Study: High fructose corn syrup blamed for global diabetes epidemic

The use of high fructose corn syrup has influenced the rate of type two diabetes - and the need for screenings like this - around the world, a new international study suggests.
The use of high fructose corn syrup has influenced the rate of type two diabetes - and the need for screenings like this - around the world, a new international study suggests. Christiana Care/Flickr Creative Commons License

The widespread consumption high fructose corn syrup poses serious health problems worldwide, suggests an international study by researchers at the University of Southern California and Oxford University.

Researchers examined the use of high fructose corn syrup in 42 nations in North America, Asia, Europe and Northern Africa. They found that people who use the refined sweetener in their foods and beverages had a 20 percent higher rate of Type-2 diabetes than thosein  nations that don’t use it.

Type-2 diabetes is the most common form of the chronic, life-long disease caused by high levels of sugar in the blood. Worldwide, it afflicts more than 150 million people, says the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The researchers found that  the United States had the highest per capita consumption of the corn-based sweetener  – about 55 pounds a year, per person.

The study, published in the Journal Global Public Health, adds to evidence that suggests consumption of high fructose corn syrup is worse for heath than natural sugar - in part because it contains a higher proportion of fructose to glucose than does natural sugar. 

Unlike glucose, fructose is metabolized by the liver and the researchers say they believe this could be a reason for another serious health problem:  the rise in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease among Latinos in the US and in Mexico.

The study points out that Mexico has received “exponential” increases in high fructose corn syrup exports from the United States since trade restrictions were lifted in 2008.

Global Public Health

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