A comment from a reader about High Fructose Corn Syrup reminded me about just how harmful this sugar really is. Let’s take a look at this super-sweetener that has not-so-slowly crept into all of our lives.
What is High Fructose Corn Syrup?
If you are under the impression that everything you eat contains High Fructose Corn Syrup, you are not alone. With a combination of government subsidies and increased crop yields, the cost of corn had dropped dramatically making the production of High Fructose Corn Syrup cheap and readily available. As short as 40 years ago, there really wasn’t much of this sugar in existence. Since that time, consumption of High Fructose Corn Syrup has increased over one thousand percent making it the most popular sugar on the block.
High Fructose Corn Syrup comes from (of course) corn. The corn is processed to produce almost all fructose and then is mixed with about 40 percent glucose to create the combined product called High Fructose Corn Syrup. This sugar is much sweeter than sucrose (table sugar) and much cheaper, so manufactures can use less while still tickling your taste buds.
How Much do We Eat?
If you walk the isles of your grocery store and start picking up packages, you will be surprised to learn how many products contain this sugar: From the obvious cereals, cakes, cookies, ice creams, to the not-so-obvious ketchups, salad dressing, and salsas. Soda manufactures use High Fructose Corn Syrup almost exclusively.
In America, we consume around 60 to 80 pounds of High Fructose Corn Syrup per person. If you are typical, somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of all calories you eat come form of this super-sweetener.
What is Wrong with High Fructose Corn Syrup?
There is a lot of research being conducted on what eating a high amount of fructose does to our bodies, and while there is much more research to be done, here is some of what scientists have found out:
- High Fructose Corn Syrup is converted in the body before it gets used. This conversion takes place in the liver. The choice the liver has to make is either to turn the fructose into glucose that the body can use, or turn it into fat. The liver chooses the conversion into fat first for all of the fructose and then, depending on if the body needs energy or not, will convert glucose into fat – adding to our already increasing waistlines.
- Fructose appears to create harmful body proteins called “glycated proteins”. These proteins may be the underlying cause of a wide variety of diseases including heart disease, kidney disease, macular degeneration and many more.
- High Fructose Corn Syrup appears to lead to insulin insensitivity more easily than other sugars. This means that fructose may be partly responsible for our diabetic epidemic.
- Fructose may also contribute to hypertension or high blood pressure through a number of mechanisms.
While I would have to agree that the jury is still out on High Fructose Corn Syrup, I think it is best to avoid this sugar in any form possible. As I’ve said many times before in this blog: At the very least you should avoid sodas whenever you can, your health depends on it.