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High Consumption of Fructose Corn Syrup May Increase Risk of Liver Disease

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is a medical condition that may cause cirrhosis. It happens when excessive fatty cells accumulate in the liver. Major risk factors include hypertension, age, high BMI, type 2 diabetes, low HDL cholesterol, and waist circumference.

A recent study has found that high consumption of fructose corn syrup was associated with higher risks of this liver disease, especially in Mexican Americans.

Results were presented at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in Atlanta, Georgia.

As a natural sugar, fructose can be found in honey, some veggies, fruit juices, and fruits. High fructose corn syrup is usually added to products, such as candies and sodas.

In this study, data was collected from 3,292 people in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2017 and 2018. It included demographic factors, fructose consumption, and the incidence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

In the group, 35.5 percent of participants had a high consumption of fructose corn syrup and 31.5 percent had moderate consumption. Sources of fructose were varied:

– 29 percent from grains, pasta, and baked goods

– 28 percent from fruits and fruit-containing products

– 16 percent from sauces, condiments, and sweeteners

– 16 percent from sodas

In general, Mexican Americans and non-Hispanic Blacks consumed more fructose than non-Hispanic Whites.

The findings indicated that up to 70 percent of Mexican Americans who had high consumption of fructose had nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, while only 52 percent of Mexican Americans with low consumption had the condition.

The results were similar in all ethnic groups.

Concerning the underlying link, high fructose corn syrup would increase the number of fatty cells released by the liver. In addition, this ingredient may cause inflammation in the liver and affect glucose metabolism in the liver. Consuming more fructose would increase abdominal fat and increase the risk of liver disease as well.

The authors reached a conclusion that the association between nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and high consumption of fructose partially explains ethnic and racial differences in the disease.

However, the study has certain limitations. First, it is impossible to make a causal inference as the results came from epidemiologic studies.

Also, the research was based on noninvasive factors instead of liver biopsy. Therefore, it may be not accurate in quantifying fat content in the liver. And lastly, the number of participants is quite small compared to the number of people in the survey.