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High Fructose Corn Syrup Is About As Healthy As Heroin

A while back the High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) manufacturers flooded the airways with their “It’s natural” commercials.

If you haven’t seen them, there are several versions that all use the same theme. Two people are talking. One of them refuses to take a popsicle or dessert from the other, saying something like, “I wouldn’t eat that. You know what they say about high fructose corn syrup.”

The person who is handing them the HFCS-laden dessert says, “You mean that it’s made from corn, contains no artificial ingredients, and like sugar it’s fine in moderation?” The other person stammers and seems confused before going ahead and taking a big bite out of the dessert.

The implication is that you’re some kind of an idiot if you think HFCS is bad for you. I’m sure that manufacturers making $2.6 billion selling it every year doesn’t affect their opinion at all…

This commercial makes as much sense as an imaginary one in which a drug addict offers someone a shot of heroin. When they reply, “No thanks, you know what they say about heroin,” the pusher says, “You mean that it’s made from natural poppies, contains no artificial ingredients and like sugar, is fine in moderation?”

Yeah, right.

Apparently the people selling the stuff haven’t read the research.

So, in the interests of protecting you from feeling like an idiot the next time you refuse to eat some food with HFCS in it, I’d like to share with you exactly what the research says.

What it Is

First of all, you should know that in spite of the name fructose sounding like the word fruit, HFCS is anything but natural. Most corn used to make it is genetically modified, as are the enzymes and fungus necessary to transform corn starch into this form of sugar.

Regular sugar, glucose, is made up of two sugars, sucrose and fructose. In glucose these two are combined in a way that buffers the effects of fructose on the body.

Fructose by itself, or as part of HFCS, doesn’t have this buffering mechanism. This means the body uses it in a very different way. This difference may explain the following problems eating too much fructose creates:

  • anemia
  • high cholesterol
  • heart hypertrophy (enlarged heart)
  • delayed testicular development
  • infertility in women
  • increased appetite
  • improper connective tissue production
  • increased insulin resistance
  • increased likelihood of metabolic syndrome
  • increased likelihood of type 2 diabetes
  • reduced antioxidant activity in the body
  • iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc deficiencies
  • cirrhosis of the liver

In other words, HFCS wreaks havoc on your immune system, bones, heart, liver, energy level and reproductive system. In addition, it increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer, including prostate and colon cancer.

Sounds sweet, doesn’t it?

You probably know that I’m no fan of eating white sugar. But when it comes to your health, it would be better than HFCS. Better still, stick with natural sweeteners like stevia or xylitol.

And next time you come across one of those smiley-face commercials telling you how great HFCS is, just substitute the word, “heroin” wherever they talk about corn syrup. You’ll be much better off.


Sources:
Weston A Price Foundation
Al Sears, MD
Health Sciences Institute

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • DavidJuly 19, 2010, 5:25 pm

    “HFCS is like heroin, and is just as ‘natural’:” Well put! The ad campaign is reminiscent of the advertising put out by many pharmaceutical companies for doubtful but profitable drugs, not to mention the “healthful” image that big tobacco tried to put out some years back. I think that the food processing industry is going into denial to protect their profits, never mind that even the conservative AMA has finally put out a serious warning about refined carbs, including refined sugar and corn syrup!

    I think that one element regarding sweeteners (and salt, for that matter) is that our palates as a nation have been “trained” to accept foods with lots of these things added, and it may take some time to re-train the palate — but it’s well worth the trouble. When I cut way back on salt some ten years ago, things initially tasted bland, until I started discovering the subtler flavors being masked by the salt. As I’ve cut back on sweeteners, I’ve been making similar discoveries about flavors being masked by sweetness.

    One surprising discovery is that I could actually enjoy chocolate with NO SWEETENERS AT ALL! Chocolate makers say that unsweetened “baking” chocolate is too bitter to eat directly, but this may be the result of the aforementioned palate conditioning. Nor am I alone in enjoying such chocolate; both my sister and my housemate have made that same discovery. There have been some reports that dark chocolate may actually be good for you (could you please comment on this?), but I’ve been concerned that any such positives could get cancelled out by the problems presented by the sugar. Interestingly enough, I actually prefer the taste of unsweetened chocolate; it’s much more intense and “chocolatey” because it isn’t diluted by the addition of sugar!

    And now for a VERY positive thought: even as the corporate moguls are trying to protect their profits by lying and manipulation, more and more people are beginning to see through all the lies, and we are re-organizing our lives so as to cut the big corporations out of the loop as much as possible. Instead, we’re seeing the growth of community-based efforts, such as (but not limited to) the Great Basin Community Food Co-operative here in Reno. Because of ongoing concerns about the big banks, there is a movement, “Move Your Money”, that encourages people to close their accounts with the biggest banks, and open accounts with smaller, community-based banks and credit unions.

    This even extends to personal friendships; my housemate and I are very close friends, and by sharing expenses, we’re able to afford to rent a decent-sized house instead of two separate dinky apartments, in spite of income limitations. (It helps that we also have a decent landlady.) I might add that we’re saving a small fortune since we completely cut off the cable TV, not to mention getting rid of the associated “mind pollution” — we now use cable only for the Internet, and both of us are sophisticated enough to control our Internet browsing rather than the other way around.

    More and more, we’re witnessing the death throes of an unsustainable order of things, and the birth and growth of a new, more evolved way of life based on personal awareness, initiative, and co-operation. We aren’t going to wait for either big corporations or big government to get their act together either, because it simply won’t happen until they’re forced to change because of being too far out of the loop to avoid change any longer. The progress of this new way of life will take time, but I think that its momentun is unstoppable, and we will all be better off for it. Even the corporate moguls and the Washington pols will begin to discover that there can actually be more to life than the financial bottom line.

  • Dr. BruceJuly 19, 2010, 9:24 pm

    Hi David,

    Excellent comments as always.

    Regarding getting over the artificial habituation to excessively sweet or salty foods, another consideration is macronutrient ratios. One of the fastest ways to overcome such cravings is to adjust the ratios of fats, proteins and carbs at each meal. By doing so until you find the perfect percentage of each (can be different for each of the three daily meals), you reduce and eventually eliminate cravings for these extremes of taste stimulation.

    Be well,

    Dr. Bruce

  • KarenJuly 20, 2010, 10:39 am

    I’ve been trying to avoid HFCS for decades, long before it became a known issue. One of the things my husband and I like about Europe and Australia is that they have the same products we have, but without the HFCS. Having said that, the Metabolic Type Diet eliminated my cravings for sweets virtually overnight. Now I crave full-fat dairy products 🙂

    For those looking for unsweetened chocolate, the Lindt chocolate company in Zurich, Switzerland, makes a 99% cocoa bar. Even they admit on their packaging that it’s an acquired taste, but for someone like me who has eschewed sweeteners of any kind for the past 10 months, it does taste quite nice.

    http://www.lindtusa.com/product-exec/product_id/41/category_id/5/nm/Excellence_99_Cocoa_Bar

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