January 24, 2013
High-Fructose Corn Syrup Linked to Diabetes
My friends in the corn industry do not like this study. I know, this issue is not going away and sometime in the future researchers are going to research this properly. They are getting closer, but to-date no one has found the correct formula to prove beyond a doubt that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) causes diabetes. This study gets closer to making this case than many in the past, but it is still not conclusive. The relationship for a potential cause-and-effect is definitely not missing and this is bound to cause many countries to reassess their use of HFCS.
The researchers did find that the countries using HFCS had a 20% higher rate of diabetes than countries that did not mix HFCS into foods. This difference remains after researchers accounted for differences in body size, population, and wealth. The researchers also refuted the claim that people in countries using HFCS were using more sugar or more calories. They were able to show that, “There were no overall differences in total sugars or total calories between countries that did and didn’t use high-fructose corn syrup, suggesting that there’s an independent relationship between high-fructose corn syrup and diabetes.”
Of course, the corn industry disagrees with the results and must make their opposition known. In a prepared statement, Audrae Erickson, president of the Corn Refiners Association stated, “Just because an ingredient is available in a nation's diet does not mean it is uniquely the cause of a disease.” Of course, both sides have their experts that will make their statements to support their side.
Researcher Michael I. Goran, PhD, co-director of the Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, says the problem is more complex. He continues, “There’s some scientific evidence that the body treats fructose differently than glucose. Table sugar is about half fructose and half glucose. The percentage of fructose in high-fructose corn syrup isn’t disclosed on food labels, but it’s thought to range from 42% to 55%. But it may be even higher than that.”
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%. “I know there’s a lot of consumer confusion about fructose: It’s a fruit sugar; it’s healthy; it’s already in sugar,” he states.
I agree that it's not that simple. “Goran thinks there’s a big difference between fructose in fruit - where it’s paired with fiber, which slows down its absorption - and fructose that’s refined into syrup. 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.”
I do think that Goran is on the right track in his thinking and that we need to consider seriously, what he has to say.