Photo of mixed candies
Processed foods with high fructose corn syrup can greatly increase risk of heart disease [Image: Bing Ramos - Wikimedia Commons]

High fructose corn syrup link to heart disease

27 July, 2011

A new US study has found that adults consuming high levels of high fructose corn syrup can lead to increased blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, which have been shown to be indicators of increased risk for heart disease.

In this small study, scientists examined 48 adults between the ages of 18 and 40 years and to assess the impact on heart health consuming 25% of one’s daily calorie requirement as glucose, fructose or high fructose corn syrup on risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

They found that within two weeks, study participants consuming fructose or high fructose corn syrup, but not glucose, showed increased levels of LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol, triglycerides and apolipoprotein-B (a protein which can lead to plaques that clog arteries and cause vascular disease).

“While there is evidence that people who consume sugar are more likely to have heart disease or diabetes, it is controversial as to whether high sugar diets may actually promote these diseases, and dietary guidelines are conflicting,” said the study’s senior author, Kimber Stanhope, PhD, of the University of California, Davis.

“Our findings demonstrate that several factors associated with an elevated risk for cardiovascular disease were increased in individuals consuming 25% of their calories as fructose or high fructose corn syrup.”

High fructose corn syrup is commonly used in place of sugar in sodas and processed foods breads, cereals, breakfast bars, processed meats, yogurts, soups and condiments. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 suggest an upper limit of 25% or less of daily calories consumed as added sugar.

But the American Heart Association recommends that people consume only 5% of calories as added sugar. UK healthy eating recommendations suggest an upper limit of 11% of total calories. But according to the latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) we take in more than this In children aged 4-10 sugar makes up 14% of daily calories; aged 11-18 this goes up to 16% and for adults 18 and over the figure is 12%.

The data or this study is due to appear in the October 2011 edition of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology Management. The results suggest that our recommendations of ‘healthy’ sugar intake may now need re-evaluating.