Researchers at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey have found evidence that soft drinks sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) may contribute to the development of diabetes, particularly in children.
Dr. Chi-Tang Ho, a professor of Food Science, conducted chemical tests on 11 different carbonated soft drinks.
It was found that drinks that contained HFCS had high levels of reactive carbonyls, compounds associated with "unbound" fructose and glucose molecules that are believed to cause tissue damage, which could cause the disease.
While presenting the study at the 234th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, Dr. Ho said that reactive carbonyls are not present in table sugar, whose fructose and glucose components are "bound" and chemically stable.
Several studies have shown that reactive carbonyls are elevated in the blood of individuals with diabetes and linked to the complications of that disease.
Dr. Ho reckons that a single can of soda contains about five times the concentration of reactive carbonyls than the concentration found in the blood of an adult diabetic.
It was also observed that adding epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a compound in tea, significantly reduced the levels of reactive carbonyls in the carbonated soft drinks studied. Dr. Ho said that the levels of reactive cabonyls were reduced by half in some cases.
"People consume too much high-fructose corn syrup in this country. It's in way too many food and drink products and there's growing evidence that it's bad for you," says Ho.
The researchers, however, noted that eliminating or reducing consumption of HFCS was preferable to taking help of the tea-derived supplement to reduce its potentially toxic effects.
They are currently exploring the chemical mechanisms by which tea appears to neutralize the reactivity of the syrup, besides probing the mechanisms by which carbonation increases the amount of reactive carbonyls formed in sodas containing HFCS.
They note that non-carbonated fruit juices containing HFCS have one-third the amount of reactive carbonyl species found in carbonated sodas with HFCS, while non-carbonated tea beverages containing high-fructose corn syrup, which already contain EGCG, have only about one-sixth the levels of carbonyls found in regular soda.
Dr. Ho suggested that food and drink manufacturers could reduce concerns about HFCS by adding more EGCG, using less HFCS, or replacing the syrup with alternatives such as regular table sugar.