Study: High Fructose Corn Syrup’s Role in Autism

A new study details the role of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in the growing autism epidemic. Published this week in the journal Clinical Epigenetics, the study was spearheaded by GAP client and FDA whistleblower Renee Dufault, who has been raising HFCS concerns for years.

According to the article, "the number of children ages 6 to 21 in the U.S. receiving special education services under the autism disability category increased 91% between 2005 and 2010." A comparison between Americans (who eat on average 35.7 pounds of HFCS per year) and Italians (who rarely consume it) suggests the increase in autism in the U.S. "is not related to mercury exposure from fish, coal-fired power plants, thimerosal, or dental amalgam but instead to the consumption of HFCS."

Key study findings include:

  • Consumption of HFCS is linked to the dietary loss of zinc, which interferes with the elimination of toxic chemicals like mercury and pesticides that affect brain development.
  • HFCS consumption can also impact levels of other minerals, including calcium. Loss of this beneficial mineral further exacerbates the detrimental effects of exposure to lead on brain development in fetuses and children.
  • Inadequate levels of calcium can also impair the body's ability to rid itself of organophosphates, a class of pesticides (found in foods frequently consumed by children) recognized as especially toxic to the young developing brain by scientists and the EPA.

The study references Dufault's October 2009 study that, in addition to pointing out HFCS as a potential source of mercury exposure, reported "the peak years for annual consumption of HFCS in the U.S. occurred within the same period as when the annual growth rates of autism peaked in California."

These conclusions continue to build a case against the proponents of HFCS, which remains ubiquitous in processed food thanks to billions of dollars in agricultural subsidies. It's been a long road for Dufault, who was initially intimidated to remain silent about her HFCS findings and had to leave FDA to publicize her concerns. The continued publication of her investigative work on food ingredient safety provides further vindication. Congrats to her and the public-at-large who will benefit from this important information.

For the full article, download the PDF here.

Sarah Damian is New Media Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.

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