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High Fructose Corn Syrup Increases Diabetes – Global Study Reports

A global study was performed of 43 countries in Global Public Health published online and found that, on average, the higher high fructose corn syrup consumption, the more diabetes prevalence.

Fructose is actually a natural sweetener made from beet sugar and cane sugar. But, many food manufacturers have synthesized the cane and beet sugar to make a commercially usable sweetener known as High Fructose Corn Syrup.

The U.S. is the largest producer and consumer of HFCS and has been for decades (thanks in large part to farm subsidies) consuming 55 pounds a year.  The availability of the sweeteners that are cheaper than sugar started in the U.S. in the 1970s and appears to have helped boost the number of overall calories people take in. In the U.S. today, HFCS is in everything from sodas to cereals. The second-highest was Hungary, at 46 pounds. Countries that had a per capita annual consumption rate of about a pound or less included Australia, China, Denmark, France, India, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, Britain and Uruguay. Other countries are just beginning to experience high amounts of HFCS in the food system.

 Adult type-2 diabetes is 20 percent higher in countries that consume large quantities of high fructose corn syrup. Type 2 diabetes prevalence in countries where the food supply included more HFCS was 8 percent, while it was 6.7 percent in countries where HFCS is not included in the food supply.  

Countries in which per person annual high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) was less that 0.5 kg had similar BMIs, daily calorie intake and total sugar intake as did countries in which HFCS was higher. However, the huge difference in these two groups of countries was the prevalence of diabetes. 

“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,” Michael Goran, of the University of Southern California Department of Preventive Medicine and co-author of the new study, stated.

HFCS may set a greater risk for diabetes than pure sugar alone. There’s some scientific evidence that the body treats fructose differently than glucose. Table sugar is evenly divided between fructose and glucose, while HFCS contains as much as 30 percent more fructose. (The exact quantities are unknown because manufacturers are not required to disclose the amount on food and beverage packages.) But it may be even higher than that. In a study published in 2011 in the journal Obesity, Goran found the percentage of fructose in drinks sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup ranged from 47% to 65%.

 Glucose is metabolized very quickly and used as energy or saved as fat. But, fructose processing is more complex. It is broken down mostly in the liver and seems to bring less leptin production (which signals fullness to the body) and less insulin. Some studies have also found consumption of fructose increases the types of fats that are linked to resistance of insulin, a trademark of diabetes. These dispersed findings suggest that “our metabolism has not evolved sufficiently to be able to process the fructose from high fructose corn syrup in the quantities that some people are consuming it,” Stanly Ulijaszek, of the University of Oxford and study co-author, said in a prepared statement.  There are lots of other aspects of the way fructose is handled by the body which are different than glucose that make it metabolically dangerous for the body,” he says.

But, not everyone agrees with the study. And, the Corn Refiners Assn., representing companies that turn corn into HFCS, was stridently critical.

“This latest article by Dr. Goran is severely flawed, misleading and risks setting off unfounded alarm about a safe and proven food and beverage ingredient,” Audrae Erickson, the association’s president, stated. “There is broad scientific consensus that table sugar and high fructose corn syrup are nutritionally and metabolically equivalent. It is, therefore, highly dubious of Dr. Goran – without any human studies demonstrating a meaningful nutritional difference between high fructose corn syrup and sugar – to point an accusatory finger at one and not the other.”

Although the controversy remains, the bottom line – is that too much of any kind of sugar isn’t healthy, no matter where it comes from. For more information on foods/beverages with HFCS or Chemical Differences between Sugar & High-Fructose Corn Syrup, just click the links!

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