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Health News Archive 366 - Abdominal Health
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High Fructose Corn Syrup Causes Abdominal Distress

For some people, drinking just a can of soda or a bottle of lemonade can lead to abdominal cramping, bloating, pain, and diarrhea. It's not the temperature or the flavor. It's the fructose -- a sweetener found in many drinks and foods -- that some people can't digest properly, especially on an empty stomach. If a sweet treat leaves you with sour regret, check the label -- fructose may be the culprit.

Why does fructose cause abdominal distress? Sweet foods and beverages that contain fructose as the main sugar can speed through the digestive tract too quickly to be thoroughly digested. What isn't absorbed ends up in the colon, feasted upon by bacteria, which produces excessive acid and gas and may lead to diarrhea.

Fructose intake has increased considerably in the United States, primarily as a result of increased consumption of high-fructose corn syrup and crystalline fructose. The purpose was to determine how often fructose, in amounts commonly consumed, would result in malabsorption and/or symptoms in healthy persons.

In fact, more than half of the participants in a recent study exhibited symptoms of malabsorption after drinking fructose in amounts equal to the regular intake of many Americans. Participants reported having gas and diarrhea, and breath tests revealed excess hydrogen, a factor in gassiness.

More than half of the adults tested showed evidence of fructose malabsorption after 25 grams fructose and greater than two thirds showed malabsorption after 50 grams fructose. A single 12-ounce can of soda has 39 grams fructose, or as much as 13 teaspoons of sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup.

Because the amount of soda we drink has more than doubled since 1970 to about 56 gallons per person a year (1 1/2 - 12 oz cans per day), so has the amount of high fructose corn syrup we take in. In 2001, we consumed almost 63 pounds of it, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Consider Stevia as a 0 calorie, 0 glycemic, 0 fructose natural sweetener alternative.

Source: Beyer, P. L., Caviar, E. M., McCallum, R.W., Fructose intake at current levels in the United States may cause gastrointestinal distress in normal adults.  Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2005 Oct;105(10):1559-1566.

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