Tea extract could reduce purported diabetes link

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Fructose corn syrup, High fructose corn, High-fructose corn syrup

A US study presented last week claimed to establish a link between
high fructose corn syrup and diabetes, particularly in children -
but researchers say a compound found in tea could reduce the
effect.

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a liquid sweetener containing fructose and glucose that is commonly used in food and beverage products. But it is perhaps most closely associated with non-diet soft drinks, high consumption of which has been implicated as a possible contributor to obesity. The study, which was presented at the meeting of the American Chemical Society, claims to have established a link with diabetes that they say had previously been suggested by some researchers. Chi-Tang Ho, PhD, of Rutgers University, analysed 11 different soft drinks and found "astonishingly high"​ levels of reactive carbonyls. These compounds - thought to cause cell and tissue damage - have been linked to diabetes since diabetics have higher levels in their blood. The researchers say these reactive carbonyls are associated with the unbound structure of the fructose and glucose molecules. They are not found in table sugar, in which the fructose and glucose components are described as "bound and chemically stable".​ Interestingly, Ho and his team found that adding epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a compound found in tea, to the drinks reduced the levels of reactive carbonyl species in a dose-dependent manner. This finding could be worthy of consideration by drinks companies, as major players including Coca Cola and Pepsi Co are balancing out their soft drink offerings with products that have a healthy spin. Green tea, which has a high content of EGCG, has emerged as a beverage attracting a high level of consumer awareness. Traditionally drunk in Asia, it is now commonly available in a ready-to-drink cold format. According to a recent report from Datamonitor, green tea sales have grown substantially in the US. The market grew from €18m ($119m) in 2001 to €116m ($160m) in 2006, but such growth in Europe was not as apparent. The Rutgers HFCS study has not been published and the full methodology and data have not been seen by FoodNavigator.com. But their communication has reignited debate over an ingredient some see as being unjustifiably demonised - and others regard as a contributor to major lifestyle diseases. The American Beverage Associate responded to coverage of the study, saying "There is absolutely no unique link between soft drinks sweetened with HFCS and diabetes, in children or adults. In fact, it is a stretch of the imagination to link the laboratory findings of this unpublished in vitro study with the occurrence of diabetes in humans." ​ The problem, says ABA, is that such a chemical analysis does not take into consideration human digestive and metabolic processes. "The researcher's findings simply cannot be extrapolated to people,"​ said ABA scientific consultant Dr Richard Adamson. Reactive carbonyls are also found in orange juice and coffee, Adamson said the techniques used may have been affected by the presence of acidity and carbonation. "There is nothing unique to HFCS." ​ He added: "All beverages, including those sweetened with HFCS, can play a role in a healthy and balanced lifestyle when consumed in moderation and in conjunction with regular physical activity. Singling out any one food, beverage or ingredient as a unique cause or contributor to diabetes is simply not supported by science."

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