Even Low or Short-Term Consumption of High Fructose Corn Syrup Increases Heart Risks

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High fructose corn syrup is a sweetener typically used in processed foods and beverages in the United States. Its consumption has been linked to conditions as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. While most assume that excess or long-term consumption is primarily responsible for these adverse health conditions, new research has linked even moderate, short-term consumption with an increased risk of health issues, especially factors that increase the risk of heart disease.

The first of two new studies that look at the risks of high fructose corn syrup (CHFS) consumption was conducted by researchers at the University of California, Davis. Kimber Stanhope PhD and colleagues examined 48 adults between the ages of 18 and 40 and compared the effects of consuming 25% of one’s daily calorie requirement from pure glucose, fructose, or HCFS. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 suggest 25% of calories as an upper limit for added sugar.

Within just two weeks, the study participants consuming fructose or HCFS had increased concentrations of LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and apolipoprotein-B, a protein which can lead to plaques that cause vascular disease. The effect did not occur in those consuming glucose.

Read: High Fructose Corn Syrup Linked to High Blood Pressure

"Our findings demonstrate that several factors associated with an elevated risk for cardiovascular disease were increased in individuals consuming 25 percent of their calories as fructose or high fructose corn syrup, but consumption of glucose did not have this effect," said Dr. Stanhope in a statement.

A second study, conducted at the University Hospital Zurich, found that even low to moderate consumption of beverages sweetened with fructose is associated with adverse changes in glucose and lipid metabolism and markers of inflammation.

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Read: How Fructose May Be Fueling Obesity Epidemic

Dr. Kaspar Berneis and colleagues studied 5 different sugar-sweetened beverages in 29 healthy, normal-weight male volunteers between the ages of 20 and 50 years. All forms of sugar-sweetened beverages had a negative effect on body fat and waist circumference but for those consuming one of two forms of fructose (medium fructose or high fructose), percentage of body fat increase and waist-to-hip ratio was significantly higher than baseline compared to those consuming glucose or sucrose. Fasting blood sugar also increased by 4 to 9% in those consuming fructose-sweetened drinks and high-sensitivity C-Reactive protein increased indicating inflammation.

The results suggest "a more detrimental effect of fructose compared with glucose" despite the fact that the sweetened beverages for calorically identical. The researchers suggest that the difference is due, at least in part, to a difference in fructose metabolism versus glucose metsbolism.

"The message for myself and other physicians is, that we really underestimated the adverse effects of soft drinks," said Dr. Berneis in an email to Reuters Health.

Journal references:
“Consumption of fructose and high fructose corn syrup increase postprandial triglycerides, LDL-cholesterol, and apolipoprotein-B in young men and women,” Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM), October 2011.

“Low to moderate sugar-sweetened beverage consumption impairs glucose and lipid metabolism and promotes inflammation in healthy young men: a randomized controlled trial” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, June 2011

Image Credit: Derrick Coetzee via Flickr

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