High fructose corn syrup linked to liver scarring

High fructose corn syrup, which some studies have linked to obesity, may also be harmful to the liver, according to a new study.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

High fructose corn syrup, which some studies have linked to obesity, may also be harmful to the liver, according to a new study.

According to research from Duke University Medical Center, increased consumption of high fructose corn syrup was associated with scarring in the liver or fibrosis among those with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD.

A team led by associate professor Manal Abdelmalek studied 427 adults, analyzing dietary questionnaires collected within three months of the adults' liver biopsies.

Among the participants with NAFLD who consumed high fructose corn syrup -- 81 percent in total, with 29 percent consuming it on a daily basis and the rest between one and six servings per week --increased liver fibrosis was apparent.

Just 19 percent of adults with NAFLD reported no intake of fructose-containing beverages, which have grown in popularity since the 1970s.

"We have identified an environmental risk factor that may contribute to the metabolic syndrome of insulin resistance and the complications of the metabolic syndrome, including liver injury," Abdelmalek said in a statement.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is present in 30 percent of adults in the United States, with a minority progressing to cirrhosis.

"Our findings suggest that we may need to go back to healthier diets that are more holistic," Abdelmalek said in a statement. "High fructose corn syrup, which is predominately in soft-drinks and processed foods, may not be as benign as we previously thought."

As you can imagine, the Corn Refiners Association published a statement saying that the Duke study was flawed because it "incorrectly singled out high fructose corn syrup as being responsible."

Here's an excerpt:

It should be noted that fructose has not been proven to be a cause of NAFLD in humans, and NAFLD subjects are compromised individuals with significant health problems which have very little to do with fructose intake. Moreover, associative studies of this kind are widely judged to be of low scientific value when trying to establish cause-and-effect, data from studies like this that are dependent on recollection of the study subjects are notoriously imprecise, and these studies are full of confounding variables and exceedingly difficult to control.

Our corporate siblings at CBS News recently tried to separate fact from fiction when it comes to high fructose corn syrup.

CBS News correspondent Michele Miller found that "it's just sugar" with an "image problem":

Watch CBS News Videos Online

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