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Greg Webb
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Many Beverages May Contain Unsafe Levels of High-Fructose Corn Syrup

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The prevalence of high-fructose corn syrup in many beverages sold in supermarkets, grocery and convenience stores may have reached an unsafe level, says the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CPSI). A recent article in USA Today indicates that CPSI wants the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to define just how much high-fructose corn syrup is safe for humans to consume as added sugar in drinks.

Acting on its concern over the health risks of consuming added sugars in beverages, the CPSI has petitioned FDA in a letter signed by 41 physicians and nutritional scientific experts requesting the agency identify the safe level of added sugars to beverages. The petition is also supported by public health departments of various U.S. cities, including Philadelphia, Boston, Los Angeles and Seattle.

Health risks to those who consume heavily sugared beverages include obesity, heart disease, type II diabetes, and gout, in addition to tooth decay. Obesity has become common in the U.S. and it’s partly attributable to the consumption of highly sugared drinks. “Two-thirds of adults and one-third of children in the US are obese,” Hellmich’s article states. (USAToday, 2/13/13) Many Americans are less active today than in decades past because America has become less of an agrarian and industrial country and more reliant on service industries, which put many people behind desks and in front of computers.

While the FDA says high-fructose corn syrup and its chemically sweet cousins, sucrose, maltose and dextrose, are regarded as safe food and beverage additives, when they occur in high concentration and in great quantities, they could be harmful. CPSI Director Michael Jacobson suggests beverage companies “use natural, non-caloric sweeteners instead.” (USAToday, 2/13/13)

Meanwhile, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends men consume no more than 9 teaspoons of added sugars a day and women, no more than 6 teaspoons. Some health agencies say only 2 to 3 teaspoons or 10 grams are safe. The argument gets murkier… Some physicians are saying the entire diet of a person should be considered in the balance, not just sugary drinks. While the CPSI would like beverage companies to reduce the level of sugars in their drinks, if the array of high-sugar/high-caffeine-loaded energy drinks on the market is any evidence of what beverage companies may do in future, I wouldn’t count my sugar cubes just yet.

Obesity and the complications thereof, including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol and others are major factors in the amount of healthcare expenditures in our country. Controlling obesity, therefore, should become a major objective for governments, insurance companies, and all of us because, even if we do not suffer from the health consequences, we will likely suffer the financial costs in one form or another.