University of Southern California and Oxford University researchers last week released a study claiming to find a unique link between high fructose corn syrup and Type 2 diabetes, sparking criticism from the Corn Refiners Association, which says the study is "flawed both in its design and conclusions."
Authored by Dr. Michael I. Goran, the report has met with additional criticism for failing to account for the CRA-supported sentiment among health professionals that HFCS and table sugar are nutritionally equivalent.
"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," said CRA President Audrae Erickson. "It is highly dubious of Dr. Goran--without any human studies demonstrating a meaningful nutritional difference between high fructose corn syrup and sugar--to point an accusatory finger at one and not the other. Just because an ingredient is available in a nation's diet does not mean it is uniquely the cause of a disease."
Erickson explained that one of the study's flaws is that it fails to account for factors which have commonly been held as direct factors in the development of Type 2 diabetes.
"If this study shows anything, it is that there is an association between body mass index and diabetes prevalence," she said. "Take for example, Japan, where the average BMI is 22.59, and Mexico, where the average BMI is 27.59. Even though Japan consumes more HFCS every year than Mexico, the prevalence rates of diabetes in Japan are about half of Mexico."
Erickson said Goran's work relies on previously discredited studies.
"This is not the first time HFCS detractors have tried to use statistical analysis to 'suggest' a unique causal link between HFCS and obesity," she explained.
Noting that rigorous, credible scientific inquiry into the health effects of sweeteners is essential to advancing our understanding of a healthy diet, Erickson summarized the study as the latest in a quest to condemn high fructose corn syrup that crosses the line from science to advocacy.
"The bottom line is this is a poorly conducted analysis, based on a well-known statistical fallacy, by a known detractor of HFCS whose previous attack on the ingredient was deeply flawed and roundly criticized," she concluded. "The common sense message for consumers to understand is to watch their intake of all extra calories, including all added sugars."
CRA also released a statement from University of Central Florida Professor of BioMedical Sciences James M. Rippe, M.D., who consults for CRA.
"Diabetes is a complex disease with many underlying factors," said Dr. Rippe. "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."