Countries that have opted to use high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in their food and drink industry have a 20% higher mean prevalence of diabetes than countries that have minimal use of or do not use the sweetener.
"HFCS appears to pose a serious public health problem on a global scale," study author Michael Goran (University of Southern California, USA) told the press.
"The study adds to a growing body of scientific literature that indicates HFCS consumption may result in negative health consequences distinct from and more deleterious than natural sugar," he added.
Goran and team estimated the per capita usage of HFCS in 43 countries across the world. The highest per capita usage was in the USA, at 25 kg per year, with the next highest in Hungary, at 16 kg per capita.
Countries with a medium per capita use of HFCS included Slovakia, Bulgaria, Belgium, Argentina, Korea, Japan, and Mexico, whereas Australia, China, Denmark, France, India, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, the UK, and Uruguay all had low or minimal (less than 0.5 kg/year) levels of consumption.
The mean prevalences of diabetes, according to the of International Diabetes Federation and Global Burden of Metabolic Risk Factors Collaborating Group, in countries with high levels of available HFCS versus low levels were 7.8% versus 6.3% and 8.0% versus 7.1%, respectively, after correcting for countrywide trends in BMI.
The average countrywide plasma glucose level was also higher in countries with high compared with low HFCS availability, at 5.34 versus 5.22 mmol/L.
"This research suggests that HFCS can increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes, which is one of the most common causes of death in the world today," said study co-author Stanley Ulijaszek (University of Oxford, UK) in a press statement.
"Most populations have an almost insatiable appetite for sweet foods, but regrettably our metabolism has not evolved sufficiently to be able to process the fructose from high fructose corn syrup in the quantities that some people are consuming it," said Ulijaszek.
The findings from this study are published in Global Public Health.
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