High-fructose corn syrup is dangerous by any other name


Not as innocent as the Corn Refiners Association would have you believe.

In a courtroom in Los Angeles, a fierce battle is being pitched right now – one that affects almost every person in this nation..    It’s a lawsuit from the nation’s sugar producers accusing the corn industry of false advertising.. That’s right – it takes industry giants to take on those ridiculous, and mis-leading ads.

You know, those ads that ridicule consumers for their health concerns related to the use of high-fructose corn syrup?  (We’ve discussed these health concerns previously in a series of posts that you can see here  and here.)

Link to ad by Corn Industry

But, here (finally) is a response to those ads – that uses science, not fallacy to refute those claims.

At the same time, the Corn Refiners Association has filed a petition with the Food & Drug Administration to change the name of their product from ‘High-fructose corn syrup” to the more innocuous-sounding “Corn Sugar,” which is just another attempt to deceive the American public.

This move comes just as a new medical study links the consumption of a single daily soda with a 20% increase in heart attacks in men.  There’s a great article over at the Heart.org that summarizing these findings, which I have re-posted below for readers.  (the original study was published in Circulation).

Unfortunately, corn syrup in our everyday products in not usually so easy to identify.

A soda a day raises CHD risk by 20% – Lisa Nainggolan

March 12. 2012

Boston, MA – Sugary drinks are associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) as well as some adverse changes in lipids, inflammatory factors, and leptin, according to a new analysis of men participating in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, reported by  Dr Lawrence de Koning (Children’s Hospital Boston, MA) and colleagues online March 12, 2012 in Circulation [1].

Even a moderate amount of sugary beverage consumption—we are talking about one can of soda every day—is associated with a significant 20% increased risk of heart disease even after adjusting for a wide range of cardiovascular risk factors,” senior author Dr Frank B Hu (Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA) told heartwire. “The increased risk is quite substantial, and I think has important public-health implications given the widespread consumption of soda, not only in the US but also increasing very rapidly in developing countries.”

The increased risk is quite substantial, and I think has important public-health implications given the widespread consumption of soda.

The researchers did not find an increased risk of CHD with artificially sweetened beverages in this analysis, however. “Diet soda has been shown to be associated with weight gain and metabolic diseases in previous studies, even though this hasn’t been substantiated in our study,” says Hu. “The problem with diet soda is its high-intensity sweet taste, which may condition people’s taste. It’s still an open question whether diet soda is an optimal alternative to regular soda; we need more data on this. ”

Hu says water is the best thing to drink, or coffee or tea. Fruit juice is “not a very good alternative, because of the high amount of sugar,” he adds, although if diluted with water, “it’s much better than a can of soda,” he notes.

And Hu says although the current results apply only to men, prior data from his group in women in the Nurses’ Health Study [from 2009] were comparable, “which really boosts the credibility of the findings.”

Inflammation could be a pathway for impact of soda upon CHD risk

Hu and colleagues explain that while much research has shown a link between the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and type 2 diabetes, few studies have looked at the association of these drinks with CHD.

Hence, they analyzed the associations of cumulatively averaged sugar-sweetened (eg, sodas) and artificially sweetened (eg, diet sodas) beverage intake with incident fatal and nonfatal CHD (MI) in 42 883 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up study. Beginning in 1986 and every two years until December 2008, participants answered questionnaires about diet and other health habits. A blood sample was provided midway through the study.

There were 3683 CHD cases over 22 years of follow-up. Those in the top quartile of sugar-sweetened-beverage intake had a 20% higher relative risk of CHD than those in the bottom quartile (RR 1.20; p for trend <0.001) after adjustment for age, smoking, physical activity, alcohol, multivitamins, family history, diet quality, energy intake, body-mass index, preenrollment weight change, and dieting.

Adjustment for self-reported high cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, and diagnosed type 2 diabetes only slightly attenuated these associations, which suggests that drinking soda “may impact on CHD risk above and beyond traditional risk factors,” say the researchers.

Consumption of artificially sweetened drinks was not significantly associated with CHD (multivariate RR 1.02; p for trend=0.28).

Intake of sugar-sweetened drinks, but not artificially sweetened ones, was also significantly associated with increased triglycerides and several circulating inflammatory factors—including C-reactive protein, interleukin 6 (IL-6), and tumor-necrosis-factor receptor 1 (TNFr1)—as well as decreased HDL cholesterol, lipoprotein (a) (Lp[a]), and leptin (p<0.02).

“Inflammation is a key factor in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease and cardiometabolic disease and could represent an additional pathway by which sugar-sweetened beverages influence risk,” say Hu et al.

Cutting consumption of soda is one of easiest behaviors to change

Hu says that one of the major constituents of soda, high-fructose corn syrup, is subsidized in the US, making such drinks “ridiculously cheap” and helping explain why consumption is so high, particularly in lower socioeconomic groups.

Doctors should be advising people with heart disease or at risk to cut back on sugary beverages; it’s almost a no-brainer.

“Doctors should set an example for their patients first,” he stresses. “Then, for people who already have heart disease or who are at high risk, physicians should be advising them to cut back on sugary beverages; it’s almost a no-brainer, like recommending that they stop smoking and do more exercise. The consumption of sugary beverages is a relatively easy behavior to change.”

And although this particular study included mostly white subjects and there are few data on the risk of cardiovascular disease associated with the consumption of soda in people of other ethnicities, there are data on its effect on type 2 diabetes in these groups, he says.

“It has been shown for minority groups—such as African Americans and Asians—that they are more susceptible to the detrimental effects” of sugary drinks on diabetes incidence, he notes.

And if you think soft drinks are the only culprits containing high-fructose corn syrup – you’ll be surprised.  Livestrong has published a list of corn syrup containing products – and you’ll see with even a quick glance, that it’s everywhere, and in everything.

Another blog talking about the harm of Corn Syrup

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