More Corn Syrup, More Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes rates higher in countries that consume larger amounts of high fructose corn syrup

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) High fructose corn syrup is in so many of our processed foods. As such, it's hard for some of us to avoid eating this common sweetener.

Large amounts of high fructose corn syrup in foods across the world may play a part in the rising rates of type 2 diabetes, according to a recent study.

In the United States, high fructose corn syrup is typically used as a sweetener in processed foods like breads, cereals, salad dressings and yogurts, among many others.

"Eat fresh! Limit your consumption of processed foods."

Michael I. Goran, PhD, of the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, and colleagues found countries that used high fructose corn syrup in many of their foods had a 20 percent higher rate of diabetes than countries that did not use high fructose corn syrup.

"High fructose corn syrup appears to pose a serious public health problem on a global scale, said Dr. Goran.

This study adds to a growing body of evidence showing that eating high fructose corn syrup may have serious health consequences that are more harmful than natural sugar, he continued.

Findings showed that Americans consumed the most high fructose corn syrup compared to those from 41 other countries. In the US, individuals ate about 55 pounds of high fructose corn syrup each year.

Hungary had the second highest rate of corn syrup consumption, with an annual rate of 46 pounds per person.

Other countries that consumed large amounts of high fructose corn syrup were Canada, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Belgium, Argentina, Korea, Japan and Mexico.

Some of the lowest consumers of high fructose corn syrup included Germany, Poland, Greece, Portugal, Egypt, Finland and Serbia.

Countries in which individuals ate less than 0.5 kilogram (about 1 pound) each year included Australia, China, Denmark, France, India, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Uruguay.

The average rate of type 2 diabetes in countries that consumed higher levels of high fructose corn syrup was 8 percent. In comparison, countries that did not use high fructose corn syrup had an average diabetes rate of 6.7 percent.

This study suggests high fructose corn syrup may boost the risk of type 2 diabetes, which is one of the leading causes of death around the world, said Stanley Ulijaszek, PhD, study co-author from the University of Oxford.

Of all the countries in the world, the US consumes the most high fructose corn syrup. By the end of the last century, high fructose corn syrup made up 40 percent of all caloric sweeteners and was the main sweetener in sodas sold in the US.

Trade and agricultural policies may be one reason that levels of corn syrup consumption were so different between European counties. These policies set quotas for the production of high fructose corn syrup. Some countries - such as the UK and Sweden - do not take their assigned quotas. However, other countries - such as Hungary and Slovakia - can buy extra quotas from countries that do not take them.

According to the authors, the study's results suggest global trade policies may have an impact on public health.

"If high fructose corn syrup is a risk factor for diabetes - one of the world's most serious chronic diseases - then we need to rewrite national dietary guidelines and review agriculture trade policies," said Dr. Tim Lobstein of the International Association for the Study of Obesity.

"High fructose corn syrup will join trans fats and salt as ingredients to avoid, and foods should carry warning labels," he said.

The study was published November 27 in the journal Global Public Health.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 28, 2012
Last Updated:
April 11, 2013