Obesity experts appalled by EU move to approve health claim for fructose / high-fructose corn syrup is a healthy alternative

Food firms using fructose will be able to boast of health benefits despite fruit sugar being implicated in soaring US obesity levels

    • Sarah Boseley, health editor
    • The Guardian,  Thursday 17 October 2013 16.27 EDT
Fizzy drink can

Fructose, the sugar found in fruit, is used in Coca-Cola, Pepsi and other sweetened drinks. Photograph: Alamy

Obesity experts say they are appalled by an EU decision to allow a “health claim” for fructose, the sweetener implicated in the disastrous upsurge in weight in the US.

Fructose, the sugar found in fruit, is used in Coca-Cola, Pepsi and other sweetened US drinks. Many believe the use of high-fructose corn syrup caused obesity to rise faster in the US than elsewhere in the world. Europe has largely used cane and beet sugar instead.

But the EU has now ruled that food and drink manufacturers can claim their sweetened products are healthier if they replace more than 30% of the glucose and sucrose they contain with fructose.

The decision was taken on the advice of the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa), on the grounds that fructose has a lower glycaemic index (GI) – it does not cause as high and rapid a blood sugar spike as sucrose or glucose.

But, say obesity experts, fructose is metabolised differently from other sugars – it goes straight to the liver and unprocessed excess is stored there as fat, building up deposits that can cause life-threatening disease.

There is potential for products high in sugar including soft drinks, cereal bars and low-fat yoghurts to make health claims by using fructose. Lucozade Original contains 33g of sugar in a 380ml bottle, Sprite has 21.8g of sugar in 330ml cans and Dr  Pepper 34.1g per 330ml.

Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Elevenses bars have 18g of sugar in a 45g bar – so are more than a third sugar.

Barry Popkin – distinguished professor in the department of public health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in the US, who co-authored the groundbreaking paper linking high-fructose corn syrup to obesity in 2003 – said the ruling would lead to claims from food and drink firms that would mislead consumers.

“This claim is so narrow and it will confuse a whole lot of people,” he said. “That’s what the industry does an awful lot of. People see it and think, ‘ah maybe it’s healthy.’

“It brings into question the whole area of health claims. They are made on such short-term effects.”

Drinking pomegranate juice might give you all the vitamin C and antioxidants you need that day, but six months of regular drinking could raise the risk of diabetes, he said.

A health claim relating to a lower glycaemic index ignored the wider and more important public health issue, he said: that we should all consume less fructose and other sugars.

George Bray, head of the division of clinical obesity and metabolism at the Pennington biomedical research centre in Louisiana and co-author of the fructose paper, said he could see no rational reason for adding pure fructose to the diet.

“Assuming that it is correct that manufacturers can substitute up to 30% fructose for glucose or sucrose, it would be a very sad commentary on their review of the literature,” he said.

“The quantity of fructose appearing in the diet is already excessive in my view. [Focusing on the fact that] fructose does not raise glucose as much ignores all of the detrimental effects of fructose from whatever source.”

Michael Goran, director of childhood obesity research at the University of Southern California, said that although it had a lower GI, “in the long term, excess fructose is more damaging metabolically for the body than other sugars”.

He added: “This opens the door for the beverage and food industry to start replacing sucrose with fructose, which is presumably cheaper.”

More people in Europe will be consuming more fructose as a result, he said. “This is a dangerous and problematic issue. There is going to be a big increase in fructose exposure.  There is going to be a big increase in fructose exposure.”

The European Heart Network raised concerns with DG Sanco, the European commission’s health department, and asked it to share its views with member states. Its director, Susanne Logstrup, warned that replacing glucose and sucrose with “healthier” fructose might make people think a drink or food was less fattening.

“If the replacement of glucose/sucrose is not isocaloric, replacement could lead to a higher caloric content. In the EU, the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages is generally too high and it would not be in the interest of public health if intake were to increase,” she said.

Professor Mike Rayner, director of the British Heart Foundation health promotion research group at Oxford University and an adviser to the European Heart Network, said it was important the EU looked at nutritional health claims – and that it had in recent years taken a tougher stance.

“But here is an example in fructose of a claim that is technically probably true but has no public health benefit,” he said.

Industry is delighted by the EU ruling. Galam Group, an Israeli fructose manufacturer, called the move “a game-changing step” in comments to the trade journal Nutra Ingredients. It said it expected a surge in sales from 2 January, when the ruling takes effect.

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/oct/17/obesity-experts-appalled-eu-fructose-health-claim-approval

Vaccination campaign doubles HBV mutations

Contact: Garth Hogan ghogan@asmusa.org 202-942-9389 American Society for Microbiology

WASHINGTON, DC – October 7, 2013 – A universal infant vaccination campaign in China has led the Hepatitis B virus (HBV) to more than double its rate of “breakout” mutations. These mutations may enable the virus to elude the vaccine, necessitating new vaccination strategies. Researchers at the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, report their findings in an article published ahead of print in the Journal of Virology.

Until a universal vaccination program for infants was implemented in 1992, nearly ten percent of Chinese—children included—were infected with HBV. The vaccination campaign has protected an estimated 80 million children, dramatically reducing the percentage of children under 5 who are infected, from nearly 10 percent in 1992 to less than one percent in 2005. But these gains are in danger of being eroded as the virus develops surface mutations.

Taking advantage of 1992 and 2005 survey, investigators found that the prevalence of HBV escape mutants in children rose from 6.5 percent in 1992, before the start of the universal vaccination program, to nearly 15 percent in 2005. Among the control group of adults unaffected by the universal vaccination campaign, the rate of break-out mutants was virtually unchanged.

Hepatitis B is an infectious illness of the liver which can cause vomiting, inflammation, jaundice, and, rarely, death. About a third of the world’s population has been infected at some point in their lives. Transmission of hepatitis B virus results from exposure to infectious blood or bodily fluids containing blood. The infection is preventable by vaccination, which has been routinely used since the 1980s.

Researcher Tao Bian of Chapel Hill says that the vaccine remains quite effective, but that because escape mutants are likely to increase, public health officials need to track the rise of escape mutants, in order to know when it becomes time to consider new vaccination strategies. Measures that might be taken include boosting doses, adjusting the timing of vaccinations, or improving the vaccine. A next generation HBV vaccine has been invented, containing a second antigen in addition to the virus’ surface antigen. That means that both antigens would have to develop breakout mutations in order to elude the vaccine.

###

 

A copy of the manuscript can be found online at http://bit.ly/asmtip0913e.  Formal publication is scheduled for the November 2013 issue of the Journal of Virology.

The Journal of Virology is a publication of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). The ASM is the largest single life science society, composed of over 39,000 scientists and health professionals. ASM’s mission is to advance the microbiological sciences as a vehicle for understanding life processes and to apply and communicate this knowledge for the improvement of health and environmental and economic well-being worldwide.

UNC, Vanderbilt discover a new live vaccine approach for SARS and novel coronaviruses : By accelerating the rate of mutations

Contact: Carole Bartoo
carole.bartoo@vanderbilt.edu
615-322-4747
Vanderbilt University Medical Center

UNC, Vanderbilt discover a new live vaccine approach for SARS and novel coronaviruses

Rapid mutation has long been considered a key to viral adaptation to environmental change. But in the case of the coronavirus responsible for deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), collaborating researchers at the University of North Carolina and Vanderbilt University have found that accelerating the rate of mutations cripples the virus’s ability to cause disease in animals. In addition, they say this finding may allow scientists to explore a new option for creating safer live vaccines.

A collaborative study, published Nov. 11 in Nature Medicine, demonstrates a SARS-coronavirus, altered to lack the ability to “proofread” (correct mistakes in replication), begins to mutate much more rapidly and becomes unable to cause disease in mouse models. In effect, the alteration creates a profoundly weakened or attenuated SARS virus.

This work may offer reassurance at a critical time. Public attention was recently heightened regarding a novel human coronavirus that sickened at least two with respiratory and kidney disease, killing one in the Middle East. The SARS outbreak in 2002 and 2003 caused 50 percent mortality in older adults. A rapid and effective international response ended the outbreak in just four months. The final tally: 8,422 cases of SARS, resulting in 916 deaths.

“We originally thought that the virus might find a way to fix the mutations we engineered or work around them as viruses often do. That didn’t happen, and in this case, the attenuated viruses replicated well enough and long enough to generate a protective immune response, even in immunocompromised animals, so it works wonderfully as a vaccine in an animal model,” said Rachel Graham, Ph.D., a research associate at UNC, who led the research.

The study is the culmination of more than a decade of collaboration between the laboratories of Mark Denison, M.D., Craig-Weaver Professor of Pediatrics and professor of Pathology, Microbiology & Immunology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, and Ralph Baric, Ph.D., professor of Microbiology, Immunology and Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health. The researchers’ aim is to better understand how coronaviruses, which also cause the common cold, evolve and spread between species.

Denison’s lab developed the attenuated SARS virus by disabling a unique exoribonuclease (or ExoN) protein, referred to as a proofreading protein. Previous Vanderbilt studies had shown that disabling ExoN knocks out the virus’s ability to correct mistakes, increases mutations twentyfold, and stops its ability to cause disease, at least in the lab setting. Graham, formerly a graduate student in Denison’s lab, was able to continue the work in animal models as a postdoctoral scientist in Baric’s lab.

Coronaviruses are RNA viruses known to have the largest genomes in the RNA viral world. It is now understood that the ExoN proofreading protein allows coronaviruses to maintain their expanded genomes, with many proteins evolved to help them survive and spread. But deactivation of ExoN creates a particularly enticing potential approach to vaccine design.

“Live vaccines in general confer broader and longer-lasting immunity, but the risk of live vaccines is they could potentially revert back to virulence as happened with the live polio vaccine in immunocompromised people,” Baric said. “Our evidence is exciting because a more permanently attenuated virus might be safer. We believe that related approaches can be applied to other important human and animal viruses, resulting in safer vaccines.”

To test the likelihood of reversion to virulence, researchers allow a virus to grow in a host that lacks immunity. In the current study, even in very young, very old and immunocompromised animals, the virus did not kill and could persist for a long time without showing signs of a return to virulence.

“In contrast to science fiction, where mutations are evil and endanger the world, our studies demonstrate that viruses have evolved to tightly control their mutation rates, and changing that rate is detrimental to virus survival and disease in nature,” Denison said. “Since all coronaviruses have the ExoN protein, this method for attenuation could be broadly applicable in coronaviruses.”

“If we can’t have a vaccine ready to administer that works for all coronaviruses, then we at least have a strategy for fast production of a functional vaccine for any new epidemic coronavirus that might arise. That’s a key take-away point of our paper and what makes it so important in the face of current events,” Graham said.

 

###