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Pancreas May 'Taste' Fructose, Hinting at Links to Diabetes
Date:2/6/2012

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Feb. 6 (HealthDay News) -- New research shows that the pancreas has sweet-taste receptors -- like those found on the tongue -- that can "taste" fructose.

Fructose is a common ingredient in many foods and beverages. Nutrition experts have warned that Americans take in far too much fructose and the new findings might bolster their concerns.

In lab studies of pancreas cells from both humans and mice, the researchers found that when the pancreas tastes fructose from foods, it responds by producing more insulin. Insulin is a hormone that allows sugar from the blood to enter the body's cells. However, excess levels of insulin, or an inefficient use of insulin, have been linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes, the researchers said.

"The coolest thing in my mind is that we now understand that taste isn't only for the tongue. We have a whole slew of cells for controlling how we deal with sugars," said the study's senior author, Bjorn Tyrberg, an assistant professor and scientific advisor in histology and cellular imaging at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in Orlando, Fla.

He added that fructose had not been linked to insulin secretion in the past, but that this study shows when the pancreas tastes fructose, there is an effect on insulin secretion when glucose is also present.

Fructose and glucose are two different types of sugars. Fructose is found naturally in things like fruit and honey. A concentrated form of fructose called high-fructose corn syrup is added to many processed foods, such as sodas and cereals, according to Tyrberg.

What isn't yet clear, he said, is what effect fructose has on the body's metabolism. "We've shown that fructose is not inert with insulin secretion," he said, but added that whether this connection plays a role in obesity or the development of type 2 diabetes isn't known.

Results of the study appear onl
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