Consuming high-fructose corn syrup increases the growth of colon cancer tumors in mice, according to findings in a new study that may have serious implications for humans.
Researchers from Weill Cornell Medicine in New York found that mice given high-fructose corn syrup developed larger tumors than those not given the sweetener, which is used in many consumer beverages and foods. The findings were published March 22, in the journal Science.
As part of the study, high-fructose corn syrup was fed to mice predisposed to colon cancer, and the results were compared to mice with a predisposition for colon cancer who were not fed high-fructose corn syrup.
The dose of high-fructose corn syrup given to the mice is the equivalent of one can of soda per day.
Mice fed high-fructose corn syrup developed much larger cancer tumors than mice who were not given the sweetener two months after beginning the study. Mice given high-fructose corn syrup had significantly larger tumors in size and in grade. These mice were not obese and did not have metabolic syndrome, a classification of diseases linked to obesity.
High-fructose corn syrup was associated with increased tumor growth, even at moderate doses. While the study was done on mice, the findings have serious implications for humans. The same effect may be seen in people who drink soda or other sweetened beverages daily.
Prior research has shown obesity is a risk factor for many types of cancer and sugar also promotes tumor growth in some types of cancer. Roughly half of all Americans drink one soda per day, and study authors believe the same effect will be seen in humans.
Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup flavored beverages has increased since the 1980s. During that time obesity and colorectal cancer rates have also increased. Some health advocates believe high-fructose corn syrup is one of the driving factors leading to increased obesity rates and cancer.
The new study indicated that within the tumors, the fructose was converted to another type of fructose that leads to increased production of fatty acids that support tumor growth.
Similarly, researchers believe consuming foods and beverages with added table sugar may also have the same effect on tumor growth, but more research is needed to prove that.
Study authors warn people with colon cancer or those at high risk of getting cancer should avoid sugary drinks because the high-fructose corn syrup may be feeding tumors.
While the study doesn’t show high-fructose corn syrup causes cancer, it does show a clear link between the sweetener and increased tumor growth, the researchers say.
More studies are needed to conclude whether high-fructose corn syrup causes colon cancer tumors to grow in humans. However, the findings may point to new cancer treatment and preventions, they determined.