According to the Corn Refiners Association, high-fructose corn syrup contains the same amount of calories as cane and beet sugar, is metabolized by the body the same way as these sweeteners are, and is an all-natural product.
Their current ad campaign insists that high-fructose corn syrup is just like honey, which is made by enzymes in a bee’s abdomen — as opposed to the enzymes and acids in centrifuges, ion exchange columns and liquid chromatographers used to make high-fructose corn syrup.
High-fructose corn syrup could be all-natural, if cornstarch happened to fall into a vat of alpha-amylase, soak there for a while, then trickle into another vat of glucoamylase, get strained to remove the Aspergillus fungus likely growing on top, and then find its way into some industrial-grade D-xylose isomerase.
High-fructose corn syrup is indeed similar to cane sugar in that it is about 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose. The American Medical Association issued a statement explaining that “high-fructose syrup does not appear to contribute more to obesity than other caloric sweeteners” … but they also said that “consumers [should] limit the amount of all added caloric sweeteners to no more than 32 grams of sugar daily.” Most sodas contain about 40 grams of high-fructose corn syrup.
By now you’re probably familiar with the advertisements claiming that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is “no worse for you than sugar.” What gets me about this campaign, run by the Corn Refiners Association, is this: What decent food product has ever needed to spend up to $30 million to convince consumers it’s inherently safe to eat?
The mere fact that these ads are defending corn syrup as a natural, healthy, and safe sweetener should be a tipoff to all that something is missing from the picture.
Where are the ads defending the use of sugar? Where are the ads defending salt? Both of these have obvious health ramifications if consumed in excess, but no one has ever needed to spend millions to convince you they’re no worse than something else, and that it’s okay to keep consuming them.
The Truth about High Fructose Corn Syrup
The truth is, scientists have linked the rising HFCS consumption to the epidemics of obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome in the U.S., and medical researchers have pinpointed various health dangers associated with the consumption of HFCS compared to regular sugar. This is why the corn industry is now scrambling to save face and profits – NOT because it’s really okay to consume an average of 59 pounds a year of this stuff.
The American Medical Association issued a statement on June 17, 2008, stating that “high-fructose syrup does not appear to contribute more to obesity than other caloric sweeteners.” However, they also recommend you limit the amount of ALL added caloric sweeteners to no more than 32 grams of sugar daily, which, by the way, comes out to just over 25.5 pounds of sugar per year.
The AMA’s recommendation is over five-and-a-half-times less than the current yearly sugar consumption of the average American – which currently weighs in around 142 pounds a year — but is still five times higher than my own recommendation of 5 pounds of added sugar per year.
Their evaluation that HFCS is not a major contributor to obesity is puzzling, considering the fact that the number one source of calories in America is soda, which contains about 40 grams of HFCS per can – more than the AMA’s recommended daily maximum for ALL caloric sweeteners.
And that’s without adding in all the corn syrup now found in every type of processed, pre-packaged food you can think of. In fact, the use of high fructose corn syrup in the U.S. diet increased a staggering 10,673 percent between 1970 and 2005, according to the latest USDA Dietary Assessment of Major Trends in U.S. Food Consumption report (whereas sucrose consumption declined by 38 percent), far exceeding changes in intake of any other food or food group.
And what kinds of foods account for more than 90 percent of the money Americans spend on their meals? You guessed it: processed food.
All in all, according to the USDA’s report, about one-quarter of the calories consumed by the average American is in the form of added sugars – the majority of which comes from high fructose corn syrup.
Folks, this is a prescription for disaster.
Why High Fructose Corn Syrup IS Worse For You than Sugar
If you need to lose weight, or if you want to avoid diabetes and heart disease, fructose is one type of sugar you’ll want to avoid, particularly in the form of high-fructose corn syrup.
Part of what makes HFCS such an unhealthy product is that it is metabolized to fat in your body far more rapidly than any other sugar.
According to Dr. Elizabeth Parks, associate professor of clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern Medical Center, and lead author of a recent study on fructose in the Journal of Nutrition:
“Our study shows for the first time the surprising speed with which humans make body fat from fructose. Once you start the process of fat synthesis from fructose, it’s hard to slow it down. The bottom line of this study is that fructose very quickly gets made into fat in the body.”
How does this happen?
Well, most fats are formed in your liver, and when sugar enters your liver, it decides whether to store it, burn it or turn it into fat. Fructose, however, bypasses this process and turns full speed ahead into fat.
“It’s basically sneaking into the rock concert through the fence,” Dr. Parks said in a previous interview with Science Daily. “It’s a less-controlled movement of fructose through these pathways that causes it to contribute to greater triglyceride [i.e. fat] synthesis.”
Ironically, the very products that most people rely on to lose weight — low-fat diet foods — are often those that contain the most fructose! Even “natural” diet foods often contain fructose as a sweetener.
How You Can Drastically Improve Your Overall Health
If you want to drastically improve your health, the answer is quite simple. To lose weight and reduce your risk of developing metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and heart disease, STOP drinking soda and processed fruit juices that are sweetened with about eight teaspoons of fructose per serving! Switch to pure water as your beverage of choice and you will be well on your way to better health.
Genetic factors clearly play an important role in the development of obesity. However, the rapidity with which the current epidemic of obesity has hit the United States and the rest of the world makes diet and lifestyle a far more likely explanation.
To preserve your health you need to focus your diet on whole foods based on your personal biochemistry, and, if you do purchase packaged foods, become an avid label reader and severely limit your consumption of goods that contain corn syrup as a main ingredient.
When in a Pinch, Choose Your Poison
However, like most areas in life, when presented with two poisons, choose carefully.
Even though HFCS is clearly something you want to avoid, it is not as bad as artificial sweeteners, which damage your health even more rapidly than HFCS. (I spent several years researching artificial sweeteners for my book Sweet Deception, which goes into these issues in great detail).
So, for example, if you have to choose between soda sweetened with HFCS (regular soda) or artificial sweeteners (diet soda), choose HFCS.
The best and safest sweetener (although illegal to use as a food additive, according to the FDA) would be the herb stevia. Personally I use a liquid stevia to flavor my Tulsi tea and it is one of the most delightful drinks I have ever had.