Google ‘High Fructose Corn Syrup’ and one of the first sites to come up is Sweetsurprise.com. I was trying to figure out just what High Fructose Corn Syrup (herein referred to as HFCS) is and what it does and that site kept popping up with every conceivable search. I was looking for a site I recognized like the Mayo Clinic or a Consumer Safety site, and I did find those, but searches on several search engines kept bringing up the site SweetSurprise.com. So I checked it out. It has lots of nice things to say about the exaggerated dangers of HFCS and pointed out the HFCS is unfairly singled out as the culprit behind the obesity epidemic. The site is bright and well-written and entirely believable until you look at all the other sites listed in your search and realize that one of these things is not like the others….. and that Sweetsurpise.com is maintained and funded by the Corn Refiners Association. Hmm…I smell a rat or maybe it’s just a field mouse.
Let me back up. What is HFCS? Here’s what the Mayo Clinic website said: “High-fructose corn syrup is a common sweetener and preservative. High-fructose corn syrup is made by changing the sugar (glucose) in cornstarch to fructose — another form of sugar. The end product is a combination of fructose and glucose. Because it extends the shelf life of processed foods and is cheaper than sugar, high-fructose corn syrup has become a popular ingredient in many sodas, fruit-flavored drinks and other processed foods.”
Back up further – what is fructose? Fructose is sugar from fruit. All though fructose is simply sugar, when you eat it in fruit, it does have some fiber in it. So fructose alone doesn’t sound so bad. (Although there is much evidence to the contrary, I was laser-focused on the HFCS and couldn’t be distracted by all those wanting me to read about the dangers of fructose in general, I filed that to think about later.) Starting in the 1970’s and 80’s, manufacturers discovered the beauty of HFCS. It’s cheaper than sugar, plentiful, and creates a longer shelf life for the end product. Plus, if you remember Farm Aid, you might remember that the government ended up subsidizing lots of farmers and the corn they grew. What to do with all that extra corn? Find ways to make money off it. The more HFCS you can sell, the more corn you will need to grow. And it’s right here in the good old USofA, no need to import it from sugar cane fields in other countries. HFCS seemed like the perfect solution for everyone – the farmers, the government, the manufacturers. Too bad it wasn’t such a great solution for the public.
But really, why is HFCS so bad? Well, because HFCS is a man-made blend of sugars, as opposed to naturally occurring sugars, the body metabolizes it differently. And since the early 80’s the average person is consuming triple the amount of HFCS. I went back to the internet to see if there were any studies documenting what should be obvious to all of us – as HFCS consumption has increased, so has our collective waistline. I found a website called SweetDisguise.com which was created in response to the Corn Refiners Association’s campaign to promote and de-criminalize HFCS. If you check out www.SweetDisguise.com you can read about the people who founded it and find tons of links to research and articles detailing the dangers of HFCS and sugar in general. But here are a few goodies I found.
The website quoted from an article in the Washington Post (Jan 2009). I actually have a clipping of this article somewhere because I intended to post on it regarding the dangers of Mercury in soda. The article is entitled, Study Finds High-Fructose Corn Syrup Contains Mercury. Here’s a quote: “Almost half of tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup contained mercury, which was also found in nearly a third of the 55 popular brand-name food and beverage products where HFCS is the first- or second-highest ingredient, according to two new U.S. Studies.” Just in case you aren’t up to snuff on the dangers of Mercury, just know that it is extremely toxic by ingestion or inhalation of the dust.
And in an article from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, scientists at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University and the Department of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina commented on the 1000% increase (and they did say 1000%, not 100%!) increase in the average consumption of HFCS from 1970 to 1990 and it’s biological effects on human metabolism. They said, “The increased use of HFCS in the United States mirrors the rapid increase in obesity. The digestion, absorption, and metabolism of fructose differ from those of glucose… unlike glucose, fructose does not stimulate insulin secretion or enhance leptin production.” Which means that HFCS doesn’t suppress hunger, so people don’t feel full and consequently they keep eating. Kind of like my cat when the lid’s off the cat food container. The conclusion of the scientists in this study? “There is a distinct likelihood that the increased consumption of HFCS in beverages may be linked to the increase in obesity.” Isn’t this as obvious as the nose on your face?
So if one of your New Year’s Resolutions is to lose weight, a great way to help yourself accomplish this would be to cut out the HFCS. And even if you’re not trying to lose weight, cutting out the HFCS is one of the best things you can do for your health. And remember the less we buy of products with HFCS, the less incentive there is for companies to keep developing products with high amounts of it in there in the first place.