The US Center for Disease Control recently released a report detailing the dramatic rise in the prevalence of diabetes in the United States, showing that the number of people who have diabetes across the nation has almost doubled since 1995. This shocking escalation shows no sign of stopping, and if the trend continues then the outlook for our general health is bleak. What is causing the prevalence of diabetes to skyrocket? Why the increase in the number of diagnoses? A second study entitled ‘High fructose corn syrup and diabetes prevalence: A global perspective’ might offer some answers.
This new study examined from a global and ecological perspective the prevalence of type 2 diabetes and the availability of high fructose corn syrup. Forty three countries were examined, and found that diabetes was 20% higher in nations that had higher availability to high fructose corn syrup, even after adjustments were made country-level estimates of body mass indexes, population, and gross domestic product. Their conclusion was that countries with readily accessible HFCS had a higher incidence rate of type 2 diabetes, regardless of obesity.
Of the 43 countries, the United States was ranked at the top, consuming 24.78 kg of HFCS per year, which was nearly double that of Hungary, the second ranking country, which consumed only 16.85 kg. The rate dropped precipitously from there, with Slovakia in third consuming only 9.82 kg. The US also had the highest average BMI at 27.99.
Forty three countries were examined, and found that diabetes was 20% higher in nations that had higher availability to high fructose corn syrup, even after adjustments were made country-level estimates of body mass indexes, population, and gross domestic product.
What is it about HFSC that might cause this increase in diabetes prevalence? An increasing number of studies (such as Stanhope et al. 2009) have found that fructose can have a negative effect on your health. Fructose is always absorbed by your liver, and is metabolized in a way that does not cause an insulin reaction. This results in a lack of insulin to transport the metabolized fructose has been theorized to be a direct cause of weight gain and development of diabetes.
This report was met with scorn by the Corn Refiners Association, who pointed out that correlation does not mean causation. They have issued a statement calling the report “misleading” and “flawed”, and that “uses a severely flawed statistical methodology and ignores well established medical facts to ‘suggest’ a unique link between high fructose corn syrup and Type 2 diabetes.” Audrae Erickson, the president of the association said that, “just because an ingredient is available in a nation’s diet does not mean that it is uniquely the cause of a disease.”