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Americans love sugar. According to the USDA, each of us consumes more than 150 pounds of added sugar every year (or about 50 teaspoons daily), making the United States the largest consumer of sweeteners worldwide.

So where does most of this sugary goodness come from? Mainly from heavily processed snack foods, baked goods and soft drinks all loaded with high-fructose corn syrup. HFCS is a highly refined sweetener made from corn starch, and one that is widely used by food manufacturers because it is inexpensive to produce and transport.

The problem, experts say, comes with the health risks associated with HFCS and how it works in the body. Put simply, it affects healthy blood sugar levels and insulin regulation, which helps to explain why a diet high in HFCS has been linked to increased risk of obesity and obesity-related disease. And now scientists have found another reason to caution Americans against the common sweetener.

A recent study found that pancreatic cancer cells use fructose to multiply in the body, which supports previous studies that have linked a high-HFCS diet with higher rates of pancreatic cancer. It has to do with how fructose and glucose—the two main components of HFCS—are metabolized in the body, and scientists found that cancer cells had an easier time metabolizing fructose in order to thrive.

More research is planned to help scientists better understand the relationship between sugar metabolism and increased cancer risk, but experts hope that studies like this one will increase awareness about the dangers of eating too much sugar.

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It’s no secret that America has a weight problem. The latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tell us that roughly 28 percent of American adults are obese, and our children are quickly following suit. But sometimes help can come from the most unlikely places, which is what researchers in Japan discovered recently.

Published in this month’s European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, results from a 12-week study revealed that probiotics may play a significant role in the battle against obesity. More than 80 participants were chosen based on high body mass index (BMI) and abdominal fat and asked to drink 200g daily of a fermented milk beverage, either with or without a probiotic strain called Lactobacillus gasseri. The outcome was a more than 4% decrease in abdominal and subcutaneous fat in those who received the probiotic, as well as a significant decrease in body weight and waistline.

While more research needs to be done to determine exactly how probiotics support healthy weight management, scientists believe it has something to do with how they affect our metabolism. Of course, we already know these beneficial bacteria play a significant role in better digestion, regularity, immune function and overall health, so don’t forget your probiotics!

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‡These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. The material on this page is for consumer informational and educational purposes only, under section 5 of DSHEA.

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