The skinny on the High Fructose Corn Syrup in your soft drink! (It’s a big deal)

Keep Calm

Greetings, one and all! I’d like to stick with the Keep Calm and Eat Healthier theme for today and complete the discussion on sweeteners, specifically High Fructose Corn Syrup, which is bad stuff. Kind of like Lord Voldemort. Read on to see why!

Recall the steps I posted previously to achieve a healthier diet. I recommended the following up to this point:

First protect your gut health, digestion and immunity

Eliminating antibiotic and hormone-containing foods such as conventional meats and dairy; choose meats and dairy that are free of these nasties or go fully organic

Eliminating GMO’s primarily from processed foods containing conventional corn, corn syrup (AKA corn sugar and high fructose corn syrup) and soy; choose whole GMO-free foods, ideally fresh proteins and vegetables

Second protect your pancreas’ ability to regulate blood glucose and prevent fatty liver disease

–  Eliminating artificial sweeteners and reducing the amount of refined sugar, especially from energy and soft drinks

I discussed several sweeteners already but did not touch upon high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). I will now. This stuff is doubly bad because not only is it a manufactured sweetener, but it is very likely from GMO Bt-corn, a Franken-food. It makes most lists I’ve seen for additives to avoid, such as the one below:

I will refer to Chapter 9 in Dr. Edward Aronoff’s book Toxic Food, Healthy Food: Your Survival Guide to Healthy Eating and Better Nutrition, Three Came Home Publishing, 2011, to explain why HFCS is so undesirable.

HFCS is insidious because it has been put into our food in increasing quantities for the past 35 years, starting in the 1970’s, mainly because it was cheaper than sugar and the government wanted to counteract rising food prices. It can be found in soft drinks, fruit drinks, cookies, ketchup, jams, frozen dinners, ice cream and baked goods, to name a few. As Dr. Aronoff explains, it may be “cheaper”, but it exacts a high price in other ways because the standard American diet is typically loaded with processed foods full of sugar and salt and devoid of fiber and many nutrients and this is the perfect recipe for an explosion of chronic disease. Now when you add HFCS, the explosion takes on the proportion of an atomic bomb (p. 56).

I don’t think he is exaggerating with this analogy. If you were born before 1980, then you probably can’t remember so many people with food allergies, obesity issues, asthma, and chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes when you were growing up…right? I can’t. HFCS hit the scene in the 70’s, antibiotics and hormones after, and then GMO’s in the 90’s. Now, 30 years later, SO MANY OF US, ESPECIALLY KIDS, ARE SICK! Diet devoid of nutrition = disease perhaps??? But I digress…

Here’s why it is dangerous – HFCS, when eaten in excess, cannot be handled by the liver and is turned into triglycerides. Unlike glucose from natural foods, fructose from HFCS is converted to fat instead of glycogen in the liver. Let’s repeat that for emphasis – unlike glucose from natural foods, fructose from HFCS is converted to fat instead of glycogen in the liver (see paragraph below for more on glycogen). Over years of excessive HFCS intake, the liver will develop fatty deposits called fatty liver disease, which is often a silent liver disease. It resembles alcoholic liver disease but occurs in people who drink little or no alcohol. The major problem with this condition is that the fat in the liver, along with the inflammation and liver damage, can lead to liver cirrhosis and permanent damage to the liver, causing an inability of that vital organ to perform its necessary functions. This negative process can lead to weight gain and Type 2 diabetes, and suggests why two-thirds of our society is becoming overweight or obese (p.65).

Let’s review some biology to understand this situation – sugar is necessary because your body needs it to supply its cells with energy. In the best case, simple sugars come from the metabolism of starches and carbohydrates which are broken down slowly. When you consume food, your body metabolizes the sugar that’s ingested and gets it ready to put into the nerve and fat cells. If you have more sugar than your cells need, your body stores the sugar as glycogen in the liver and the muscles to be used later. When the blood sugar begins to fall, a hormone released by the pancreas called glucagon tells the liver to release the glycogen as glucose. Alternatively, when the blood sugar rises, the pancreas releases a hormone called insulin to metabolize the blood sugar (page 30 – 31).  That’s our body staying in balance and is all well and good. However, the ingestion of HFC S bypasses the bloodstream and pancreas entirely as it winds up as fat in the liver. Big difference.

HFCS has been associated with obesity for the reasons above, but also high blood pressure and cancerous tumor growth (p. 57). Reports link sweetened soft drinks to weight gain, diabetes, and in turn, hypertension. It has also been shown by UCLA researchers that cancer cells can readily metabolize fructose to make the tumor bigger and spread faster.

And now, here are the results from an interesting study regarding obesity which takes the limelight off of HFCS and onto the number of carbohydrate calories consumed with regards to the obesity epidemic. I am not sure what to make of this study but wanted to mention it because they do bring up a good point about the large amount of grains in the American diet. I agree that this is also likely not ideal:!

The Corn Refiners Association rejoiced at this result, but we should not let them off the hook because as we discussed above, HFCS is not healthy for a variety of reasons, and the possible correlation between it, fatty liver disease, and obesity being just one. Today, sweeteners made from corn rack up $4.5 Billion in annual sales, accounting for 55% of the sweetener market. The consumption of HFCS climbed from 0 consumption in 1966 to 62.6 pounds per person in 2001. In order to combat the bad press, the name is being changed on labels to CORN SUGAR to make it sound innocent and just like any other natural sugar. It ain’t, my friends. Thus, we must take matters into our own hands, read labels carefully, and make decisions accordingly. Like putting the crap with HFCS back down, walking over to the produce aisle, and grabbing fresh fruits and vegetables!

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