Study finds diet free of HFCS-laced drinks may cut COPD risk by a third

Posted by
February 10, 2015

We’ve known for a while that eliminating beverages containing high fructose corn syrup from your diet can substantially reduce your risk of becoming obese, developing diabetes and a whole raft of other serious metabolic diseases.  But who would have guessed that it might also make you less apt to get COPD (which is short for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a lung condition marked by wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath)?

Now COPD, as everyone knows, is an ailment mostly attributable to smoking, with exposure to polluted air also known to be a contributing factor. But now, a surprising new study has found that having a healthier diet — which includes reducing or eliminating consumption of beverages that contain high fructose corn syrup – can also help to keep this life-altering and life-threatening disease at bay.

Of course, as is so often the case, a report on the study posted at the site Medical News Today only makes mention of “sugary drinks.”  But it doesn’t require a medical degree to translate that into HFCS- sweetened ones. That’s because the study involved is actually an assessment of the effects of diet on the risk of COPD among 73,228 women who took part in the Nurses’ Health Study from 1984 to 2000, and 47,026 men who took part in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study from 1986 to 1998.

And it just so happens that 1984 – the starting year of that research – was the exact same year that major soft-drink manufacturers first substituted HFCS for sugar in their products. And they’ve been using it ever since. (In fact, it’s interesting and somewhat disturbing to note that despite the marked decrease in smoking in America over the past few decades, the mortality rate from COPD actually rose for about men and women — especially the latter — in the decade between 1999 and 2009, taking it from the fourth to the third leading cause of death in this country.)

Consumption of those mislabeled “sugary drinks” was one of the key criteria for a healthy diet (known as the Alternative Healthy eating Index 2010, of AHEI-2010) that researchers concluded made those who followed it a third less likely to develop COPD than participants who scored lowest for their eating habits. AHEI-2010 also calls for replacing red or processed meats and refined grain with higher amounts of vegetables, whole grains, polyunsaturated fats, nuts and omega-3 fatty acids, such as are found in salmon, sardines and other fish.

So is there a scientific explanation for these findings? According to the report, the researchers theorize that the loss of lung function over time and the eventual development of COPD” may be related to the way “certain exposures (and local inflammation) can further increase the burden of oxidants,” and that the antioxidants in a healthy diet may help offset the effects of “potentially toxic substances.”

Of course, HFCS isn’t the only “potentially toxic substance” to be found in conventional processed food. The list also includes many others that impact health in various ways, from the adverse reactions and possible brain damage caused by monosodium glutamate and aspartame to the artery-clogging effects of partially hydrogenated oil. (And even certain nonorganic vegetables can harbor unhealthy residues of pesticides that can lead to cancer and neurological damage.)

But HFCS, which tops our list of undesirable ingredients, has the distinction of being linked by scientific research to a whole slew of serious health problems, including obesity, diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, heart problems and pancreatic cancer.

And now there may be one more important health-related reason to avoid it — or at least one of its main dietary sources — if you aren’t already doing so.