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Posts Tagged ‘high fructose corn syrup’

Not as innocent as the Corn Refiners Association would have you believe.

In a courtroom in Los Angeles, a fierce battle is being pitched right now – one that affects almost every person in this nation..    It’s a lawsuit from the nation’s sugar producers accusing the corn industry of false advertising.. That’s right – it takes industry giants to take on those ridiculous, and mis-leading ads.

You know, those ads that ridicule consumers for their health concerns related to the use of high-fructose corn syrup?  (We’ve discussed these health concerns previously in a series of posts that you can see here  and here.)

Link to ad by Corn Industry

But, here (finally) is a response to those ads – that uses science, not fallacy to refute those claims.

At the same time, the Corn Refiners Association has filed a petition with the Food & Drug Administration to change the name of their product from ‘High-fructose corn syrup” to the more innocuous-sounding “Corn Sugar,” which is just another attempt to deceive the American public.

This move comes just as a new medical study links the consumption of a single daily soda with a 20% increase in heart attacks in men.  There’s a great article over at the Heart.org that summarizing these findings, which I have re-posted below for readers.  (the original study was published in Circulation).

Unfortunately, corn syrup in our everyday products in not usually so easy to identify.

A soda a day raises CHD risk by 20% – Lisa Nainggolan

March 12. 2012

Boston, MA – Sugary drinks are associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) as well as some adverse changes in lipids, inflammatory factors, and leptin, according to a new analysis of men participating in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, reported by  Dr Lawrence de Koning (Children’s Hospital Boston, MA) and colleagues online March 12, 2012 in Circulation [1].

Even a moderate amount of sugary beverage consumption—we are talking about one can of soda every day—is associated with a significant 20% increased risk of heart disease even after adjusting for a wide range of cardiovascular risk factors,” senior author Dr Frank B Hu (Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA) told heartwire. “The increased risk is quite substantial, and I think has important public-health implications given the widespread consumption of soda, not only in the US but also increasing very rapidly in developing countries.”

The increased risk is quite substantial, and I think has important public-health implications given the widespread consumption of soda.

The researchers did not find an increased risk of CHD with artificially sweetened beverages in this analysis, however. “Diet soda has been shown to be associated with weight gain and metabolic diseases in previous studies, even though this hasn’t been substantiated in our study,” says Hu. “The problem with diet soda is its high-intensity sweet taste, which may condition people’s taste. It’s still an open question whether diet soda is an optimal alternative to regular soda; we need more data on this. ”

Hu says water is the best thing to drink, or coffee or tea. Fruit juice is “not a very good alternative, because of the high amount of sugar,” he adds, although if diluted with water, “it’s much better than a can of soda,” he notes.

And Hu says although the current results apply only to men, prior data from his group in women in the Nurses’ Health Study [from 2009] were comparable, “which really boosts the credibility of the findings.”

Inflammation could be a pathway for impact of soda upon CHD risk

Hu and colleagues explain that while much research has shown a link between the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and type 2 diabetes, few studies have looked at the association of these drinks with CHD.

Hence, they analyzed the associations of cumulatively averaged sugar-sweetened (eg, sodas) and artificially sweetened (eg, diet sodas) beverage intake with incident fatal and nonfatal CHD (MI) in 42 883 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up study. Beginning in 1986 and every two years until December 2008, participants answered questionnaires about diet and other health habits. A blood sample was provided midway through the study.

There were 3683 CHD cases over 22 years of follow-up. Those in the top quartile of sugar-sweetened-beverage intake had a 20% higher relative risk of CHD than those in the bottom quartile (RR 1.20; p for trend <0.001) after adjustment for age, smoking, physical activity, alcohol, multivitamins, family history, diet quality, energy intake, body-mass index, preenrollment weight change, and dieting.

Adjustment for self-reported high cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, and diagnosed type 2 diabetes only slightly attenuated these associations, which suggests that drinking soda “may impact on CHD risk above and beyond traditional risk factors,” say the researchers.

Consumption of artificially sweetened drinks was not significantly associated with CHD (multivariate RR 1.02; p for trend=0.28).

Intake of sugar-sweetened drinks, but not artificially sweetened ones, was also significantly associated with increased triglycerides and several circulating inflammatory factors—including C-reactive protein, interleukin 6 (IL-6), and tumor-necrosis-factor receptor 1 (TNFr1)—as well as decreased HDL cholesterol, lipoprotein (a) (Lp[a]), and leptin (p<0.02).

“Inflammation is a key factor in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease and cardiometabolic disease and could represent an additional pathway by which sugar-sweetened beverages influence risk,” say Hu et al.

Cutting consumption of soda is one of easiest behaviors to change

Hu says that one of the major constituents of soda, high-fructose corn syrup, is subsidized in the US, making such drinks “ridiculously cheap” and helping explain why consumption is so high, particularly in lower socioeconomic groups.

Doctors should be advising people with heart disease or at risk to cut back on sugary beverages; it’s almost a no-brainer.

“Doctors should set an example for their patients first,” he stresses. “Then, for people who already have heart disease or who are at high risk, physicians should be advising them to cut back on sugary beverages; it’s almost a no-brainer, like recommending that they stop smoking and do more exercise. The consumption of sugary beverages is a relatively easy behavior to change.”

And although this particular study included mostly white subjects and there are few data on the risk of cardiovascular disease associated with the consumption of soda in people of other ethnicities, there are data on its effect on type 2 diabetes in these groups, he says.

“It has been shown for minority groups—such as African Americans and Asians—that they are more susceptible to the detrimental effects” of sugary drinks on diabetes incidence, he notes.

And if you think soft drinks are the only culprits containing high-fructose corn syrup – you’ll be surprised.  Livestrong has published a list of corn syrup containing products – and you’ll see with even a quick glance, that it’s everywhere, and in everything.

Another blog talking about the harm of Corn Syrup

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We are going to switch gears a little bit today.  Instead of our usual discussions relating to surgery, surgical procedures and medical (surgical) tourism – we are going to spend some time talking about Diabetes in a series of posts.

In my role as a nurse practitioner, I became surprisingly familiar with diabetes.  I say surprisingly because as an acute care nurse practitioner specializing in surgery, I never expected to have to fill the role of family doctor or family practitioner.  However, the prevalence of diabetes in this country (USA) is so incredibly pervasive, particularly undiagnosed diabetes – that every health care provider should become well-versed in the treatment of diabetes, and diabetes related conditions.

Diabetes = Coronary Artery Disease!

Working in heart surgery also means that patient education is critical for diabetics, particularly newly diagnosed diabetics[1].   Now one of the things that complicates the issue significantly is providers’ hesitancy to label people as “diabetics” due to insurance implications and all sorts of other issues.  So a lot of primary care providers are dancing around the issue, soft-pedaling the news and generally ignoring or under treating this disease.   As someone who treats the complications of these decisions everyday, (heart attacks, ischemic limbs, infections, etc.) I vehemently disagree with this strategy.

 How can I get my patient to take this seriously, and treat their diabetes aggressively, if I don’t?

Some of the things we need to do to treat Diabetes effectively are:

1. To detect it (estimates place the number of undiagnosed Americans at greater than 17 million people)

The best way to detect Diabetes is to use the newer generation of tests, specifically the hemoglobin A1c.  This test looks at the average glucose levels over several months.  This helps to rule out false elevations from acute illness, injury or surgery.  It also prevents under diagnosing from the tendency to ‘ignore’ one or two abnormal glucose readings.  “Oh, his glucose was 160; we’ll check it again in three months.”  That’s three more months that the patient goes untreated.  (Despite being abnormal, many of the older guidelines ignore readings of less than 180, and require two or more readings for diagnosis.  (Normal glucose is 70 -105 or 110, depending on source.)

2.   To treat it – using SAFE and effective medications.

Many people would be surprised to know that the best drugs for treating Diabetes are the older (cheaper) medications such as metformin (Glucophage) which has been used since 1977.  It’s readily available on many $4.00 pharmacy plans.

Many of the newer, fancier drugs (Avandia is the best known) have been linked to serious complications such as myocardial infarctions (or heart attacks).  Many of the other new drugs have no side benefits[2].  A good prescriber finds the best combination of medications to have the most beneficial effects, limited negative side effects and is cost effective.  Why treat five problems with twenty drugs (expensive with multiple drug interactions) when you can do it with four medications?

3. Finally – and most importantly, lets do more to prevent it.  Let’s all stop soft pedaling, and speak frankly and truthfully with our patients.  Diabetes is a horrible disease, so let’s stop pretending it isn’t.

Instead of trying to be the good, likable provider who turns a blind eye to health destroying behaviors – we need to be direct, and address these issues.  A glucose of 200 isn’t ‘good enough’.  Testing glucose once in a while isn’t ‘good enough’.    You may not like me when I tell you to absolutely, completely stop drinking soft drinks[3] (NEVER drink another soft drink), or to get out and start walking, (or a myriad of other things we’ll talk about) but if that helps reduce your risk of diabetes, prevents diabetic complications and ultimately lengthens and improves your quality of life – then that is a trade-off I am willing to make.


[1] In my previous practice, all patients had a hemoglobin A1c as part of their pre-operative laboratory work-up.  Up to 25% of the patients having heart surgery were found to have elevated A1c levels, and were undiagnosed diabetics.

[2] Just as medications have side effects – many drugs such as metformin have side benefits.   One of the side benefits of metformin is the protective blood vessel effect – patients that take metformin have fewer amputations than patients on other anti-diabetic drugs. Metformin has also been shown to be an important tool in the treatment of certain cancersSeveral research studies show that the use of metformin has been linked to decreased tumor growth in breast cancers.

[3] I am planning for a future article to discuss this in-depth, and present the research.  Please contact me if there is other Diabetes related content you would like to see.

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