Posted by Linda Bonvie
September 18, 2014
The scientific evidence that high fructose corn syrup is indeed hazardous to our health just won’t stop coming, despite the best efforts of the corn refining industry to reassure us that it’s all nothing more than baseless Internet rumors.
The latest such findings were the result of a study (actually, a pair of studies) done by a team of researchers from various universities in New York, California, Missouri and Australia who specialize in such disciplines as exercise science, health, wellness and nutrition, and featured in The New York Times.
The research team tested the effects of drinking what was considered an average American’s daily consumption of HFCS-laden soda on 22 “healthy college-age men and women” who were also asked to do either half or twice as much daily exercise as they normally would on alternating two-week schedules. The minimum expected of whichever group was doing more was 12,000 steps, or about six miles a day.
When results of the carefully controlled experiment were analyzed, the researchers found that just two weeks of soda consumption coupled with relative inactivity resulted in a significant increase in blood concentrations of dangerous very-low-density lipoproteins and a 116-percent increase in markers of bodily inflammation. There were also “clear signs of incipient insulin resistance, which is typically the first step toward Type 2 diabetes,” as the Times article noted.
And that’s pretty much in keeping with what previous research has shown, such as:
- the 2011 study of 48 adults between the ages of 18 and 40 that found those who consumed high fructose corn syrup for two weeks as 25 percent of their daily calorie requirement had increased blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, which were considered indicators of increased risk for heart disease;
- the Georgia Health Sciences University study of 559 adolescents aged 14-18 conducted the same year, which found higher fructose consumption to be associated with multiple markers of cardiometabolic risk, and
- a 2007 study funded by Rutgers University’s Center for Advanced Food Technology that revealed “astonishingly high” levels of reactive carbonyls in soft drinks containing high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) not found in those sweetened with sugar – evidence that such beverages could contribute to the development of diabetes, particularly in children.
The thousands of steps needed to offset the damage
There was, however, a mitigating factor revealed by the latest research. Those “12,000 steps a day” seemed to counteract such adverse effects and bring cholesterol and blood sugar levels down to normal. But such findings, cautioned Dr. Amy Bidwell, who led the research, should not encourage people to consume large amounts of fructose on the assumption that all they have to do is go for a long walk. “I don’t want people to consider these results as a license to eat badly,” noted Bidwell, an assistant professor of exercise science at the State University of New York in Oswego. It’s more a matter of “if you are going to regularly consume fructose, be sure to get up and move around,” she said.
While that might be good advice, it’s also contingent on other considerations.
For one thing, it’s important to keep in mind that the subjects of this experiment were “healthy college-age men and women” who would probably have far less of a problem with walking six miles a day than many individuals who are neither as young nor as healthy (although even college students, who spend long hours in classrooms and on their computers, can easily fall into a rut of becoming sedentary). There’s no getting around the fact that large numbers of people today – many of whom are habitual soda drinkers — lack either the physical ability or simply the time to devote to that level of activity, no matter how desirable it might be.
Then there’s the broader issue of the vast number of products other than soft drinks that still contain high fructose corn syrup, ranging from fruit juice to baked goods to frozen foods – the kinds of items to which no sweetener was ever added before the market became flooded with this cheap, synthetic sugar substitute.
That’s what makes consuming HFCS “in moderation,” as the Corn Refiners Association advises, such a difficult proposition when one’s diet consists mainly of processed foods.
Given that combination of factors, it would seem there’s more reason than ever to shun soda and other products that list HFCS as an ingredient – and opt for the growing number of items that now make a point of having “no high fructose corn syrup” (but watching out for other ingredients on our top ten list of additives to avoid as well).
Which isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be taking as many steps every day as you can – regardless of how healthy your diet is.