If you are one of the many consumers who wonder what the big deal is with ingesting high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), the latest scientific research from the University of Southern California (USC) and Oxford will help shed some light on the question.
Researchers at the USC and Oxford have found a link between HFCS and an increased global prevalence of diabetes, one of the world's most serious chronic diseases. In fact, countries using high fructose corn syrup in their food supply have a 20 percent higher prevalence of type 2 diabetes.
People suffering from type 2 diabetes have high blood glucose due to insulin resistance. If you are not familiar with the complications from type 2 diabetes, they include blindness, dementia, gum disease, cardiovascular disease, an increase in lower limb amputations and typically those with type 2 diabetes have a 10-year shorter life span than the general population.
Although the exact cause of type 2 diabetes is not known, studies frequently attribute it to excess weight and lack of activity but this latest study reveals that HFCS’s association with the “significantly increased prevalence of diabetes” occurred independent of total sugar intake and obesity levels.
Researchers Believe Study Findings Indicate a Serious Global Public Health Problem
The article, “High Fructose Corn Syrup and Diabetes Prevalence: A Global Perspective,” published in the journal Global Public Health, indicates that large amounts of HFCS found in national food supplies across the world may be one explanation for the rising global epidemic of type 2 diabetes and resulting higher health care costs.
The U.S. is the single largest consumer of high fructose corn syrup. By the late 1990s HFCS made up 40 percent of all caloric sweeteners and was the predominant sweetener in soft drinks sold in the U.S.
“HFCS appears to pose a serious public health problem on a global scale,” said principal study author Michael I. Goran, professor of preventive medicine, director of the Childhood Obesity Research Center and co-director of the Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute at the Keck School of Medicine at USC. “The study adds to a growing body of scientific literature that indicates HFCS consumption may result in negative health consequences distinct from and more deleterious than natural sugar.”But Isn't Sugar the Same as HFCS?
The article proposes that the diabetes, HFCS link is probably driven by higher amounts of fructose in foods and beverages made with HFCS. Fructose and glucose are both found in ordinary sugar (sucrose) in equal amounts, but HFCS has a greater proportion of fructose. The higher fructose content makes HFCS sweeter and provides processed foods with greater stability and better appearance because of the more consistent browning color when foods made with higher fructose are baked.
In a previous related study, the authors found that the fructose content in some U.S.-produced soft drinks, especially the most popular, was about 20 percent higher than expected, suggesting that some manufacturers might be using HFCS with more fructose than previously estimated. Such differences could “potentially be driving up fructose consumption in countries that use HFCS,” the researchers said. The study notes the difficulty in determining the actual amount of fructose in foods and beverages made with HFCS because of “a lack of industry disclosure on food labels.”
Growing evidence reveals that the body metabolizes fructose differently from glucose.
“If HFCS is a risk factor for diabetes—one of the world's most serious chronic diseases—then we need to rewrite national dietary guidelines and review agriculture trade polices,” said Tim Lobstein, director of policy for the International Association for the Study of Obesity. “HFCS will join trans fats and salt as ingredients to avoid, and foods should carry warning labels.”
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Article cited: Goran, M., Ulijaszek, S. and Ventura, E. (2012). High fructose corn syrup and diabetes prevalence: A global perspective. Global Public Health. Published online Nov. 27, 2012.