By Andrew Nusca
Posting in Food
High fructose corn syrup, which some studies have linked to obesity, may also be harmful to the liver, according to a new study.
According to research from Duke University Medical Center, increased consumption of high fructose corn syrup was associated with scarring in the liver or fibrosis among those with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD.
A team led by associate professor Manal Abdelmalek studied 427 adults, analyzing dietary questionnaires collected within three months of the adults' liver biopsies.
Among the participants with NAFLD who consumed high fructose corn syrup -- 81 percent in total, with 29 percent consuming it on a daily basis and the rest between one and six servings per week --increased liver fibrosis was apparent.
Just 19 percent of adults with NAFLD reported no intake of fructose-containing beverages, which have grown in popularity since the 1970s.
"We have identified an environmental risk factor that may contribute to the metabolic syndrome of insulin resistance and the complications of the metabolic syndrome, including liver injury," Abdelmalek said in a statement.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is present in 30 percent of adults in the United States, with a minority progressing to cirrhosis.
"Our findings suggest that we may need to go back to healthier diets that are more holistic," Abdelmalek said in a statement. "High fructose corn syrup, which is predominately in soft-drinks and processed foods, may not be as benign as we previously thought."
As you can imagine, the Corn Refiners Association published a statement saying that the Duke study was flawed because it "incorrectly singled out high fructose corn syrup as being responsible."
Here's an excerpt:
It should be noted that fructose has not been proven to be a cause of NAFLD in humans, and NAFLD subjects are compromised individuals with significant health problems which have very little to do with fructose intake. Moreover, associative studies of this kind are widely judged to be of low scientific value when trying to establish cause-and-effect, data from studies like this that are dependent on recollection of the study subjects are notoriously imprecise, and these studies are full of confounding variables and exceedingly difficult to control.
Our corporate siblings at CBS News recently tried to separate fact from fiction when it comes to high fructose corn syrup.
CBS News correspondent Michele Miller found that "it's just sugar" with an "image problem":
Related on SmartPlanet:
- A common sugar in soda will make you fat
- Infographic: This is why you're fat, America
- Survey: Americans are fat...and delusional
- Why chemicals in plastics could be making you fat
Mar 22, 2010
Just to clarify something, cburkitt - I believe that the article is NOT saying that 81% of the general population drink soda, rather they are saying that 81% of the people who developed NAFLD drink soda.
While HFCS is present in many foods today, certainly the most popular is soda. People drink a lot of soda. Some drink 4-6 cans a day. Typical sweetened sodas have 39-46 grams of sugar per can. That's about 8-10 teaspoons of sugar. Go ahead. Pour yourself a 12-oz glass of water and add 8 teaspoons of sugar. That's what you're drinking when you drink a soda. Some have more sugar than a typical candy bar. The study focused on beverages sweetened with HFCS because it is the primary source of HFCS in people's diets. Nineteen percent reported drinking no beverages with HFCS. I don't hink that's unrealistic. A lot of people, myself included, rarely or never drink soda. I prefer water.
Everyone single person with liver scarring (no exceptions!) drank water at some time in their life. Can't possibly be a coincidence. :D Remember when eggs were bad for you? Wine? Coffee? Salt? Remember all the retractions? Let's wait for more research and confirmation before we jump to conclusions.
I've always dissed high fructose corn syrup myself, but I have to agree with the Corn Refiners Association here. Seeing how it's in nearly everything we eat, I actually doubt that that 19% figure of those who don't eat it is accurate. Pretty much everyone eats it unless you don't eat it on purpose and it's only been the last few years that people really became aware of it. I think the study could just as easily read "Drinking Milk linked to liver scarring" since probably more than 81% of people who have liver scarring drink milk. Not good science.
I asked my dad (who is an actual organic chemist) and he pointed out that regular sugar is half fructose - about the same as high fructose corn syrup. Furthermore, a diet which is high in fructose (regardless of source) can be as dangerous to the liver as high alcohol consumption. Moderate amounts of fructose are metabolized by the cells of the body in a way that is normal and healthy but excessive amounts of fructose end up in the liver where the metabolic process is similar to that for alcohol and can put a strain on the liver and damage it. Switching back to regular sugar is not an improvement - only cutting down on BOTH sugar and high-fructose corn syrup consumption will reduce your risk of liver problems.