Is it or isn't it any worse for you than other sweeteners? The controversy over high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) continues - with a new study that implicates HFCS in the rising global epidemic of type-2 diabetes and resulting higher health care costs.
University of Southern California and University of Oxford researchers found that among 42 countries analysed, those that use HFCS in their food supply had a 20 per cent higher prevalence of diabetes than countries that didn't. This was independent of total sugar intake and obesity levels, suggesting - and adding to a growing body of research - that the negative health consequences of HFCS are distinct and more dangerous than natural sugar.
The US has the highest per capita consumption of HFCS at a rate of 25kg per year. China, along with countries such as Australia, France, India and Britain, has a per capita consumption of less than 0.5kg per year. Countries with a higher use of HFCS had an average prevalence of type-2 diabetes of 8 per cent compared to 6.7 per cent in countries not using HFCS.
The study, published in the journal
Global Public Health, proposes that this link is probably driven by higher amounts of fructose in foods made with HFCS. Growing evidence reveals that the body metabolises fructose differently from glucose. Among other things, fructose metabolism occurs independently of insulin, primarily in the liver where it may be readily converted to fat, which probably contributes to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Now test your knowledge of HFCS.
1. Why is HFCS in so many foods?
a. It's more nutritious than sugar
b. It's cheaper to make than sugar
c. It has fewer calories than sugar
2. Earlier this year, an association that represents the US corn refinery industry failed to gain permission from the Food and Drug Administration to change the name of HFCS. What did they want to call it?
a. Corn sugar
b. Sweet syrup
c. Corn crystals
3. If you're trying to avoid added sugars, which ingredient should you watch for on food labels?
c. Raw sugar
4. With the jury on HFCS still out, the American Heart Association recommends that the maximum calories a day from added sugar from any source should be 100 for women and 150 for men. That is equivalent to
a. Four teaspoons for women and six teaspoons for men
b. Six teaspoons for women and nine teaspoons for men
c. Eight teaspoons for women and 12 teaspoons for men
Answers: 1. b; 2. a; 3. all are correct; 4. b