High Fructose Corn Syrup and Diabetes

People are often told to “watch what you eat”, and “make improved food choices”, but what does this mean?  Increasing or adding vegetables with meals or snacks is a good choice.  A regular, well-balanced diet is recommended. You should consider looking at the ingredients in the foods you eat, as not all ingredients, such as sugar, are alike. Checking the food label is a good place to start.

When you think of sugar, you may think of candy, soda, and baked goods (not artificially sweetened).  Unfortunately, packaging of foods can sometimes be misleading.  Some foods, often identified as “health” foods, also contain sugars, and sometimes these sugars are hard to identify.  One example is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

Sucrose is a naturally occurring sugar consisting of half glucose and half fructose together as one and is commonly known as table sugar.  Your body has to digest and break the glucose and fructose apart in order to use it for energy.

This is important because fructose is used by our bodies in a slightly different manner than glucose.  It is taken up mostly by the liver whereas glucose can be taken up by tissues.  Glucose is used by the brain and muscles for energy, causes our bodies to release hormones, and increases feelings of fullness.  Fructose lacks these abilities as itdoes not produce an insulin response, is mostly used by the body to form triglycerides or stored in fat tissue, and can increase your appetite.There is some research to suggest that high intake of fructose is associated with insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome (increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around waist, high cholesterol/triglycerides), liver disease, and high triglyceride levels.

Many store brand items utilize HFCS in place of sucrose to sweeten their foods because it is cheaper for them as they can use less (fructose is sweeter) and costs lest.  Also HFCS comes in two forms, a higher level fructose and a lower level fructose.  The higher level fructose can be found in sweet beverages, while the lower level can be found in baked goods.

Looking at ingredient labels, we can find a number of different sweetening agents.  Look for corn syrup, corn syrup solids, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, glucose, or sucrose.

We already know that we should limit our intake of sugars such as sucrose, glucose, and dextrose as they raise blood glucose levels, but what about the other ingredients? Corn syrup (corn syrup, corn syrup powder, corn syrup solids) contains only glucose which means that it may enter the body faster and can raise blood sugar levels more quickly.  High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is a mixture of separated glucose and fructose, which can also lead to a faster increase in blood sugar.

Here are some surprising sources of high fructose corn syrup (and some not so surprising):

Medicines: Cough Syrups, Allergy Medications
Soda, Sport Drinks, Juice “Cocktails”
Snacks:Yogurts, Candy Bars, Crackers, Breakfast Bars, Cookies
Condiments: Ketchup, BBQ sauce, Marinades, Steak Sauce, Salad Dressings, Cranberry Sauce, Pickles,
Pasta Sauce, Stuffing Mixes and Cereals

There are currently no recommended guidelines on how much fructose is too much, or a blanket statement “don’t eat high fructose corn syrup”.  There are recommendations to limit the amount of all sugars in our diets.  The current recommendation from the American Diabetes Association (ADA) is that fructose should be obtained from natural sources such as fruit rather than as an additive in your foods.  Consider checking the ingredient labels for HFCS in foods if your blood glucose levels fluctuate inconsistently after eating or if you eat a lot of processed foods.It is important to keep in mind that the amount of HFCS adds up when consuming multiple foods that contain it.  Due to the potential harmful effects of too much HFCS, it is a good idea to decrease your intake of it.

This Article is Brought to you By Our Guest Staff Writers:
Jeremy KW Spiewak, CPhT, BA Chemistry, MCPHSUniversityPharmD 2016 Candidate
Damian Bialonczyk, PharmD, MBA Fellow, MCPHS University
Jennifer Goldman, PharmD, CDE, BC-ADM, FCCP Professor of Pharmacy Practice, MCPHS University Clinical Pharmacist, Well Life Medical‎‎