Health consequences of HCFS show up earlyAn investigation by scientists from the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) at Georgia Health Sciences University (GHSU) followed 559 children ages 14-18. The study subjects' dietary habits were measured; their blood analyzed and blood pressure, body fat and other health measurements taken. The researchers found a correlation between high-fructose diets and markers for heart and vascular disease such as higher blood pressure, fasting glucose, insulin resistance, levels of C - reactive protein, related to inflammation.
Teens whose diets included more HFCS also had lower levels of HDL cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol) and of the fat burning hormone adiponectin. In addition, study subjects who often consumed the industrial sweetener were more likely to have midsection fat, referred to as visceral adiposity, another known risk factor for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. More generalized fat distribution does not appear to have a link to HFCS or the other health risk factors.
Norman Pollock, assistant professor of pediatrics at GHSU and co-lead author of the study said that "There is not much data in children and adolescents," although "adolescents consume the most fructose so it's really important to not only measure the levels of fructose but to look at what it might be doing to their bodies currently and, hopefully, to look at cardiovascular disease outcomes as they grow."
Re-shaping teen dietsDr. Vanessa Bundy, a pediatric resident at MCG as well as co-lead author of the study, stated "It is so very important to provide a healthy balance of high-quality food to our children and to really pay close attention to the fructose and sucrose they are consuming at their home or anyone else's. The nutrition that caregivers provide their children will either contribute to their overall health and development or potentially contribute to cardiovascular disease at an early age," Bundy also pointed out that parents can help their teens by modeling good health habits, including both nutritious dietary choices and regular exercise.
Bundy also remarked on a truth that alternative health experts have long known but official medical science and health regulatory agencies have been slow to acknowledge: "Fructose itself is metabolized differently than other sugars and has some byproducts that are believed to be bad for us. The overall amount of fructose that is in high fructose corn syrup is not much different than the amount in table sugar but it's believed there's something in the syrup processing that plays a role in the bad byproducts of metabolism."
Previous studies involving animals have had similar results to the Georgia study, but evidence of a direct health link among children between HCFS and health problems may finally spur action to limit adolescent consumption of the sweetener. Pollock noted "Ultimately we want to use this paper and other papers to kind of change politically how food is distributed into the schools, and the types of foods, to cut down on these specific types of foods with high fructose corn syrup in them."
Pollock also pointed out that the study he and his team conducted was unusual in its focus on the total amount of fructose consumed in the diet. "A unique aspect of our study design is that we took into account the fructose released from sucrose during digestion along with the fructose found in foods and beverages. Because sucrose is broken down into fructose and glucose before it arrives at the liver for metabolism, it is important to consider the additional fructose from sucrose when determining the overall health effect of fructose."
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