A new mouse study suggests people with diabetes may metabolize fructose in a different way

By Alexandra Sifferlin,
Updated October 12, 2016
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Fructose, a type of sugar, quickly absorbs into the liver of mice with diabetes, potentially causing health complications, according to a new study published Tuesday in the journal eLife. The findings, if further studied, could provide insight for people with diabetes.

In the study, the researchers showed that mice with diabetes absorb fructose very quickly and that fructose is quickly sent to the liver. In the liver, it creates fat. The researchers say a protein that’s turned on by diabetes is likely to blame for the quick absorption and fat creation.

In the study, the researchers identified a molecular interaction that occurs in the inner lining of the intestine. The study authors say this interaction could regulate how much fructose a person absorbs when they eat very sweet foods or drinks. “We found that the mice with diabetes absorb more fructose than a mouse without diabetes,” says study author Richard Lee, a professor and a principal faculty member at Harvard Stem Cell Institute. “If this was proven in humans, it would imply that diabetic patients actually get more of the fructose if they ingest it.”

Lee says the study adds support to the idea that consuming too much sugar, like fructose, can spur diabetes, and not just calorie consumption alone.

Fructose is a type of sugar found in high-fructose corn syrup, which commonly used in sugary drinks and processed food, honey, table sugar and fruit. Consumption of fructose has significantly increased through the years, as has the prevalence of diseases like obesity and diabetes.

“Over the past few decades we’ve been eating more sugar, including fructose, and that correlates quite well with the metabolic problems we are seeing,” says Lee. “We want to know if this is true for all forms of diabetes, and we want to set up collaborations to study this in humans.”

Eating low amounts of fructose, like what a person would consume if they eat fruit, is considered safe.

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