Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Why Should We Care About High-Fructose Corn Syrup?

By Ed Bruske
aka The Slow Cook

Kids' food is laced with high-fructose corn syrup and the Corn Refiners Association is spending big bucks to try and assure parents--and consumers in general--that there's nothing wrong with HFCS, that it's no different from ordinary sugar.

What we really need to understand is that high-fructose corn syrup and sugar are, on a molecular level, exactly the same and equally bad. In fact, the body treats them as if they were poison.

For everything you ever wanted to know about fructose and sugar, I suggest you carve 1 1/2 hours out of your busy schedule and watch this lecture by Robert Lustig, a professor of pediatrics in the edocrinology department at the University of California San Francisco.

Lustig demonstrates how the explosion in obesity and related diseases such as diabetes and hypertension has paralleled the advent and rise in the use of high-fructose corn syrup. HFCS was invented in Japan in 1966 and introduced in the United States in 1975.

"There is absolutely no difference between high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose. They're both equally bad. They're both poison," Lustig says. He adds that HFCS "isn't evil because it's metabolically evil, it's evil because it's cheap."

In fact, HFCS is sweeter than regular table sugar but only costs about half the price, hence the widespread use of it by the processed food industry. Fructose (and sugar), Lustig explains, is metabolized in the liver just like alcohol and has many of the same effects: it stimulates the body to store fat, increases blood pressure, suppresses good cholesterol, elevates bad cholesterol and stymies the body's normally mechanisms for suppressing appetite.

Americans, Lustig says, are consuming far more calories than they did a generation ago because fructose (sugar) is everywhere in the food chain in ever greater quantities. As a result, many countries are now experiencing an epidemic of obese toddlers, and young people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

What's the moral of this story? Whether its high-fructose corn syrup or regular sugar, don't eat it. Ditch the orange juice and eat a whole orange instead. (Another problem, according to Lustig: fiber mitigates the effects of sugar, but we've nearly eliminated it from our diets, and especially from convenience foods. So stop eating processed foods as well.)

You might also want to go back and read this post on sugar by our friend Susan Rubin.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Ed! I'll be looking up the lecture.
    My kids are sick of hearing me talk about HFCS.
    Other friends and family are listening though.
    My mom called yesterday after she checked her favorite crackers for HFCS and was most upset.
    It was in her yogurt too.