Have you ever peered at the back of a barbeque sauce bottle, soda pop can, or even a can of baked beans and noticed high-fructose corn syrup listed as one of the top ingredients? If that’s been an ingredient that you have come to shrug your shoulders at, it may be time to think again. It’s one of those ingredients that most of us can agree is really bad for you and yet either people think it can’t be avoided, or decide that it is not worth the effort to really avoid.
So, taking another look at what’s wrong with high-fructose corn syrup can be a great place to start. Here we provide the science and research to you so that you can have a better grasp on what is wrong with high-fructose corn syrup, and why you and your family should steer clear of it. Caring about your family’s health and well-being should certainly involve eliminating high-fructose corn syrup from your diet. It can be life-changing and life-saving.
What is High-fructose Corn Syrup?
According to the FDA, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) “is derived from corn starch. Starch itself is a chain of glucose (a simple sugar) molecules joined together. When corn starch is broken down into individual glucose molecules, the end product is corn syrup, which is essentially 100% glucose. To make HFCS, enzymes are added to corn syrup in order to convert some of the glucose to another simple sugar called fructose.” Another name for fructose is “fruit sugar” as it naturally is present in berries and fruits. However, “HFCS is ‘high’ in fructose compared to the pure glucose that is in corn syrup.” High-fructose corn syrup contains either 42% or 55% fructose, and the rest of HFCS is glucose and water.
How Does the Body Deal With HFCS?
You know those delicious starchy carbs we love like oatmeal, rice, and bread? Our body breaks those down into glucose, which is the basic form of carbohydrates. Glucose is utilized by every cell in your body! It is easily transported throughout the body, as it’s a source of energy and fuel.
On the other hand, the fructose in high-fructose corn syrup needs to be converted by the liver before the body can actually use it. Functional medicine expert Mark Hyman, MD, says “Fructose goes straight to your liver and starts a fat production factory. It triggers the production of triglycerides and cholesterol.”
A fat production factory? That doesn’t sound good.
Wait, What About Fructose?
We just might have alarmed you with the fructose facts— it has to be converted by the liver and activates a fat production factory! Well, fruit certainly has fructose. Is fruit bad? Fructose is naturally occurring in fruits and berries. It wasn’t added in or chemically processed to insert into an apple or blueberry. The bonus about fructose naturally occurring in fruit is that fruit also has lots of vitamins, minerals, and fiber! Unless you’re eating an exorbitant amount of fruit, the fructose won’t be a problem for your body to process in healthy ways.
It’s this unnatural high fructose in corn syrup that’s really alarming. High-fructose corn syrup has no essential nutrients at all.
Why Do All Our Foods Have it in Them?
High-fructose corn syrup didn’t just appear out of thin air. And it hasn’t dominated the western world’s food aisles for no reason. Mainly, it comes down to cost. High-fructose corn syrup is both sweeter and less expensive than other added sweeteners. Cheaper and sweeter? Food and beverage manufacturers were thrilled to be able to drastically increase the sweetness of their products for a mere fraction of the price. It was a win-win for them. A lose-lose for us.
High-fructose corn syrup has now replaced sugar in thousands of other processed and packaged foods. Some sources, like the Dietitians for Canada, go so far as to say that “high-fructose corn syrup is found in almost all foods containing added sugar.” So nearly all processed foods that once contained sugar, now contain high-fructose corn syrup.
How about we unveil some research on specifically why high-fructose corn syrup is bad for you?
How High-fructose Corn Syrup Impacts Your Health
Obesity and High-fructose Corn Syrup
A study published in the National Library of Medicine reveals that high fructose corn syrup increases your appetite and it can cause obesity more than regular sugar. Long-term studies have shown that excessive intake of sugar, including high-fructose corn syrup, is one of the main factors in the development of obesity. In children especially, the consumption of sodas and soft drinks, in which high-fructose corn syrup is the main ingredient, another study in the National Library of Medicine highlights a distinct correlation between high-fructose corn syrup filled soft-drinks and obesity.
Let’s hear from Princeton University psychology professor, Bart Hoebel, who specializes in the neuroscience of weight, appetite, and sugar addiction. “Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn’t true, at least under the conditions of our tests. “When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they’re becoming obese—every single one, across the board. Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don’t see this; they don’t all gain extra weight.”
While we certainly don’t love reading about animal testing, the results were clear.
Lastly, fructose also induces visceral fat accumulation. What’s visceral fat accumulation? Well, visceral fat surrounds your organs. It is without a doubt the most harmful type of body fat. It is directly linked to health issues like diabetes and heart disease.
Heart Disease and High-fructose Corn Syrup
Let’s talk about heart disease. According to the CDC, Heart disease is the single largest cause of mortality in the United States. In fact, in the USA, one person dies every 34 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease. A recent study conducted by the University of California, Davis, studied 85 healthy people between the age range of 18 and 40. The researchers gave participants drinks that had different amounts of high-fructose corn syrup, while others received water or sugar-free beverages. Blood tests were actually conducted hour by hour to observe changes in the body’s levels of triglycerides, lipoproteins, and uric acid. All three aforementioned levels are risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
It only took a mere two weeks of drinking beverages with high-fructose corn syrup to see that there were significant heart disease risk factors present in the blood samples of the participants.
Moreover, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has recently shown the correlation that the risk of death from cardiovascular disease increases as sugar consumption increases.
Diabetes and High-fructose Corn Syrup
By now, it probably comes as no surprise that high-fructose corn syrup and diabetes are linked. High-fructose corn syrup can lead to insulin resistance, which then can cause type 2 diabetes. The Diabetes Journal attests that “People with diabetes should limit or avoid intake of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) (from any caloric sweetener including high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose) to reduce the risk for weight gain and worsening of cardiometabolic risk profile.” The evidence has long been made clear of the link between diabetes and high-fructose corn syrup.
How to Avoid High-fructose Corn Syrup
Ideally, you and your family are going to want to consume natural, whole foods. If you can’t pronounce the name of an ingredient, it means you probably shouldn’t be eating it! When you’re looking at the ingredient lists, be mindful that there are over 200 different names for sugar, and it can be hiding under fancy names like maltodextrin! Other names, specifically for high-fructose corn syrup are glucose-fructose, isoglucose, and glucose-fructose syrup. Unfortunately, even the word “natural” and “natural sweetener” may be used to describe high-fructose corn syrup, according to the FDA, as long as “the sweetener didn’t come in contact with synthetic fixing agents when it was made.” Natural isn’t a word we can necessarily trust anymore when it comes to processed foods!
If you’re looking to avoid high-fructose corn syrup, it’s best to scrutinize the ingredient list and only buy products with ingredients you know, trust, love, and can pronounce. That’s exactly how our bars are made— with whole, pure, delicious ingredients. No surprises. No chemicals. No poison.
After all, that’s what high-fructose corn syrup is… a form of socially and commercially accepted poison.