In my last article, I discussed that sweet hijacker of health and vitality, the artificial sweetener. I now turn to its partner in crime, high fructose (HF) corn syrup. This bad actor lurks in soda and other drinks, as well as the majority of snacks and processed foods in the US. In terms of its chemical composition, HF corn syrup is not as nefarious as artificial sweetener. In fact, it’s not all that different than table sugar. The problem with corn syrup is that it contains a much higher percentage of fructose than table sugar.
A hundred years ago, the average American consumed 15-25 grams of fructose daily. It was fruit sourced, as nature intended. In fruits, fructose is bound to fiber, enzymes, phytonutrients, minerals, vitamins, and so forth. In that form, the body knows how to deal with it: break down the fruit and slowly cleave off the fructose molecules. Fructose in this form and amount is benign.
Fast-forward 100 years. The average American now consumes 100-150 grams of fructose per day, most from soda or other sweet drinks, as well as processed “low-fat” foods devoid of healthy fats and replete with HF corn syrup. What was once consumed as a condiment is now treated as a staple. This massive amount of free, unbound fructose found in processed foods, courtesy of HF corn syrup, is not okay or benign. In fact, its consumption is a contributor to many chronic conditions, including insulin resistance, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, to name a few. Like artificial sweeteners, HF corn syrup is killing us.
With a diet of processed foods, moderating sugar intake is a fool’s errand; one item can contain a day’s worth of it. Consider that a 20 oz. bottle of Vitamin Water® contains about 30 grams of sugar. That’s three Krispy Kreme glazed donuts! If those donuts are made with normal table sugar and normal fats, I’d choose them every day over the Vitamin Water®. Please do not interpret the previous statement as my recommendation to eat three donuts every day, Krispy Kreme or otherwise! 🙂
Recently, researchers conducted a global study to determine what portion of the total amount of added sugar in the diets of individuals from various countries is sourced from HF corn syrup. For countries other than the US, the maximum was 8%; that is, 8% of the added sugar is from HF corn syrup. In the US, a whopping 40% of added sugars come from HF corn syrup. That’s a waist-expanding 5x more than the international runner up! Talk about a pyrrhic victory ─ our nation’s declining health is testament to this dubious distinction.
Due to the way it’s metabolized, fructose is potentially far more harmful than other forms of natural sugar, such as glucose. Glucose receptors reside on almost every cell in our bodies. Not so with fructose, which is metabolized in the liver. But the liver can only do so much; it has not evolved to handle the enormous amounts of fructose endemic to our modern diet. It simply turns this deluge of free, unbound fructose into fat at a furious pace.
Meanwhile, when taxed by this excessive amount of fructose, the liver’s ability to attend to its normal detoxifying tasks is compromised. Consequently, a large number of waste products and toxins accumulate in our body, rather than being rendered inactive and harmless. Uric acid is an example of such a toxic substance. When not sufficiently cleared by the liver, uric acid can lead to gout, hypertension, heart disease, and kidney problems. In fact, aware of the burden that high fructose levels place on the body, some doctors have begun using uric acid levels in the blood as a marker of fructose toxicity.
But that’s not all. While our old friend glucose suppresses the hunger hormone ghrelin, fructose has no effect on it. Hunger therefore continues unabated, more food containing HF corn syrup is consumed, and the additional fructose is converted to fat and stored. In other words, overeating ensues and obesity follows. Sadly, too many Americans continue to fall prey to this vicious cycle.
To conclude, if I were asked to recommend one change to the American diet, it would be “abandon soda forever.” Forget it exists. Shun it. Ban it from your consciousness.
Give me a shout! No question is ever too weird when you’re talking to Dr. Inna!
So very truly yours,