Tag Archives: high fructose corn syrup

High Fructose Corn Syrup Will Kill You!

A common additive used in a wide range of commercially available processed foods such as soft drinks, salad dressings, cookies and cakes, breads and breakfast cereals has been poisoning people for several decades now. In fact, research studies have shown that it causes metabolic syndrome which in turn contributes a great deal to an increase in body weight and incidence of degenerative diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and fatty liver. This additive is high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

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Sucrose, or regular table sugar, consists of 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose, whereas HFCS can contain up to 90 percent fructose, almost twice the fructose of common table sugar. In terms of calories, both HFCS and table sugar provide 4 calories per gram, but the issue is the metabolism of excessive amounts of fructose.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup History

In the ninth century, the Japanese invented a sweetener derived from starches. This syrup is being used even today as “traditional sweetener.” In the 17th century, Andreas Sigismund Marggraf, a German chemist, discovered another starch-based sweetener called glucose.

During the times of Napoleonic wars, blockades on sugarcane imports from the West Indies encouraged laboratories to work on development of alternative sweeteners. Dextose or D-glucose was developed in 1801, and in 1811 a Russian scientist created glucose by overcooking potato starch in sulfuric acid.

No further progress was made till the 1950s when the Japanese invented the HFCS. In America, cane sugar continued to be used as the sweetener of choice until the 1970s prior to the introduction of the less expensive sweeteners such as maltodextrin and HFCS that were derived from corn. HFCS was introduced to the food industry after the developmental process was perfected.

Why is HFCS so popular with the food industry?

First and foremost, its sweetness is comparable to that of table sugar. Secondly, it maintains the quality of condiments and drinks for a longer period. Third, it provides a soft, moist texture to baked food such as snack bars and cookies by retaining moisture and resisting crystallization after baking. It is HFCS that gives baked foods flavor and superior browning quality. The sugars present in HFCS get fermented quickly and easily, making it possible to produce sweeter bread. Fourth, it is much cheaper compared to table sugar. Lastly, it is easily added to just about anything. It is generally produced in a liquid form making its incorporation into food and drink products a very simple task for automated equipment that is so common in food production today.

Health Effects of HFCS

The statistics released by the Department of Agriculture in the U.S. show that the average consumption of HFCS has increased from 0.5 pounds per person per year to 60 pounds per person per year over the past four decades.

During the same period, there has been a threefold increase in obesity rates and a seven fold increase in the incidence of diabetes. HFCS may not be singularly responsible for this, but its effect cannot be ignored.

A number of short-term clinical studies have shown that ingesting sweetened beverages is not good for health. Results of one study showed that people gained weight and experienced an increase in blood pressure and inflammatory markers. In another study, scientists observed an increase in visceral fat and triglyceride levels and stimulation of lipogenesis (producing more fat). In yet another trial wherein the effects of water, milk, diet cola and sugar-sweetened cola were compared, the results showed that sugar-sweetened beverage contributed to an increase in liver and visceral fat and elevated triglyceride levels when consumed for 6 months at the rate of just 16 ounce per day (i.e about one soda).

Fructose also increases gut permeability allowing potent bacterial toxins out of the gut and into surrounding immune tissue. This generates an inflammatory response. If this response continues for long periods of time, systemic levels of inflammation begin to rise increasing the risk of obesity, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, arthritis and more. And most studies have shown it only takes the fructose present in one soda to produce these adverse effects.

You may use sugar in any form, but it definitely causes obesity as well as other diseases when consumed in pharmacologic doses. HFCS is often a marker of nutrient-deficient, poor quality and disease-causing industrial food products. It should be severely limited in your diet.

Corn Industry’s Marketing Push

The corn processing industry thrives on doubt and confusion. The Corn Refiners Association skillfully uses the print and television media for massive advertising campaigns in order to dispel the fear among people. The industry also asserts through medical doctors’ as well as nutrition experts’ opinion that HFCS is same as cane sugar and it is a “natural” product if used in moderation. They do this for nothing but commercial benefit though they themselves are aware that this is not true. No independent medical or nutrition experts recommend the consumption of HFCS. My experience lecturing at the 2012 Food and Nutrition Convention and Expo was enlightening. The Corn Refiners Association sponsored lecture after lecture on HFCS and how it was not the villain it was made out to be. In fact, they asserted it could be consumed as part of a healthy diet. They also skillfully shifted the focus from HFCS to the epidemic of inactivity in the US, blaming it instead of processed food for the skyrocketing chronic disease rates in this country.

Do yourself a favor and avoid HFCS. While the corn and sugar industry continues to deceive, they are killing thousands of Americans to make a dollar. It rings eerily similar to Big Tobacco of the 50s and 60s. You don’t want to find out too late that money and corporate interest mislead you into believing it was safe when the research is clear now.

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High Fructose Corn Syrup – The Facts

High fructose corn syrup has virtually replaced table sugar as a sweetener in the food industry.  It’s cheaper, sweeter and more readily available than table sugar but is it worse for our health? Find out in our latest video blog!

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Agave Syrup – the carefree alternative sweetener?

Blue Agave (Agave tequilana)

Image via Wikipedia

Agave nectar syrup has gotten a lot of press lately.  I must admit that I dismissed most of it and until today had not really looked into whether or not this natural sweetener was good or bad for us.

This afternoon I had a patient call me and ask me if it was ok.  I told her that I wasn’t sure, but to be safe, she should stay away from it.  I am glad that I did.  Here is what I found out about agave nectar syrup.

Agave is marketed as a health food for several reasons.  Extracts from the agave plant have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.  These extracts, however, are NOT in the syrup you can buy in the stores so there’s no value there.

Secondly, agave syrup is low glycemic so it has been marketed as a safe sugar for diabetics to use.  This, as it turns out, is only a half truth.  We’ll talk about that in a moment.

Thirdly, because it comes from a plant it has been marketed to the vegan crowd as a better alternative to table sugar (because it’s “healthier”) and honey (because vegans don’t eat anything that has been taken from any animal, in this case, bees).

Agave has some slick marketers.  The truth about agave, however, is not so great and from now on I will advise my patients not to use it.  Here’s why.

Agave is low glycemic because it is made almost entirely of fructose, or fruit sugar.  Fructose is, by nature, a low glycemic sugar.  Fructose, however, is just about the worst sugar to use as a sweetener.

All sugars are a mix of fructose and glucose.  Table sugar is a 50/50 blend.  High fructose corn syrup is a 55/45 blend.  Agave is usually about 90/10.

But what about fruit?  Yes, it is true that fruit is naturally sweet because of fructose.  It has very low levels of fructose.  An apple for example is only 7% fructose.  Plus your apple comes with vitamins, antioxidants and fiber.  Agave syrup does not.

Fructose, when consumed in high amounts raises triglycerides (which increases cardiovascular risks) and increases the risk of diabetes.  And rats fed a high diet of fructose have been shown to build abdominal fat which is the worst kind.

When agave is processed it takes any health benefit that it might have and throws it away.  In the end, agave syrup is no better for us than high fructose corn syrup and may in fact be worse.

Bottom line – stay away from it.

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High Fructose Corn Syrup – The Natural Killer

Sugar Blues and greens

Image by Mona Loldwoman (Look for the good) via Flickr

You’ve seen the commercials haven’t you?  Two fit young adults are sitting on a grassy hill having a picnic.  The woman says to her partner, “Would you like a bite,” as she extends a popsicle.  The man responds, “I thought you loved me, that has high fructose corn syrup in it.”  She says, “So what.”  He says, “Well you know what they say about it.”  She interrupts and says “What!?  That it’s made from corn?  That it has the same calorie content as table sugar and that it’s fine to eat in moderation?”

All of this is to suggest that high fructose corn syrup really isn’t bad for you because it’s made from corn and that its calorie content isn’t any higher than regular sugar.  While those facts are true it’s only a tiny fraction of the story.

The truth of the matter is that high fructose corn syrup is one of the worst additives you can possibly consume because of the metabolic effects it has once it has been consumed.

Until the 1970’s cane sugar was the sweetener of choice for the food industry.  In the 70’s the corn derived sweeteners like maltodextrin and high fructose corn syrup were developed.  It was sweeter and cheaper so of course the food industry moved to using it instead of cane sugar.

You can find HFCS in a wide variety of foods like soft drinks, salad dressings, processed cakes and candies, breakfast cereal and brand-name breads.  This additive raises the risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

HFCS intake increased by more than 1000% from 1970 to 1990 and now accounts for more than 40% of caloric sweeteners added to foods and beverages.

Cardiovascular Risk

Unlike regular table sugar that contains 50% fructose and 50% glucose, HFCS contains 80% fructose and 20% glucose.  This is problematic because glucose and fructose are metabolized differently in the body.  Glucose is a readily available source of energy and is metabolized more slowly into energy for the body to use.  Fructose is processed differently.  It is metabolized extremely quickly.  In fact, it is metabolized so fast that the body cannot use all of it for energy.  This becomes problematic because our bodies are not designed to get rid of extra energy.  Our bodies view this as a reserve that could be used later.  And how do we store energy?  As fat!  When you consume HFCS you increase your production of triglycerides and fat storage in the liver.  The rise in triglycerides promotes atherogenic lipid deposition and raises the risk of heart attack and stroke.  If severe enough it can even lead to liver dysfunction.

Diabetes

HFCS also raises the risk of diabetes.  Before a person develops full-blown diabetes they go through a stage called insulin resistance.  In this stage your body actually stops responding to the hormone insulin.  This causes your body to not be able to effectively process sugar into energy.  If this continues diabetes results.  The list of complications from diabetes includes heart disease, neuropathy, blindness, kidney disease and circulatory issues.

High Blood Pressure

HFCS also contributes to high blood pressure.  When you consume HFCS you inhibit an enzyme called endothelial nitric oxide synthase. This enzyme is located in the walls of your arteries and is responsible for producing nitric oxide.  This is a potent dilator of the arteries.  It basically allows the vessels to relax.  If the vessels cannot relax they do not allow blood to flow unimpeded.  When blood meets resistance in the vessels, high blood pressure is what occurs.

Gout

Consumption of HFCS has been linked to a condition called hyperuricemia.  In this condition, uric acid levels in the blood rise.  This leads to the painful condition called gout.  In gout, uric acid crystals are deposited in the joints of the body causing a very painful arthritis.

The Bottom Line

HFCS is ubiquitous in our food supply.  I always recommend that my patients avoid it at all costs.  If you eat a natural diet and avoid processed foods as much as possible avoiding HFCS is actually very easy to do.  HFCS raises the risk of many diseases and recent research even indicates it accelerates the growth of some cancers.  While it is a cheap way to sweeten food, it costs the public their health.  Do yourself a favor and keep it out of your diet.

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Like Smoking, Soda Needs to be Taxed

Sugar intake, especially in children, is a major US health problem.  It is a major contributor to obesity and is creating an epidemic of diabetes in children, a disease once considered an adult problem.  The soda industry, much like the tobacco industry in the 80’s, markets heavily to children knowing that if they can form the habits of soda drinking young, they will most likely have a life long costumer.

While soda is not chemically addictive, although some would argue that point, it certainly creates dependency.  It does so by setting up a dangerous process within the body by which a person can become dependent on the sugary surge they get from a soda to feel normal.  Also consider that many sodas contain caffeine.  This caffeine also have a profound affect on a person and can actually cause withdrawal symptoms just like a drug.  The withdrawal symptoms can be very uncomfortable and include  headache, fatigue, sleepiness, inability to focus and concentrate. Others report experiencing flu- like symptoms, irritability, depression and anxiety.

The real problem of soda, however, is the sugar in soda.  It forces the body to release a hormone called insulin in such large quantities that children quickly become insulin resistant and soon thereafter are diabetic.  Soda creates a disease in children that used to take decades to develop in adults.  These children are also overweight increasing their risk for just about every chronic disease ranging from heart disease to cancer.  This places a huge financial burned on our health care system, driving cost up higher and higher.  The way to off set this?  Perhaps a soda tax is the answer.

The Joint Committee on Taxation calculated that a 3-cent tax on each 12-ounce sugared soda would raise $51.6 billion over a decade.  This is quite a lot of money.  A 12 pack of Coke costs about $2.99 so that would up the price to $3.35.  It certainly isn’t enough to stop people from buying their sodas, but it would provide some income to help fight the health problems it is causing.  Proponents of the tax say the money would be used to fund a health marketing campaign to teach people how to eat healthy.  This is a good idea only if they teach it correctly and disregard the whole low fat paradigm.  Studies show that sugared beverages are the No. 1 source of calories in the American diet, representing 7 percent of the average person’s caloric intake and up to 10 percent for children and teenagers.  You will notice sugared beverages are fat free!  Maybe the beverage industry should start advertising that.  The problem in this country is the carbohydrate consumption is through the roof.  Teaching people about eating fat free is a terrible idea because it will only push people towards things high in sugar like soda.  They are fat free after all!

The marketing campaign needs to focus on low glycemic, low carbohydrate options.  This is the only way to change the health picture in the US.  We need to shift our paradigm and consider that fat is not the enemy.  Carbohydrate is.  Simple and refined carbohydrates cause disease and keeping them out of the diet is the single most important factor in long term health.

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Want Cancer? Drink Soda…

A new study shows that drinking as little as two sodas per week significantly increases your risk of pancreatic cancer.  Pancreatic cancer is dangerous because it is aggressive. There are usually few symptoms until the cancer is advanced. Symptoms include abdominal pain, weight loss, diarrhea, and jaundice.

People who drank two or more soft drinks a week had an 87% increased risk — or nearly twice the risk — of pancreatic cancer compared to individuals consuming no soft drinks,” says study lead author Noel T. Mueller, MPH, a research associate at the Cancer Control Program at Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, D.C. The study is published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

I am sure you will be surprised to know that they beverage industry took exception to this study calling it flawed and poorly designed.  The study, however, was quite comprehensive.  It looked at over 65,000 people and followed them for 14 years.  The researchers hypothesized that the increase in cancer was as a result of poor insulin control.  Drinking sugary sodas causes massive amounts of insulin to be released by the pancreas.  Insulin, while a vital hormone needed to maintain life, is detrimental in excess.  It’s already the main culprit in obesity and diabetes and has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.  Now researchers hypothesize it may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.  There are other studies that show a positive correlation between intake of high fructose corn syrup, the main sweetener in soda, and pancreatic cancer as well.

A Dangerous Trend

While people are living longer and longer with cancer and cure rates are going up, the number of new cases of cancer is also going up.  We are not doing anything that is helping to reduce the number of newly diagnosed cancers in this country.  Perhaps part of the problem is soda.  Consider the following:

According to the National Soft Drink Association (NSDA), consumption of soft drinks is now over 600 12-ounce servings (12 oz.) per person per year. Since 1978, soda consumption in the US has tripled for boys and doubled for girls. Young males age 12-29 are the biggest consumers at over 160 gallons per year—that’s almost 2 quarts per day. At these levels, the calories from soft drinks contribute as much as 10 percent of the total daily caloric intake for a growing boy.  (From the Weston A. Price Foundation)

These numbers are mind boggling.  The average person drinks 600 12 oz. servings per year!  You have to remember that takes into account the people who don’t drink any soda because it is an average.  I never drink soda so for that number to be that high, there has to be a lot of people drinking a lot of soda.  Males aged 12-29 drink 160 gallons per year or 2 quarts per day.  To put that into perspective, that’s just over 5 sodas per day. This study says that as little as two sodas per week is enough to significantly raise pancreatic cancer risk.

The soft drink industry is a large reason that this country is so unhealthy.  Most people do not realize the amount of sugar in a soda.  There is more sugar in one soda than in 1 bag of M&M’s.  Most parents would not let their children it 5+ bags of M&M’s in a day but don’t think twice about letting them drink soda all day.  One with breakfast, one with lunch, one with dinner and a couple in between for snacks and pretty soon a whole six pack of soda is gone.  Good thing it’s cheap.  That is also part of the problem.  The availability of inexpensive soft drinks makes it that much easier to get.  But here’s the funny thing – water is much cheaper!  If people replaced their soda intake with good, clean, healthy water many of the health problems in this country would evaporate.

Do yourself a huge favor; if you drink soda, stop.  I have had many patients with health issues and cutting out the sugary drinks is a must.  The soft drink industry would have you believe you can be a healthy individual and enjoy soda, but it isn’t true.  Just like the tobacco industry used to tell you smoking in moderation wasn’t bad for your health, the soda industry will continue to perpetuate the lie until they are forced to change.  Even if we forget about all the other bad aspects of soda – the acidity, the preservatives, the additives – and just consider the sugar, it’s a dangerous product.  Don’t drink it if you value your health or your family’s health.

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