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Research Intensifies Link between High Fructose Corn Syrup and Diabetes

Research Intensifies Link between High Fructose Corn Syrup and Diabetes


On November 28, 2012, the University of Oxford and the University of Southern California released a report that further highlighted the link between consumption of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and type 2 diabetes.  Countries that use HFCS in their food supplies have a 20-percent higher diabetes rates than countries that don’t use HFCS. 

The United States has the highest consumption of HFCS per individual compared to 42 other countries in the study.  The average person in the United States consumes about 55 pounds of HFCS per year.  Hungary had the second-highest HFCS consumption rate per individual, and the following countries had high HFCS rates as well: Canada, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Belgium, Argentina, Korea, Japan and Mexico. 

Legislatively, the United States barely regulates the use of HFCS.  The American Medical Association (AMA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would need to find a clear a convincing link between HFCS and diabetes or other health problems.  Furthermore, the corn industry is a staple of food markets and industry in the United States, so regulating the use of HFCS on a federal level would likely create outrage in farming and manufacturing circles. 

HFCS is beneficial in processed foods because it makes the product sweeter, gives it a better appearance, and allows for more consistent browning and stability compared to products with sucrose—which has an equal amount of fructose and glucose. 

Ordinances in cities and municipalities of the United States have taken action against HFCS in recent years though.  Many school districts regulate foods with high levels of HFCS, and some cities have placed limits on serving sizes of foods with HFCS. 

The United Kingdom had one of the lowest consumption rates of HFCS in the study.  The average person in the UK only eats about 0.5 kilograms of HFCS a year. 

About 8 percent of people in countries with high HFCS consumption rates have type 2 diabetes, compared to 6.7 percent in countries with lower levels of consumption. 

Michael I Goran, the principal study author, stated: “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.” 

Professor Stanley Ulijaszek, the Director of the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Oxford, stressed the importance of natural sugars: “Many people regard fructose as a healthy natural sugar from fruit, and that's true.  Natural fructose found in fruit for example, is fine: the 10g or so of fructose in an apple is probably released slowly because of the fibre within the apple and because the fructose is inside the cells of the apple.” 

He denounced the use of non-fruit based fructose though, stating the “fructose is especially difficult for the body to metabolize, and is a risk for type 2 diabetes because fructose and sucrose are not metabolically equivalent.” 

The study was published in the journal, Global Public Health

Source: University of Oxford