London - A sweetener used in food manufacture could be partly to blame for rising rates of type 2 diabetes.
Countries where large amounts of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is used have higher rates of the disease than those where little is consumed, according to research.
Among 42 countries studied, rates of diabetes were 6.7 percent in low-consuming nations. They hit eight percent in high-consuming nations – a 20 percent increase.
Professor Stanley Ulijaszek, from Oxford University, who co-led the study, said: “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.”
In the UK, foods containing fructose syrup include McVitie’s HobNobs, McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes, Carte D’Or ice cream, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Kellogg’s All Bran, Ribena and Mr Kipling Bakewell Slices. It often appears in ingredients lists as “glucose-fructose syrup”, “high fructose corn syrup”, or “HFCS”.
The syrup is widely used in drinks and processed foods because it acts as a sweetener, helps keep foods moist and is cheaper than regular cane sugar. Of the countries studied, the US had by far the greatest consumption per head of HFCS, amounting to more than 55lb per year, said the report in the journal Global Public Health.
Hungary, Canada, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Belgium, Argentina, Korea, Japan and Mexico were also high consumers.
UK consumption was very low at around 1lb per person per year, placing it alongside Australia, China, Denmark, France, India, Ireland, Italy, Sweden and Uruguay.
But Professor Ulijaszek said the UK was a high consumer of total sugar at some 88lb per person per year. Sugar consumption, irrespective of the type, was strongly linked to diabetes, he added.
Tim Lobstein, director of policy for the UK-based International Association for the Study of Obesity, said: “If HFCS is a risk factor for diabetes – one of the world’s most serious chronic diseases – then we need to rewrite national dietary guidelines.... and foods should carry warning labels.”
But a spokesman for the British Soft Drinks Association warned: “You cannot draw any conclusions from this research because it does not actually look at the relationship between consumption of HFCS and diabetes.
“Those studies that have looked at this relationship find that there isn’t one.
“The risk factors for type 2 diabetes have been assessed by the International Diabetes Federation as being overweight/obesity, aging, ethnicity, family history of diabetes, previous gestational diabetes and a sedentary lifestyle.
“The way to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes is to control one’s weight and live a physically active lifestyle. There is a place for soft drinks as part of a balanced diet.” - Daily Mail