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How Does Sugar Work In The Body? New Method of the HEALTH Institute

A study by the University of Zurich was recently published in the Journal of Hepatology, which investigated the connection between sugar intake and fat production in the liver. One methodology behind this comes from Styria: HEALTH, the Institute for Biomedicine and Health Sciences of JOANNEUM RESEARCH, has established the glycerol tracer methodology needed for this.

Anita Eberl im Labor
Credit: JOANNEUM RESEARCH/ Schwarzl

10 teaspoons of sugar per day

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends reducing the intake of free sugar to less than 10 energy percent. This corresponds to 50 grams or about 10 teaspoons of household sugar per day for an average adult with a calorie intake of 2,000 kcal. The term "free sugars" is used here to refer to all types of sugar that are added to food and drinks. But also those sugars that occur naturally in honey, syrup, fruit juice concentrates and fruit juices.

What the added sugar causes in the body can be determined using tracers, substances that are tracked in the body. This was recently done by a Swiss team from the University of Zurich using a method developed by JOANNEUM RESEARCH in Graz.

 

Anita Eberl, project manager at HEALTH - Institute for Biomedicine and Health Sciences in Graz, explains:

"We were asked directly by the first author about our measurement method for determining lipolysis, i.e. the breakdown or hydrolysis of body fat to glycerol and fatty acids." The expert in bioanalytical methods explains how this works: "The subjects are administered a constant infusion of the tracer 'd5-glycerol'. The enrichment of the d5-glycerol compared to the natural glycerol is determined from blood plasma samples after a chemical transformation (derivatisation) by means of gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Peripheral lipolysis can then be calculated from the results of these measurements."

Simplified, this means that the path of supplied and labelled substances (tracers) in the body is followed and analysed. From this, conclusions can be drawn about reactions in the body.

 

Fat production in the liver

The study by the University of Zurich has now found that even small amounts of added fructose or household sugar double the fat production in the liver. Even 80 grams per day cause the liver to produce more fat. This has an impact on the incidence of so-called common diseases such as type 2 diabetes, fatty liver or obesity.