High-fructose corn syrup. It sounds pretty tasty and makes some of your favorite foods and drinks irresistibly delicious. But how detrimental is this sweet ingredient to your health?
A recent study discovered a link between high-fructose corn syrup and diabetes. A joint study conducted by the University of Southern California and the University of Oxford suggests that Type 2 diabetes rates are higher – a whopping 20 percent more – in countries with the highest rates of high-fructose corn syrup consumption. The study, published in Global Public Health, also notes that the rates of diabetes are lower in countries where consumption is at a minimum.
The United States tops the study’s list with the highest per capita consumption rate: 55 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup per year. The findings are particularly disconcerting for blacks because Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the disease – and diabetes disproportionately affects the black population. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health (OMH), blacks are twice as likely as whites to develop diabetes. In fact, fourteen percent of the black population is afflicted with the disease.
In addition, compared to whites with diabetes, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) states that blacks with the disease have a 50 percent chance of going blind, and are from 2.6 to 5.6 times as likely to develop kidney disease. Amputations also increase in likelihood by 2.7 times. And as of 2009, the OMH noted that blacks were 2.2 times as likely to die from complications related to diabetes.
Black women are more likely to be affected by diabetes than any other gender/race combination. The ADA notes that the disease affects 25 percent of black females over the age of 55.
Genetics may be to blame for the level of susceptibility among black people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that some researchers have concluded that black Americans – and other ethnic groups, such as Hispanics, Asians, and Pacific Islanders – are heirs to a “thrift gene.” In essence, their ancestors stored food energy in their bodies during plentiful times so they could survive during times of famine. But now that most of these ethics groups are not subject to issues of food scarcity, the thrift gene has become something of a curse.
In 2010, it was estimated that treating diabetes costs patients $6,000 per year. Of course, that doesn’t take into account any lost wages and quality of life issues, which can’t be quantified.
After the release of this most recent study drawing a connection between diabetes and high-fructose corn syrup, the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) was quick to issue statements discounting the validity of the research. The CRA’s president called the study “severely flawed, misleading, and a poorly conducted analysis.” In addition, the CRA accused the researchers of ignoring other components of a person’s diet that may lead to diabetes.
However, this is not the first time that high-fructose corn syrup has come under fire. In 2004, researchers at Louisiana State University and the University of North Carolina found a link between high-fructose corn syrup and obesity. The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggested that “the overconsumption of HFCS in calorically sweetened beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity.”
In addition, as far back as 2005, Diabetes Health warned of the dangers of high-fructose corn syrup for diabetics, and cautioned against consuming any food that listed this product as one of its first ingredients. Diabetes Health has not changed their stance, and has provided the following list to help consumers identify popular products that contain the syrupy substance:
- Soft drinks
- Artificial fruit juices and fruit drinks
- Breads, cakes, cookies and other baked goods
- Fruits and vegetables, such as pickles and baked beans
- Salad dressing, pancake syrups, sauces (ketchup, mustard, BBQ)
- Breakfast cereals and bars
- Canned soups
- Canned fruits (in artificial juices)
- Yogurt (frozen and fruit-flavored)
Health is an irreplaceable resource, and identifying and limiting – if not completely avoiding – health-depleting ingredients is one of the most important steps that an individual can take to maintain and improve their physical condition. An anonymous Facebook quote says it best: “True healthcare reform starts in your kitchen, not in Washington.”