Ho also noted that other types of beverages may contain high levels of HFCS, as well. So-called "hydrating" sports drinks often contain HFCS. Ho is particularly concerned about high-caffeine energy drinks.
"I worry about kids in high school," he said. "They rely on energy drinks to do their homework and stay awake. The level of [HFCS] is so high."
Adding a beneficial antioxidant compound found in tea called "epigallocatechin gallate," or EGCG, to drinks that contain HFCS appears to lower reactive carbonyl levels, Ho said. That could mean that drinking beverages that contain both tea extracts and HFCS may not be as harmful as drinking HCFS-sweetened sodas, he said. However, further research is needed to prove that.
Beverages that contain both fruit juice and HFCS also appear to have fewer reactive carbonyl levels, possibly because of beneficial compounds called phytochemicals found naturally in fruit juice, Ho said.
Lona Sandon is assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. She said the Rutgers study is still inconclusive.
"It doesn't address the risk [of diabetes], it simply shows a possible mechanism for why there might be more risk in children who drink more HFCS-sweetened sodas," she said.
"Although there are other epidemiologic studies showing a correlation between sweetened soda and diabetes, it is not a proven cause-and-effect," Sandon said.
Nevertheless, she suggests that everyone follow dietary guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Those guidelines advocate reducing sweetened drinks from the diet, and "most health professionals currently recommend that kids get zero sugary drinks a day, particularly overweight or obese children," Sandon said.
Dr. Barbara B. Kahn, chief of the division of endocrinology
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