Study links soft drinks with HFCS to diabetes

by Staff
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WASHINGTON — Soft drinks sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup may contribute to the development of diabetes, according to new research reported at the American Chemical Society’s national meeting.

Drinks with the syrup have high levels of reactive compounds that have been shown to trigger cell and tissue damage that could lead to diabetes, the study said. The risk is particularly associated with children.

"People consume too much high-fructose corn syrup in this country," said Chi-Tang Ho, Ph.D., who conducted the study. "It’s found in way too many food and drink products, and there’s growing evidence that it’s bad for you."

In the study, Mr. Ho, a professor of food science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., chemically tested 11 different carbonated soft drinks with HFCS and found high levels of reactive carbonyls in the beverages. Specifically, these reactive compounds are associated with "unbound" fructose and glucose molecules and are believed to cause tissue damage. These compounds occur in higher levels in the blood of people with diabetes and also may lead to complications.

Mr. Ho found that an individual can of a carbonated beverage has about five times the concentration of reactive carbonyls than the concentration found in the blood of an adult individual with diabetes.

However, Mr. Ho and his team of researchers also found that adding tea components to drinks with HFCS may help lower the level of reactive carbonyls. Specifically, adding epigallocatechin gallate, a compound found in tea, reduced levels. In some instances, levels of reactive carbonyls were reduced by half with the tea compound.

Despite the new research, the American Beverage Association remains unconvinced of a link between soft drinks with HFCS and diabetes.

"HFCS is a common liquid sweetener whose compounds — glucose and fructose — are found in many everyday foods and beverages, including fruit and corn," said Dr. Richard H. Adamson, scientific consultant to the A.B.A. "There is nothing unique to their ingestion or metabolism. Even industry critics have found there is no unique link between this ingredient and metabolic responses or obesity, a known risk factor for diabetes."

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