Do you know what High Fructose Corn Syrup is? It’s almost everywhere now, it’s actually pretty hard to find products that do not have it inside! When I look in the dictionary it defines it as “corn syrup to which enzymes have been added to change some of the glucose and fructose, making the product sweeter than regular corn syrup”. This is scary! Why? Because it is not natural.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is made from corn using a process called wet milling, which physically splits the kernel into its separate components (starch, corn hull, protein and oil). The added enzymes convert some of the glucose in the corn into fructose, resulting in a blend of 45% glucose and 55% fructose.
It is chemically similar to table sugar. But the digestion, absorption and metabolism of fructose is different to that of glucose.
And the biggest problem? The quantity we are now consuming.
Research shows that HFCS is uniquely responsible for obesity. The average consumption per person in US right now is 60 pounds per year. And at the same time our regular sugar intake has increased to 150 pounds per person, per year. That’s 1/2 pound of sugar every day!
So how much sugar do we need? This may surprise you. Children need around 3–4 tsp, teenagers 5–8 tsp, women 6 tsp and men 9 tsp. But just one 12-ounce regular soda contains about 140 calories and the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar! That’s more than the daily amount needed by an adult man, in just one soda!
Remember, anything you eat at one time that goes beyond your body’s immediate need for energy will be stored as new body fat. But it’s not just about the number of calories — it’s so important that you get your calories from the correct balance of macronutrients (protein, carbs and fat). Now I can hear you saying “a calorie is a calorie” — yes, however quality is key in determining what we should eat and what we should avoid in order to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Rather than choosing foods based only on caloric value, think instead about choosing high-quality, healthy foods, and minimizing low-quality foods. Of course you can be creative and flexible with your daily food intake, but the quality of the food is so important. If you eat quality foods you can actually eat more.
Especially in US we’re seeing increases every year in diabetes and obesity. Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects one in every 12 people in the US, or nearly 24 million people. Approximately 5.7 million Americans remain undiagnosed, and 57 million are estimated to be pre — diabetic. Research is showing that by 2050 one in every three people will have type 2 diabetes, and by 2030 almost one out of every 2 people will be obese. Not overweight — obese! And now science is even talking about type 3 diabetes.
These are huge statistics. And the biggest reason for this is our choice of the types of food we’re eating, especially the increase in processed food and sugar. These sugars are giving our body so many toxins — HFCS actually contains more toxins than if you separate the fructose and glucose. It goes straight to the liver and turns on a factory of fat production in your liver called lipogenesis. This causes what’s known as “fatty liver” — along with diabetes this is the most common health problem in the US, 10% of the US population already have type 2 diabetes now. Some of the side effects are:
• diabetes (insulin resistance)
• speeding up of the aging process • high insulin levels
• high triglycerides
• high blood pressure
• damaged immune system
• metabolic syndrome
• mercury poisoning
The benefits? Sorry, none!
We can’t control everything, but we can control our food choices. Most of the foods with added sugar have lots of fat in them too. So eating sugar-rich food can increase the calories we consume — and the more calories we take in, the more likely we are to be obese.
But it is not just calorie content from sugar that matters, a growing number of scientists believe now that the calories from sugar are not all treated by the body in the same way. There really are healthy sugars and un-healthy sugars — you may get the same amount of sugar from an apple and from a soda, but can you guess which one is healthier?!
Where you find HFCS? You won’t believe how many foods contain HFCS. For example most carbonated beverages and other sweetened drinks, baked goods, candies, canned fruits, sports drinks, crackers, salad dressings, dairy products, soda, cough syrup for kids…
Also you should be aware of some of the other names for added sugars on food labels: brown sugar, corn sweetener, syrup, fruit juice concentrates, honey, invert sugar, malt sugar, molasses, raw sugar and sugar molecules ending in “ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose)
Some other terms on food labels can be misleading too. For example “Sugar-Free” actually means less than 0.5g of sugar per serving! “Reduced Sugar” or ”Less Sugar” means at least 25% less sugars per serving compared to a standard serving size of the traditional variety. And “No Added Sugars” or “Without Added Sugars” means that no sugar-containing ingredient such as juice or dry fruit are added during processing.
Let’s look at what the FDA says:
Is HFCS less safe than other sweeteners?
We are not aware of any evidence … that there is a difference in safety between foods containing HFCS 42 or HFCS 55 and foods containing similar amounts of other nutritive sweeteners with approximately equal glucose and fructose content, such as sucrose, honey, or other traditional sweeteners. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that everyone limit consumption of all added sugars, including HFCS and sucrose. FDA participated in the development of the Dietary Guidelines and fully supports this recommendation.
But the same FDA also says:
Youth & Tobacco
Each day in the United States, more than 3200 kids under 18 years of age smoke their first cigarette, and an estimated 700 kids become daily cigarette smokers. Many of these kids will become addicted before they are old enough to understand the risks and will ultimately die too young of tobacco-related diseases.
FDA is working to protect the health of America’s children and ultimately reduce the burden of illness and death caused by tobacco use.
So we’re taking tobacco addiction seriously — but what about sugar addiction? Child obesity has more than doubled in the last 30 years and is still increasing. When you eat processed refined sugars, they trigger production of your brain’s natural opioids. This is a key ingredient in the addiction process. Sugar addiction is REAL! Why are we not protecting our kids from sugar?
Almost every school has a vending machine. But maybe you think it’s ok, your kids (or you) are drinking diet soda, so there’s no sugar? Think again — these normally contain artificial flavor and sweeteners that are more dangerous than regular sugar!
In my research I found two similar studies, one supported by the beverage industry, one independent. In the study without industry support, 83% linked sugary beverages with weight gain. And the one with industry support? 83% again — but this time 83% found NO link between sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain! Remember, the processed food and beverage industry is a multibillion dollar industry, so we have to be skeptical about some of their claims.
So what can we do?
For your drinks — avoid fruit juices, instead choose whole fruit. Try drinking sparkling mineral water or freshly squeezed lemon juice with water. Or make ice green tea with fresh mint or other herbs. It’s delicious and healthy.
And for your foods — when you read the food labels try to avoid all products that contain: high-fructose corn syrup, chicory, inulin, iso glucose, glucose-fructose syrup, dahlia syrup, tapioca syrup, glucose syrup, corn syrup, crystalline fructose, fruit fructose, or agave. It may take you longer in the supermarket to read all the labels and choose a healthy option, but it is worth it.
Ultimately of course it’s your decision. I can’t tell you what you need to do. Science provides us with knowledge, but it’s up to us to use it — knowledge is of no value if we don’t put it into practice. But I can recommend that if you want to change just ONE thing in your diet, then take out High Fructose Corn Syrup. Try it, and see how you feel, how your energy changes, your hunger decreases and you can manage your weight much more easily? Listen to your body. Remember you are the best nutritionist for YOU!
Please be aware what you eat — read the labels carefully, and remember that if you don’t understand what’s on the label then your body probably won’t like it. You can change yourself with a healthy lifestyle, one step at a time.
Keep smiling, eat real food, live your best life!