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Consumption of High-Fructose Corn Syrup

Consumption of High-Fructose Corn Syrup

Bray’s Arguments for Connection between Consumption of HFCS and Epidemic of Obesity

In the article on consumption of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), Bray (2004) presents several arguments, which link obesity in the USA with consumption of HFCS. Firstly, according to Bray (2014), since the two existing types of HFCS were developed in 1967 and 1977, there has been an increasingly prolific use of these substances in the mass production of foods and beverages available for consumption. HFCS is used by manufacturers of soft beverages, confectionary and baked goods because it is extremely cheap and very sweet. Secondly, the consumer demand and consumption of soft drinks and juices sweetened with HFCS continues to rise every year. Bray (2014) found that while the total annual intake of caloric sweeteners by an average American increased by 34.5 pounds or by 25 percent per year, the intake of HFCS rose by 73.5 pounds or by 11,350 percent per year during the period between 1970 and 2000. It is important to note that the sugar-based sweeteners have been largely replaced in the diets by the fructose-based ones. Thirdly, while the human body responds to intake of sugar by raising insulin levels, which trigger the feeling of saturation, thus preventing overeating and consequent obesity, there is no such response to the intake of fructose. Statistics show that an average consumer ingests HFCS at the rate of at least 132 kcal daily, and the top 20 percent of the statistical population consumes as much as 316 kcal. Bray cites studies, which show that consumption of sweetened beverages does not decrease consumption of regular foods; therefore, the total caloric intake of the population seems to rise. Finlly, to prove his hypothesis, Bray charted the estimated intakes of HFCS and the percentage of overweight and obese population in the same diagram through the years between 1961 and 2000, and found a strong correlation between the growth in the availability and consumption of HFCS-containing beverages and obesity.

Klurfeld’s Arguments against HFCS Being the Cause of the Obesity Epidemic

In his commentary on the lack of evidence for high-fructose corn syrup as the cause of the obesity epidemic, Klurfeld (2013) argues that arguments used by Bray in his research article were inconclusive. He tries to throw doubt on the premise that increasing obesity problems may be uniquely linked with higher HFCS consumption starting from 1970 up to 2012. Klurfeld states that even though metabolism of fructose and glucose in humans differ when those substances are consumed in isolation, such consumption rarely happens in daily life, which makes the studies cited by Bray less relevant. Commentary also shows that HFCS and sucrose have the same calorie count and taste equally sweet. Klurfeld also argues that there are growing obesity issues in many foreign countries where HFCS is absent from the daily diet. Additionally, it is also interesting to note that while HFCS consumption has started to diminish after 2000, the number of people suffering from obesity has not reduced. In the commentary, Klurfeld also suggests that the strong correlation which Bray presented by charting the estimated consumption of HFCS and the increase in the obese population in the same diagram throughout 1961 – 2000 was not scientifically permissible as evidence because it was wrong to extrapolate group data to individuals. Klurfeeld suggests that much more detailed research, preferably on humans, is required to link consumption of HFCS in liquid form of soft drinks and obesity.

However, it is interesting to note that Dr. Foreyt and Dr. Rippe, co-authors of the commentary, have conflicts of interest. The thing is that they receive financial support from producers of HFCS and certain beverage and food manufacturers that rely on HFCS in their production cycles; thus, they may be not really objective.

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In their research, Sievenpiper J.L. et al. (2012) found that substitution of other carbohydrates with fructose, including high-fructose corn syrup, in the diet of humans did not appear to lead to abnormal weight increase, given that the total calorie count remained the same. This research has been conducted recently and seems to lend credence to Klurfeld’s suggestion that obesity is probably caused by consuming more calories rather than by simply ingesting certain quantities of fructose-containing products in preference to glucose-containing ones.

On the other hand, the controlled study conducted by Ebbeling et al. (2006) resulted in decreasing body mass index in the control group of overweight adolescents when their intake of sugar and fructose-sweetened soft drinks was replaced by beverages that did not contain any significant amount of calories. The weight-loss effect was more pronounced for teenagers with a bigger initial body mass index. This study seems to suggest that consuming large quantities of soft drinks sweetened with calorie-containing sweeteners, such as sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, leads to a daily overconsumption of calories in humans, thereby contributing to development of obesity.

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