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High Fructose Corn Syrup (Glucose-Fructose)

I've touched on this topic before, but I think it is worth the reminder that if we really want to maintain or regain our health, we really MUST avoid high fructose corn syrup like the plague. On food labels as Fructose-Glucose in Canada, high-fructose sweeteners are also deceptively labeled as inulin, iso-glucose, dahlia syrup, tapioca syrup, glucose syrup, corn syrup, crystalline fructose, agave syrup, and even fruit fructose. High-fructose sweeteners whether made from corn or from agave do a really good job of messing up our metabolism, which leads to diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, osteoporosis and cancer.

The food-processing industry turned away from sugar from sugar cane and sugar beet when they discovered that a far less expensive, far sweeter sweetener that actually extended shelf life could be made from corn. So, from about 1970 when it was introduced into the food supply, we have been consuming larger and larger quantities of fructose, and interestingly enough, the rise in obesity levels has paralleled this increase. I admit that over that time we have also become less active, so clearly fructose is not entirely to blame, but all the same, it gives pause for thought.

Fructose was initially hailed as a boon to diabetics as it does not raise insulin levels like glucose does when it is metabolized. However, over time, high fructose consumption seems to increase insulin resistance by reducing insulin's affinity to its receptor, which causes the body to put out more insulin, further worsening the situation for diabetics. We now know that fructose is metabolized exclusively by the liver, converting into triglycerides (fats) very quickly. Fatty livers, increased triglycerides and uric acid in the blood-stream are a side-effect.  High plasma uric acid is associated with heart disease.  Fructose contains no enzymes, minerals or vitamins, and uses our body's resources for its processing.  Fructose does not stimulate insulin, nor does it stimulate leptin, two hormones that control satiety and therefore appetite, and it does not suppress ghrelin, a hormone that increases hunger. Therefore high fructose consumption may result in higher calorie consumption and weight gain.

Sucrose, or table sugar is made up of about 50% fructose and 50% glucose, and high fructose corn syrup is usually about 55% fructose and 45% glucose. How is it possible that that 5% difference can be so problematic? The reason is that in sucrose, the fructose is bound to glucose, but in high fructose corn syrup, there is much more free or unbound fructose, which interferes with the body's use of minerals like copper, magnesium, iron, calcium and chromium. Copper deficiencies, common in those that consume high amounts of high-fructose corn syrup, can lead to osteoporosis, heart arrhythmias, insulin resistance, anemia, and unhealthy connective tissue and arteries due to problems in collagen and elastin formation. Manual therapists have noted that many kids of today feel like mush - their tissues don't have the right consistency. Liver, an excellent source of copper, is rarely fed to today's children.

Probably the biggest reason that high-fructose corn syrup is such a problem is that it is absolutely everywhere in our food supply, even in foods that one would not expect, resulting in us eating large quantities of the stuff, often completely unawares. The biggest HFC syrup culprits are soft drinks, fruit drinks (often sold in tetrapacks), and sports drinks, but it is also found in flavoured yogurts, frozen dinners / frozen food, canned food, breads, stuffing mixes, breakfast cereals, breakfast pancake/waffles, cookies/cakes, crackers, ice cream, children's vitamins, cough syrup, candy bars, condiments like ketchup etc., drink mixes, jams, jellies, syrups, some meats, salad dressings, sauces and marinades, and snack foods and bars.  For a list by brand, click here.  Read labels carefully, or if this seems like too much trouble, simply stay away from ALL processed food by only consuming food that existed before the industrial revolution - food that comes from sources that one can pick, pull or chase after, and do not require a trip to a factory before being eaten.

Related Tips
Sugar - The disease generator
Artificial Sweeteners
Blood-sugar regulation
Insulin, our storage hormone

George A Bray How bad is fructose? American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 86, No. 4, 895-896, October 2007

Richard J Johnson Potential role of sugar (fructose) in the epidemic of hypertension, obesity and the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 86, No. 4, 899-906, October 2007

Aeberli I et al. Fructose intake is a predictor of LDL particle size in overweight schoolchildren. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;86:1174–8.

Emma Hitt, PhD Fructose but Not Glucose Consumption Linked to Atherogenic Lipid Profile Medscape Medical News, July 2007.

Xiang Gao et al. Intake of Added Sugar and Sugar-Sweetened Drink and Serum Uric Acid Concentration in US Men and Women Hypertension. 2007;50:306-312

Michael S. Gersch Fructose, but not dextrose, accelerates the progression of chronic kidney disease Am J Physiol Renal Physiol 293: F1256-F1261, 2007

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Hella Jürgens et al. Consuming Fructose-sweetened Beverages Increases Body Adiposity in Mice Obesity Research 13:1146-1156 (2005)

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Bray GA et al. Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;79:537–43.

Alison K. Ventura, MS et al. Risk Profiles for Metabolic Syndrome in a Nonclinical Sample of Adolescent Girls Pediatrics Vol. 118 No. 6 December 2006, pp. 2434-2442

Sharon S Elliott et al. Fructose, weight gain, and the insulin resistance syndrome American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 76, No. 5, 911-922, November 2002.

Liver Damage Caused by Refined Sugars Oct. 27, 2006.

Copyright 2007 Vreni Gurd