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Is High Fructose Corn Syrup Good or Bad for You?


There is a raging debate in the nutrition industry around high fructose corn syrup and whether it is good or bad for you.  This debate has become so intense that the Corn Refiners Association has taken steps to defend this common ingredient in most processed foods by releasing a national ad campaign.  On one side of the debate are those who feel that high fructose corn syrup is as bad for you as trans fats and should be eliminated from our diet.  On the other side are those who say that this ingredient is the same as sugar and shouldn’t be treated any differently.

To help bring this debate into proper focus so that you can make an educated decision I’ve segmented this article into the following sections:  History & Composition, Potential Health Challenges, and The Verdict!

History & Composition!
Looking at the history and composition of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is important.  One of the arguments made by the Corn Refiners Association is that HFCS is the same as sugar.  According to Audrea Erickson, president of the Corn Refiners Association, “We want to correct the record.  Being led to believe that consuming sugar is better than high fructose corn syrup is not based on fact.”  So, let’s examine the facts.

Table sugar or sucrose is a common ingredient for sweetening foods.  As the soda and processed food industry took off in the 60’s and 70’s, and as the cost of sugar increased, the industry looked for ways to design a sweetener that could mimic the profile of sucrose.  Sucrose is a simple sugar that contains one molecule of glucose attached to one molecule of fructose to give it a 50/50 composition.

In 1970 HFCS-42 was created from milling corn, processing that starch into corn syrup and then adding enzymes to convert it into fructose.  It was then blended back with glucose to get the desired fructose-glucose blend, which in HFCS-42 was 42% fructose and 58% glucose.  Because glucose and corn syrup are not as sweet as sucrose the industry continue to refine HFCS-42.  By the late 1970’s HFCS-55 was developed and contained a blend of 55% fructose and 45% glucose.  The HFCS-55 blend has a sweetness profile similar to sucrose and has pretty much remained the standard for the industry.

Even though the creation of high fructose corn syrup is a 12 step process it’s popular because it:

Even the FDA gave its approval and made the following statement in 1983:  “The agency has concluded that high fructose corn syrup is as safe for use in food as sucrose, corn sugar, corn syrup and invert sugar.”

According to the FDA and the Corn Refiners Association, high fructose corn syrup is as safe as table sugar.  Well, I want you to note two important details that I believe are significant and overlooked:

Keep these two items in mind as we look at the potential health challenges.

Potential Health Challenges!
The debate about the potential health challenges of high fructose corn syrup has mainly centered on the overweight/obesity issues facing the American public.  While this is important there are other metabolic challenges this article will address. 

To be able to properly evaluate this issue we need to understand how fructose and glucose affect your body.  Both are simple sugars but your body metabolizes them differently.  Glucose is your body’s primary source of energy.  It is used by your cells to create ATP which is readily “burned” by your cells’ mitochondria to provide the energy needed to maintain cell life.  When excess glucose is present, the liver can store it as a carbohydrate for later conversion to energy.

Fructose is often called “fruit sugar” because it is the primary carbohydrate in most fruits.  However, fructose is metabolized differently.  Fructose does not stimulate insulin secretion and doesn’t require insulin to be transported into the cells.  In the liver this causes it to be rapidly metabolized leading to an increase in triglycerides and fat storage in the liver.  This doesn’t mean that fructose can’t be used for energy.  However, it is a more complex process and creates the potential for some serious health issues such as:

The Verdict!
In this debate about the potential health challenges surrounding the consumption of high fructose corn syrup, the Corn Refiners Association and the FDA would like us to believe that HFCS and sucrose are safe in moderate consumption, with no real differences between the two in how they affect the body.  While this might be true regarding caloric intake and how it affects weight management there are other significant health challenges that need to be addressed. 

Sucrose and high fructose corn syrup are not the same.  Remember that sucrose (table sugar) is 50% fructose and 50% glucose.  HFCS-55 is 55% fructose and 45% glucose.  While a 5% change in the amount of fructose may not seem significant in the laboratory, it is in real life. 

According to the Center of Science in the Public Interest the average American consumed 56 pounds of HFCS in 2007 with soda being the single biggest source.  If this were 56 pounds of sucrose than the intake of fructose would represent 28 pounds.  Since this is 56 pounds of high fructose corn syrup then the intake of fructose is 30.8 pounds.  That represents an extra 2.8 pounds of fructose per year.

Remember that fructose is metabolized differently than glucose.  In the liver it is rapidly metabolized to significantly increase triglycerides and fat storage.  The extra 2.8 pounds of fructose is equal to 1271 grams.  At 4 calories per gram this represents 5084 calories.  There are 3500 calories in a pound of fat.  This extra 2.8 pounds of fructose has the energy equivalent of 1.45 pounds of fat.  Continuing a diet high in HFCS, this extra fructose represents 14.5 pound of potential fat over a 10 year period.  Potential extra fat that could also directly affect your liver!  

Extra fructose also affects your body’s ability to produce insulin.  This in turn reduces the body’s ability to manufacturer the leptin hormone to compound your body’s ability to control its weight and fat stores. 

The extra fructose directly affects your endothelial cells by inhibiting the eNOS enzyme and indirectly by damaging the endothelial cells thru fatty deposits.  All this lowers your body’s ability to produce nitric oxide which is critical for proper blood pressure and good cardiovascular and sexual health.  Extra fructose also affects your uric acid levels leaving you more susceptible to gout and kidney stones. 

Finally, this extra fructose also has a significant impact on the formation of Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs).  Remember how food manufacturers liked HFCS because it provides a controllable substrate for browning and Maiillard reaction.  This process of cooking proteins with sugars to create flavor also creates external AGEs that your body absorbs when you consume their product.  To compound this, excess fructose will cross-link with proteins at 10 times a higher rate than glucose.  That extra 2.8 pounds of fructose has an enormous potential for creating large amounts of AGEs that actually age your body and significantly contribute to a wide range of degenerative diseases. 

Both sugar and high fructose corn syrup have the potential to create health problems especially when consumed in excess.  My suggestion would be to reduce the consumption of both and when able, eliminate high fructose corn syrup from your diet.  Just the simple act of replacing soft drinks with water will significantly reduce your intake of damaging sugars.  Read product labels.  If you find high fructose corn syrup listed as one of the first 5 ingredients, than find an alternative product.  More and more manufacturers are replacing HFCS in their products.  Consider using the natural non-caloric stevia extract as a replacement sweetener.  The more you reduce sugar and high fructose corn syrup from your diet the more your body will thank you.

Until next time, may we both age youthfully!

Synergistically yours,

P.S.   I would recommend the following articles to help you properly nourish your cells as you incorporate effective anti aging solutions in your wellness program:

The Best Anti Aging Advice is Grounded in The 1% Solution

Water, is it the Best Ingredient for Slowing Down the Aging Process?

The Dark Cola Drink Verses Water!

How Do Food, Metabolic, and Digestive Enzymes Factor in an Anti Aging Strategy?

These 5 Steps To Better Sleep Can Positively Affect Your Health!

The Acid Alkaline Balance:  Does Your Body’s pH Cause Cancer and Other Diseases?  Part 1  

The Acid Alkaline Balance:  Does Your Body’s pH Cause Cancer and Other Diseases?  Part 2

How Advanced Glycation End Products Cause You to AGE!

8 Dangers of Human Growth Hormone!


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