High fructose corn syrup causes diabetes-myth vs science

HFCS-toxic-politicalThis article has been substantially updated and republished. Please read and comment there.

Over the past few months, there has been a lot of baseless claims trying to link high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and a variety of diseases, especially Type 2 diabetes. Like many of these medical myths, there is, at its core, some tiny bit of evidence that is generally misinterpreted or misused. But let’s take a close look at Type 2 diabetes, HFCS and the evidence that either supports or refutes the hypothesis that drinking HFCS is any more responsible for the disease than other sugars.

Just for background, the claimed link is between HFCS and Diabetes mellitus Type 2 (or Type 2 diabetes, T2DM), a metabolic disorder that is characterized by high blood glucose in the context of insulin resistance and relative insulin deficiency. In general, someone with T2DM produces low (or maybe even adequate) levels of insulin, but  various cells and organs become resistant to insulin, so cells don’t remove or store blood glucose. Although the cause of Type 2 diabetes is not completely understood, it results from a complex interaction between diet, obesity, genetics, age and gender. Some of the causes of T2DM are under a person’s own control, like diet and obesity, but many of the factors aren’t.

Because they are often confused, it’s important to note that T2DM has a completely different cause and pathophysiology than Diabetes mellitus Type 1 (T1DM, and once called juvenile diabetes). Type 1 diabetes results from the inability of the beta cells of the pancreas to produce insulin, mostly as a result of an autoimmune disease. Typically, T1DM begins in children, though there are forms of the disease that begin in 30-40’s that had been confused with the type 2 version in the past, but blood tests can determine if it is Type 1 or Type 2. As far as we currently know, T1DM is neither preventable nor curable, and there is only some conflicting evidence about what actually causes T1DM. Diet, including consumption of sugars, won’t cause T1DM. Furthermore, although there are numerous treatments and lifestyle changes that can change the course of T2DM, and there are several medical treatment regimens, Type 1 is a death sentence without regular daily insulin injections. However, over 90-95% of diabetes is the Type 2 form.

The consequences of both types of diabetes are almost the same. Complications of poorly managed diabetes mellitus may include cardiovascular diseasediabetic neuropathy, and diabetic retinopathy, among many other chronic conditions. I was intending to make this a quick explanation of diabetes, but I thought it would be beneficial to understanding the hype behind high fructose corn syrup. Continue reading “High fructose corn syrup causes diabetes-myth vs science”

High fructose corn syrup is addictive-myth vs science

sugarByAnyOtherNameOver the past couple of weeks there have been numerous articles in the blogosphere that state, with a few variations, that high fructose corn syrup is addictive as cocaine. Wow, that’s quite a statement. In fact, one article, High-Fructose Corn Syrup “as Addictive as Cocaine”, doesn’t even make any caveats to that statement. They simply conclude that, “similar to cocaine addiction, the researchers say that some people are more vulnerable to food addiction than others, which explains why some are obese and some are not.” Setting aside the fact that food addiction is an eating disorder with a psychological basis, and more often than not includes foods that don’t contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), let’s look at the study that seems to have caused this myth that it is as “addictive as cocaine.”

Before we examine the article that is the basis of these claims, let’s find out a bit more about HFCS. But first, we need a little sugar biochemistry just to give the reader some background. There are two broad types of sugars, aldose and ketose, along with over twenty individual, naturally-found sugars, called monosaccharides. Of all of those sugars, only four play any significant role in human nutrition: glucosefructosegalactose, and ribose (which has a very minor nutritional role, though a major one as the backbone of DNA and RNA). Got that? Four sugars. Whatever you eat, however you consume it, you can only absorb 4 sugars. Continue reading “High fructose corn syrup is addictive-myth vs science”