Study Alleging HFCS-Diabetes Link ‘Flawed and Misleading’: CRA

A new study by researchers from USC and Oxford, employs a “severely flawed statistical methodology and ignores well established medical facts to ‘suggest’ a unique link between high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and Type 2 diabetes,” according to the Washington, D.C.-based Corn Refiners Association (CRA), the national trade association representing the corn refining (wet milling) industry of the United States.

The association pointed out that an earlier study critical of HFCS from the present study’s lead author, Dr. Michael I. Goran, was criticized for both its study design and conclusions. The new study, "High fructose corn syrup and diabetes prevalence: A Global Perspective," appeared in the journal Global Public Health.

“This latest article by Dr. Goran is severely flawed, misleading and risks setting off unfounded alarm about a safe and proven food and beverage ingredient,” noted CRA President Audrae Erickson. “Dr. Goran commits the most fundamental of research errors: Just because an ingredient is available in a nation’s diet does not mean it is uniquely the cause of a disease.”

Added Erickson, “The commonsense message for consumers to understand is to watch their intake of all extra calories, including all added sugars.”

Diabetes is a complex disease with many underlying factors,” said James M. Rippe, M.D., Professor, BioMedical Sciences, University of Central Florida, and a consultant to CRA. “It is highly unlikely that one component of the diet is uniquely related to diabetes. There are well-established links between obesity and diabetes. That is where we should be focusing our attention, rather than vilifying one component of the diet.”

Food writer Marion Nestle concurred that the study's findings were suspect, telling The New York Times, "I think it's a stretch to say the study shows high-fructose corn syrup has anything special to do with diabetes. Diabetes is a function of development. The more cars, more TVs, more cellphones, more sugar, more meat, more fat, more calories, more obesity, the more diabetes you have."

CRA pointed out that among the reasons for the study’s unreliability were the fact that HFCS and sugar are nutritionally and metabolically equivalent, and the American Medical Association has concluded that HFCS isn’t a unique cause of obesity, so there is no scientific or medical basis to distinguish HFCS from table sugar in terms of human health effects; the research cited compares pure fructose to pure glucose, neither of which is consumed in isolation in a normal diet; and a characteristic of a large group (diabetics) is compared to a single factor (high-fructose corn syrup availability), with no clear evidence of causation.

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