High-fructose corn syrup is an ingredient a few of us would ever decide to use in a homemade recipe. In fact, it is not sold on its own as an ingredient. An industrial concoction, it is most often found in highly processed products and fast foods, making fundamentally unhealthy food choices even more dangerous to your health.
High-Fructose Corn Syrup…
- High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a sweetener made from corn that is chemically altered with enzymes to convert its starches to simple sugars, notably fructose (a simple sugar that is naturally found in fruit). HFCS’s name differentiates it from regular corn syrup, which is mostly glucose (the simple sugar our cells use as fuel).
- HFCS generally comes in two common forms. HFCS-42 contains 42% fructose and is commonly used in canned fruits, ice cream, desserts, and other sweetened processed foods. HFCS-55 contains 55% fructose and is commonly used in soft drinks. Some types of HFCS can contain even more fructose.
- Table sugar, or sucrose, contains 50% fructose and 50% glucose.
- Since its production was streamlined in the late 1960s, high-fructose corn syrup has become the most common added sweetener in processed foods and beverages. It is substantially cheaper than sucrose, has a long shelf life, and mixes well with a variety of products. In fact, between 1970 and 1990, the annual consumption of HFCS increased by more than 1,000%, greatly exceeding the change in intake of any other food or food group.
HFCS and Health…
- It appears to be no coincidence that the increased use of HFCS in processed foods has correlated with sharp rises in obesity and diabetes. Many experts believe that HFCS plays a key role in our current metabolic health crises.
- HFCS contains the same number of calories as regular sugar, but they are not chemically the same. Research suggests that HFCS has grimmer health consequences than the already negative effects of eating refined sugar.
- The comparatively high fructose content in HFCS is a major factor in the dangers of HFCS. Although fructose is “natural”, for most of human history we consumed no more than about 15 grams (approximately one-half ounce) of fructose per day, mostly from fruits and vegetables. One 12-ounce can of soda contains approximately 23 grams of fructose
- Fructose is metabolized differently from glucose. Glucose can be metabolized in every cell in the body, but all fructose must be metabolized in the liver, where it is converted to fatty acids by the liver at a faster rate. The livers of test animals fed large amounts of fructose have been observed developing fatty deposits and cirrhosis, similar to problems found in the livers of alcoholics.
- Fructose consumption does not cause an insulin response, as other types of sugars do. This has a profound effect on satiety and appetite and may lead to overeating.
- Naturally occurring fructose is almost always bound to other sugars. In contrast, HFCS contains a good deal of “free” or unbound fructose. Unbound fructose is ready for absorption as soon as it is ingested; removing a metabolic step from the natural way we process fructose.
- Researchers at Princeton University have recently proven that HFCS causes weight gain. They discovered that rats that had access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to basic table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same. The weight gain included substantial increases in abdominal fat and circulating triglycerides, both known risk factors for high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, cancer, and diabetes.
- HFCS may also contribute to other adverse health effects such as hypertension, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, excess uric acid levels (associated with gout), and elevated levels of advanced glycation end products, which are linked with aging and complications of diabetes.
- HFCS harms the brain as well as the body. One study out of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) found that consuming HFCS can actually destroy memory, slow mental function, and ultimately deteriorate brain performance in rats.
- Detectable levels of mercury have been found in some samples of HFCS. One study by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, a non-profit watchdog group, found that nearly one-third of 55 brand-name processed foods contained mercury. The toxic metal was found most commonly in HFCS-containing dairy products, dressings, and condiments.
1. How High-Fructose Corn Syrup is Made http://www.diabeteshealth.com/read/2011/02/17/7057/how-high-fructose-corn-syrup-hfcs-is-made/
2. High Fructose Corn Syrup: How Dangerous is it? http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29955927/ns/health-diet_and_nutrition/t/high-fructose-corn-syrup-how-dangerous-it/#.T8-Q71JIJtg
3. Metabolic Dangers of High-Fructose Corn Syrup http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2008/dec2008_Metabolic-Dangers-of-High-Fructose-Corn-Syrup_01.htm
4. A Sweet Problem http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S26/91/22K07/index.xml?section=topstories
5. The Double Danger of High-Fructose Corn Syrup http://www.westonaprice.org/modern-foods/double-danger-of-high-fructose-corn-syrup
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