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This common sweetener linked to type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome

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By David Liu, PHD

Saturday April 7, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- A new review study posted on the website of St. Catherine University found evidence suggesting that eating food/beverages with added high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) may increase risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome.

High fructose corn syrup, the industry now calls it corn sugar, is widely used in processed foods and beverages.  Recent bad publicity for this sweetener due to the link between its consumption and obesity epidemic in the United States has forced some beverage and food manufacturers to use more table sugar instead.

High fructose corn syrup does not exist in nature although the industry claim it is natural.  This product is derived from starch through a series of chemical and enzymatic processes that transform tasteless yet cheap starch into high fructose corn syrup whichs contain almost equal amounts of glucose and fructose. The sweetener is widely used not only because it is cheap, but also because it renders some favorable or desired palatability attributes.

The review led by Amanda Sullivan found eating one or more servings of fructose corn syrup per day is associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes and other metabolic syndrome issues in young and middle-aged women.

The review was intended to examine the effects of high HFCS consumption and its association with risk of type 2 diabetes in women. Previous studies have found that eating high fructose corn syrup is correlated with elevated energy intake and obesity  or weight gain.

For the review, the author searched PubMed, the medical database, using keywords "HFCS, type 2 diabetes to find the studies on humans excluding articles that are older than 10 years or focused on children, adolescents or men.

Six studies were identified and five showed evidence of an correlation between HFCS consumption and elevated risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus and other  metabolic syndrome risk factors in you and middle-aged women.

One randomized clinical trial did not find any difference in effects of HFCS and sucrose, which is also known as table sugar made either from sugar cane or beet.  Sucrose contains equal moles of glucose and fructose based on which the corn sugar industry claims that HFCS is the same as sucrose. But studies by Princeton University and other organizations show that both types of sweeteners exert different physiological responses and rats eating HFCS gained more weight.

The author found an association between eating high fructose corn syrup and elevated risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus in women in meta-analysis, cross-section studies, and prospective cohort studies.

And the key findings of the review included an correlation between consumption of HFCS and increase risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus, metabolic syndrome, gestational diabetes, albuminuria and gout, the author wrote in an abstract.

The author wrote "Based on these studies, high consumption (≥1 serving/day) of HFCS is associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes and other metabolic syndrome issues in young and middle-aged women."

It should be noted that the studies that tied consumption of HFCS to increased risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome are not trials, meaning that the study results do not suggest that eating the food additive causes type  diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome in women even though this possibility cannot be excluded either.

Type 2 diabetes is believed to affect more than 20 million men and women in the United States. This disease in most cases can be avoided by following a healthy lifestyle and diet.  Type 2 diabetes information is readily available over the Internet.

Typical type 2 diabetes symptoms include increased thirst and frequent urination, increased hunger, weight loss, fatigue, blurred vision, slow-healing sores or frequent infections, and areas of darkened skin, according to Mayo Clinic.

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