High fructose corn syrup

By Louisa Enright | Sep 11, 2010
Photo by: Patrisha McLean

Despite the food industry's attempt to tell us so, all food calories do not have the same affect on our bodies; nor are all sugars equal. Most sweeteners are formed from three different sugars (sucrose, glucose, and fructose), and each has a different affect on the body.

Sugars are carbohydrates, and, according to Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, in "Gut and Psychology Syndrome (2004), all carbohydrates are made of tiny molecules called monosaccharides, or monosugars. Glucose and fructose are monosugars, so do not need digestion and enter the gut directly. Sucrose is a disaccharides, or double sugar, and it and other double sugars, including lactose from milk and maltose from starches, require "quite a bit of" digestive work in a healthy body to reduce them to absorbable monosugars. Unhealthy bodies harbor these undigested sugars in the gut, and an unfortunate chain of disease begins as these sugars feed "pathogenic bacteria, viruses, Candida and other fungi," which themselves begin to produce toxic substances that "damage the gut wall and poison the whole body."

Most sweeteners have different sugar compositions. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is typically 42 to 55 percent fructose and 45 to 55 percent glucose. Honey is 50 percent fructose, 44 percent glucose, and 1 percent sucrose. Only raw sugar is 100 percent sucrose. But, as Sally Fallon Morell and Rami Nagel explain in "Wise Traditions" (2009), the type of fructose in HFCS is not the same as fructose from fruit and our bodies do not know how to process it into energy.

Industry creates HFCS from cornstarch, which largely comes from genetically modified corn. For an amusing, but serious, explanation of how HFCS is made, take a look at the movie "King Corn" (2007). A not-so-funny fact surfaced recently, according to Morell and Nagel : nearly 50 percent of samples of commercial HFCS contained mercury, which was found also in nearly one-third of "55 brand-name food and beverage products where HFCS is the first- or second-highest labeled ingredient."

Fructose in fruit, report Morell and Nagel, is "part of a complex that includes fiber, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals."

The fructose in HFCS is a free, unbound fructose with an important chemical difference. Most fruit fructose is D-fructose, or levulose, but HFCS fructose is L-fructose, an artificial compound that has "the reversed isomerization and polarity of a refined fructose molecule." Thus, the fructose in HFCS is "not recognized in the human Krebs cycle for primary conversion to blood glucose in any significant quantity, and therefore cannot be used for energy utilization." Instead, HFCS, like all refined fructose sweeteners" is "primarily converted into triglycerides and adipose tissue (body fat)."

Indeed, report Morell and Nagel, a new study published in the "Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism," found that obese people who drank a fructose-sweetened beverage with a meal had triglyceride levels almost 200 percent higher than obese people who drank a glucose-sweetened beverage with a meal." Chronic, high triglycerides, remind Morell and Nagel, cause increased insulin resistance, inflammation, and heart disease.

An article in "Well Being Journal" reported that two published studies (2010) from Princeton University demonstrated that HFCS causes obesity in rats. The researchers think that HFCS is more fattening than sugar because it is not bound to anything, which, in turn, allows it to be processed in the liver into fat — substantially abdominal fat — a risk factor for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Sucrose is "metabolized by insulin from the pancreas and is more readily used as an energy source." Additionally, HFCS bypasses the body's ability to create satiety, or feeling full. Morell and Nagel note that since all fructose is metabolized in the liver, the livers of test animals "fed large amounts of fructose develop fatty deposits and cirrhosis, similar to problems that develop in the livers of alcoholics."

Rats aren't humans; but epidemiologist Devra Davis, in "The Secret History of the War on Cancer" (2007), notes that industry has been adept at both decrying and promoting animal studies: "Where animal studies on the causes of cancer exist, industry faults them as not relevant to humans. Yet, when studies of almost identical design are employed to craft novel treatments and therapies, the physiological differences between animals and humans suddenly become insignificant."

So, Davis argues, dismissing animal studies is a type of reasoning that is both "morally flawed" and "ignores one simple fact: the same basic structure of DNA is found in all mammals (8)." Davis writes that she has witnessed in her professional life "the maturing of the science of doubt promotion," or "the concerted and well-funded effort to identify, magnify and exaggerate doubts about what we could say that we know as a way of delaying actions to change the way the world operates." Thus, "treating people like experimental animals in a vast and largely uncontrolled study," while ignoring data from animal studies showing direct cause-and-effect data, is "morally indefensible."

Morell and Nagel report that HFCS entered the market in the early 1970s, but the FDA did not grant it GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status until 1996, "after considerable pressure from the industry" (mainly Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill) as negative research begin to emerge. Nevertheless, "HFCS represents the major change in the American diet over the last 40 years" as it has replaced more expensive sugar in most soft drinks and is "increasingly replacing sugar in baked goods, bread, cereals, canned fruits, jams and jellies, dairy desserts and flavored yoghurts." This substitution is occurring despite research showing that while refined sugars have "empty, depleting, addictive calories," HFCS is "actually worse for you."

The HFCS story gets worse. A team of researchers at the University of California Los Angeles Jonsson Cancer Center released a study on Aug. 2, revealing that pancreatic tumor cells use fructose to divide and proliferate. Dr. Anthony Heaney said that tumor cells thrived on glucose, but used fructose to proliferate. He specifically referred to Americans' use of refined fructose consumption. Our use of HFCS has increased 1,000 percent between 1970 and 1990.

HFCS can cause high blood pressure. A study from the University of Colorado Denver Health Sciences Center recorded the eating habits of more than 4,500 adults to determine that amount of HFCS each was consuming. Those consuming "more than 74 grams of HFCS (the equivalent of 2.5 servings of soft drinks) exhibited 'significantly increased risk of developing hypertension.'" Indeed, "the study concluded that HFCS consumption can raise blood pressure in adults with no history of hypertension, independently of any other causes."

Connections are being made between HFCS and gout. Fructose increases uric acid, and uric acid causes gout. A study of about 46,000 men who got "at least 12 percent of their calories from fructose" were" twice as likely to be diagnosed with gout."

I found much more information showing that HFCS is a dangerous product that is causing humans significant harm. It's also likely that industry knows how dangerous it is, but uses it anyway because it is sweet and cheap. Remember that industry is legally organized to behave this way. What you can do is to eat nutrient-dense, organic, local foods to maintain your health.



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