% fructose so effectively even low sugar content fruits like this are still > 40% fructose as a % of total sugars. Not too far off HFCS.

            Fruit juices have some extra vitamins and nutrients compared to HFCS drinks, but you’re fooling yourself if you think it’s much healthier or if the sugar is “better”.

        • baquwards says:

          the study used “refined” fructose, what is found in HFCS. Fructose in fruit is not chemically messed around with, so I don’t think that it can be considered the same thing.

      • v0rt says:

        Granted. “HFCS = bad” is a practical takeaway from the study, based on the abstract. But it also says, “These findings show that cancer cells can readily metabolize fructose to increase proliferation.” So, my question still stands.

    • smo0 says:

      As I said before, check out that video from the other thread – it’s pointed out fructose is the same thing, except fruit has fiber and other beneficial vitamins for the body – your body breaks down fructose when it’s consumed in conjunction with fiber…

      Key thing I learned from the video: more fiber!!

    • laughingisfree says:

      keep eating fruits, fruits has loads of fiber

  5. Supes says:

    Y’know, the time has come to get rid of the corn subsidies and sugar tariffs, and let the free market decide what sweeteners we use…

    • montusama says:

      I think we should go to back to limiting the amount of production. That would get rid of using HFCS fairly quickly, as we would have to grow corn for eating and not for making “fake” sugar.

    • laughingisfree says:

      yes squash the special interest groups!

    • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

      Ah yes, the inevitable “Free market will save the world omg regulation and subsidies are bad” post. Pay $3 for an ear of corn, and we’ll see how much you like the free market.

      • Supes says:

        The vast majority of corn in our country is used for food additives and fuel. Corn won’t cost $3 an ear, this would just make those additives more expensive.

        Corporations would find substitutes. The government shouldn’t make sure an industry is profitable… it’s an unsustainable model. It’s not like the Cargills of the world aren’t making a ton of money already.

  6. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    So if I eat foods with HFCS 42, I’m safer than food that contains real sugar?

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      Can you even find HFCS 42? Maybe someone should make Low Fructose Corn Syrup.

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

        It’s what is used in many non-sweet foods instead of sugar, like bread.

  7. crazydavythe1st says:

    No, no, no, just no……HFCS and sugar have almost identical fructose to glucose ratios. That’s why it is commonly used as a replacement for sugar. Basically, they are almost equally bad.

    • Lameth says:

      Although the chemical compositions of what they break down to are nearly identical, the fact they don’t need to be broken down, and how the body reacts to the two are different.

    • will_o_wisp says:

      Glucose and Fructose are metabolized differently in the body (fructose sticks around a long time, glucose metabolizes quickly – the body uses glucose as it’s energy source directly, fructose must be broken down for the body to be able to use it), the addition of glucose to a fructose molecule (this combination is table sugar) changes the way that it is metabolized. They are not equally bad, which is what this study and others have shown.

  8. Donathius says:

    I’ve been living off Mountain Dew Throwback since it appeared in my area – I love that stuff and now I love it even more. I think I’ll go over to WinCo right now to get another couple cases.

  9. sirwired says:

    For the bazillionth time, HFCS has roughly equivalent fructose content to table sugar! (sucrose is about 50/50 fructose/glucose)

    If you want to stop the harmful effects of fructose, you’ll have to cut pretty much all added sugars out of your diet; cutting out HFCS only to replace it with sugar won’t do jack.

    • Boberto says:

      Sorry about that one, Bro. But HFCS is bad because the fructose molecule is unbound to the molecular chain. So normally, when you eat table sugar (as our bodies have for thousands of years) the excess fructose is converted by the liver to glycogen (energy stores).

      The unbound fructose molecule in HFCS is converted to fat (as it has been since 1974, when it was first introduced into the American diet).

      Consuming ANY product with HFCS is quite literally the equivalent of pouring fat directly onto your ass (women) or abdomen (men). Plus it inhibits the production of leptin (Put the goddamn fork down! chemical signal).

      Keeping on with this simplistic HFCS/Table Sugar glucose to fructose ratio is simply a bullshit argument that the food industry wants you to keep having. It’s circular logic.

      The real argument lies in the molecular chain.

      Unbound fructose=death, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, hyperlipidemia, renal failure, peripheral vascular disease, etc.

  10. tbax929 says:

    Since I’ve started paying more attention to which foods I eat have HFCS (thanks, Consumerist), I’ve noticed that it’s in LOTS of foods. I know why that is, but it’s annoying that it’s so hard to avoid HFCS.

    • crashfrog says:

      Weird – ever since I decided to try to cut it out of my diet and see what happened (basically nothing) I’ve noticed that it’s not in all that many things. Just, things that need to be syrupy and sweet. If it’s a primarily dry product it’s usually sucrose.

      For all that people complain it’s “in everything” my experience has been the exact opposite.

      • illscreech says:

        It’s in almost every processed food. The cheapness of it means manufacturers will put it in foods that would be disgusting without it, given how cheaply they are mass produced.

        If you’re looking at foods that are made to taste good and not be dirt cheap and mass produced it won’t be as prevalent.

      • kricka says:

        HFCS is in bread, sausage and various other foods that have no need for any sweetener. It’s become a form of insanity, IMO.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      Which HFCS? There are two main used formulations:

    • GuidedByLemons says:

      It’s hard to avoid HFCS, so don’t bother, because it’s not bad for you. (Or at least it’s not appreciably worse than table sugar.)

      • tournant says:

        “…um…Nice Top!”

      • illscreech says:

        It’s actually incredibly bad for you, probably the worst thing you put into your body every day (unless you smoke, even then some scientists might disagree). The same can be said about sugar however.

        • GuidedByLemons says:


          Excess calorie consumption causes obesity and (particularly in the form of excess simple carbohydrates) contributes to diabetes. In moderation and without consuming excess calories, though, no form of dietary sugar is even a tiny little bit unhealthy.

          Anybody who would suggest HFCS ingestion is on par with cigarette smoking is a scaremongering idiot with no understanding whatsoever of actual dietary science.

          • illscreech says:

            I won’t even bother citing all the studies which show negative effects on our bodies from fructose, since even if you’re not trying you can stumble across articles about them. The article we’re posting on being the most glaring example. That’s the way it works, we start off not knowing anything, we do studies, we know a little bit more. If you think you know it all already you’re doing it wrong.

            Which studies conclude “In moderation and without consuming excess calories, though, no form of dietary sugar is even a tiny little bit unhealthy.”?

            • GuidedByLemons says:

              Which studies conclude “In moderation and without consuming excess calories, though, no form of dietary sugar is even a tiny little bit unhealthy.”?

              You’re the one making the positive claim about the unhealthiness of a food, and asking someone to prove the negative does not burnish your credentials as a scientific literate. I’ve seen some evidence that fructose contributes more than glucose to visceral adiposity and unhealthy blood lipid levels when consumed in excess, but I would be very interested to see peer-reviewed studies showing fructose consumption in moderation as part of an otherwise-healthy diet is on par with cigarette smoking.

  11. SubGothius says:

    As others have pointed out here, sucrose (table sugar) is still 50% fructose, whereas the HFCS used in beverages is 55% fructose, and the HFCS used in edible goods is “only” 42% fructose.

    Looks like it may be time for a comeback of good ol’ Karo Light (not “Lite”) corn syrup, which is just regular, low-fructose, high-glucose corn syrup.

  12. dumblonde says:

    For all those saying that it has the same amount for sugar part for part, that’s true. That’s why it’s a suitable replacement for sugar.
    The problem is how the body metabolizes it. Fructose is easier to break down than sucrose or even glucose and therefore causes worse blood-sugar spikes which lead to insulin spikes which lead to insulin resistance that makes you fat and diabetic.

    • crashfrog says:

      I still can’t see how it would make a difference. Your body doesn’t expend calories to metabolize sucrose; it’s broken down into fructose and glucose in the digestive tract by sucrases long before it enters the bloodstream.

      And the extra step needed to metabolize glucose? The step is turning it into fructose. So I’m just not seeing how it’s so much harder for the body to metabolize sugar as opposed to HFCS. By the time they enter your metabolism they’re the same.

    • GuidedByLemons says:

      This post is startlingly wrong.

      -Sucrose is half fructose and half glucose; it’s not a simple sugar analogous to glucose or fructose.
      -Pure fructose has a much lower glycemic index than glucose or sucrose and is in fact specifically recommended (in moderatation) as an alternative to table sugar for diabetics. So, what you said is the exact opposite of the truth.

  13. MrsLopsided says:

    One of the reasons manufacturers like HFCS is that it gives their products a longer shelf life. To me that just screams DIFFERENT METABOLISM! NOT IDENTICAL TO SUGAR!

  14. pegasi says:

    HFCS is bad for you, worse than sugar, because it fools the body’s “I’m full” sense, meaning you eat more than you need to. It also metabolizes differently than sugar. So, small amounts of regular sugar is less bad for you – still not healthy – but definitely better than consuming HFCS in quantity.

    Why do you think that product manufacturers are now boldly stating on their labels “no high fructose corn syrup” prominently on the product? Consumers are getting wise to the fact that this cheap sweetener, which is, in fact, a by product of other manufacturing processes, is not good for us, and that we consumers want products without it.

    I did a self-test and discovered that I consume less bread products just by eating bread without HFCS as an ingredient. I lost 5 pounds in 2 weeks, and the only thing I did was change the brand of bread I bought.

    • crashfrog says:

      HFCS is bad for you, worse than sugar, because it fools the body’s “I’m full” sense, meaning you eat more than you need to.

      And what is the precise mechanism by which it does that, exactly?

      Why would a 5% difference in fructose/glucose ratio tell your body that you aren’t full yet?

      It also metabolizes differently than sugar.

      No, it doesn’t. Fructose metabolizes slightly differently than glucose, but the difference is literally a single step – the isomerization of glucose to fructose.

      Why do you think that product manufacturers are now boldly stating on their labels “no high fructose corn syrup” prominently on the product?

      Because people are freaking out on the basis of the latest science-free food scare? Same as the products that advertise “no MSG”, even though MSG is just an amino acid – one your body manufactures on its own.

      • Dieflatermous says:

        I wish you’d stop posting misinformation. Fructose is processed very differently in the body than sucrose — fructose is converted into triglycerides (“Bad” cholesterol, LDL) while glucose is the basic energy source that can be utilized by every cell in the body.

        The “converting glucose to fructose so it’s all the same” you mentioned is incorrect — the fructose contained in sucrose and HFCS is not the same, it has a completely different molecular structure. Fructose-6-phosphate is not the same as fructose and how the body processes the two are extremely different.

        This is basic biochem :/

        • crashfrog says:

          The fructose contained in sucrose is exactly the same as the fructose in HFCS, if they had different molecular structures one of them wouldn’t be fructose.

          I wish you’d stop posting misinformation. Triacylglicerides aren’t LDL or cholesterols. That’s basic biochem.

          The notion that fructose requires a glucose symporter is only a hypothesis, and even if that were true eating it wouldn’t make you hungry; the glucose deficiency would simply mean that less fructose was absorbed into your small intestine. And it would be a curious adaptation if humans, being apes, could only ingest fructose in equal proportion with glucose; a large portion of the ape diet is fruit, which has proportionally more fructose. No species adapts to simply discard nutrient.

      • smo0 says:

        I will spam post this… until people learn something….

      • Caffinehog says:

        Why would a 5% difference in fructose/glucose ratio tell your body that you aren’t full yet?

        Because your body’s cells need a molecule of glucose to carry a molecule of fructose into them. Your body actually has to manufacture that 5% extra glucose, which tells your body that you are short on glucose. We have evolved to be hungry when the body is short on glucose, since that used to be a pretty reliable signal that you hadn’t had food in a while.

  15. Sol Collins says:

    The fact that your body has to work & thus burn calories in order to break down sucrose, and the sheer number of times that that chemical reaction happens on the cellular level, in and of itself makes fructose worse for you.
    It may be a very simple breakdown, and only one step, but it’s a breakdown none the less. Even only one extra step on the cellular level is going to have a major impact body wise.

    I don’t think the issue is Sucrose vs. HFCS however. I think the issue is simply the amount of things that HFCS is used in and the amount the average consumer consumes. HFCS, or some other man made derivative of sugar, is in a very large number of products a very large number of people consume. Read labels, and you’ll find that some man made chemically altered form of sweetener is in nearly everything. It’s the volume of HFCS that people consume that is the issue. Or for that matter, the amount of sugar/sucrose that people consume.

    Sugar is bad for you, and HFCS is worse, and you should only consume both in moderation. And most of the sugars you consume should be in the form of complex sugars found in fruit and nectars.

  16. Kevin Paffrath says:

    For any HFCS supporters, explain this Princeton study.

    Quite frankly, I don’t want to consume anything with HFCS because all of the other ingredients tend to be artificial as well. I’ll stick to organics, nuts and fish. Thanks Mediterranean diet for not being processed.

    • smo0 says:

      That’s the core success of a strict Mediterranean diet….

    • corn_refiner says:


      This study used grossly exaggerated intake levels in rats; translating the study’s reported rat intakes to human proportions, the calories gained from high fructose corn syrup would be equivalent to about 3000 kcal/day all from that single source. In comparison, adult humans consume about 2,000 calories per day from all dietary sources. Such intake levels for the study animals would be the equivalent of humans drinking a total of 20 cans of 12 ounce sodas per day – a highly unrealistic amount. Furthermore, the medical community has long dismissed results from rat dietary studies as being inapplicable to human beings.

      Please see what experts have said about the Princeton study:

      “So, I’m skeptical. I don’t think the study produces convincing evidence of a difference between the effects of HFCS and sucrose on the body weight of rats. I’m afraid I have to agree with the Corn Refiners on this one. So does HFCS make rats fat? Sure if you feed them too many calories altogether. Sucrose will do that too.” Marion Nestle, Ph.D., Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health, New York University

      “The researchers concluded ‘over-consumption of HFCS could very well be a major factor in the ‘obesity epidemic,’ which correlates with the upsurge in the use of HFCS.’ It might be. But to my mind, these experiments hardly prove it.” Karen Kaplan, Science Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times

      “This study is poorly designed and poorly controlled and does not prove or even suggest that HFCS is more likely to lead to obesity than sucrose [table sugar].” Karen Teff, Ph.D., Associate Director, Institute for Diabetes, Obesity & Metabolism, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

      “The bottom line is that there is no valid reason for HFCS to be any different than sucrose in the way that it affects your body.” James Krieger, founder of Weightology

      You can also learn more about high fructose corn syrup at

      Therese Pompa, Social Media Manager, Corn Refiners Association

  17. JKulp42757 says:

    All health talk aside, I prefer sugar in my soda, rather than the cheaper HFCS.

    HFCS gives a more “syrupy” taste, while sugar is sweet and smooth, more refeshing, and just a better quality taste, imo.

    Plus, if a company is using sugar instead of HFCS (companies such as Virgil’s, Bundaberg, etc…), you know they actually care about the product, and not just costs.

  18. Interpol says:

    This isn’t really terribly alarming news, IMO.

    All the study shows is that pancreatic cancer cells grow better when fed fructose. Big deal. That’s like saying your tomatoes grow bigger when you use fertilizer.

    What the study DOESN’T show is that your risk of getting pancreatic cancer (or any other cancer) is higher with a diet consisting of more fructose. So in effect, this study only really matters if you already have pancreatic cancer to begin with – and if you do, would a low-fructose diet help you? Maybe, maybe not. The 5-10 year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is relatively low, so decreasing fructose in your diet may have no impact whatsoever on your survival rate overall.

    No need to panic and go crazy over a study like this. It doesn’t really tell us anything revolutionary.

  19. dangermike says:

    I recall reading somewhere that faster growing cancers tend show a better response to chemo therapy. Perhaps feeding them the right nutrients to spur fast growth might make chemo more effective? If any of you are headed for med school biology grad school, propose the project. It could make an excellent dissertation.