Sugary Sodas High in Diabetes-Linked Compound

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By Theresa Waldron
HealthDay Reporter
Friday, August 24, 2007; 12:00 AM

FRIDAY, Aug. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Sodas sweetened with high fructose corn syrup contain high levels of a potentially dangerous compound often found in the blood of diabetics, a new study concludes.

It could be cause for concern, experts say, because the "reactive carbonyls" in these sugary drinks could bump up diabetes risk, particularly in children.

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) "is the most popular sweetener used in foods and beverages today, it has been used in the United States for many years," said Chi-Tang Ho, a professor of food science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.

Virtually all carbonated soft drinks in the United States are sweetened with HFCS, mostly because it dissolves easily, is sweeter than other types of sugar, and is more economical. Although the study did not specifically investigate the risk of diabetes with HFCS drinks, Ho suggested that steering clear of them might be a healthy move.

His team tested 11 carbonated soft drinks that contained HFCS and found they contained high levels of reactive carbonyls -- compounds that are normally elevated in the blood of people with diabetes.

The study was expected to be presented Thursday at the American Chemical Society annual meeting in Boston.

The reactive carbonyls in the blood of diabetics have been linked to complications of diabetes, such as tissue damage, Ho said.

In his study, Ho found that just one can of HCFS-sweetened carbonated beverage contained about five times the amount of reactive carbonyls found in the blood of a person with diabetes. In comparison, sucrose -- ordinary table sugar -- contains no reactive carbonyls, he said.

Ho suggests that parents check the labels of all the beverages their children consume and discourage them from drinking those containing HCFS. Instead, substitute diet carbonated beverages, water or fruit juices.

Ho also noted that other types of beverages may contain high levels of HFCS, as well. So-called "hydrating" sports drinks often contain HFCS. Ho is particularly concerned about high-caffeine energy drinks.

"I worry about kids in high school," he said. "They rely on energy drinks to do their homework and stay awake. The level of [HFCS] is so high."

Adding a beneficial antioxidant compound found in tea called "epigallocatechin gallate," or EGCG, to drinks that contain HFCS appears to lower reactive carbonyl levels, Ho said. That could mean that drinking beverages that contain both tea extracts and HFCS may not be as harmful as drinking HCFS-sweetened sodas, he said. However, further research is needed to prove that.


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