High Fructose Corn Syrup

Below is a beautifully written article about High Fructose Corn Syrup written by Dr. Mark Hyman. Dr. Hyman is a respected medical consultant, New York Times -bestselling author, lecturer, and practicing physician. He is a leader in the emerging field of functional medicine. 

Functional medicine is ideal medicine made real; it is a new medical model—a more successful way of treating human illness and disease—born of recent technological and clinical advances applied in a fresh methodology.

High Fructose Corn Syrup

Is one type of sugar worse for you than another?

According to recent New York Times report on high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), the answer may be "no."

But I don't think it's quite so simple.

What is High Fructose Corn Syup?

Even if you've never heard of HFCS, you've almost certainly eaten it. This highly processed, chemically altered sweetener was created by a Japanese scientist in a lab in 1971 and has been used in almost all processed and prepackaged foods ever since.

High fructose corn syrup consumption has skyrocketed in the last 25 years, up a whopping 1,000 percent since its creation. And no wonder! You'll find it in everything from soft drinks and yogurt to cookies and crackers. In fact, HFCS now represents more than 40 percent of the caloric sweeteners added to foods and beverages.

Is it a coincidence that this country's obesity rates have more than doubled during that time period? I don't think so!

HFCS is bad for your health -- and your weight -- in several ways.

Why is High Fructose Corn Syrup Bad?

Let me explain.

First, you'll usually find large amounts of HFCS in energy dense foods -- those that are high in calories but not much else. That's just another name for foods that are processed, junk, and high in refined carbohydrates and sugar.

And we know that when people eat energy dense food, they tend to take in more calories than people who eat higher amounts of what I call nutrient dense food.

That's because nutrient dense food gives you more bang for your nutritional buck. For example, the classic energy dense beverage, a soft drink, weighs far less than a pound of asparagus but has a lot more calories.

So if you eat a plant-based, whole-food diet of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains, you can eat a lot more and weigh a lot less! (Not to mention avoid nearly all the age-related diseases like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and dementia.)

Of course, the obesity epidemic has many causes, including reduced levels of physical activity, increased portion sizes, eating outside the home and at fast-food restaurants, and our overall "toxic food environment." But we do know that the introduction of high fructose corn syrup into the food supply is associated with the beginning of the obesity epidemic.

Don't believe it?

Well, consider this: Even a slight difference of an extra 100 calories a day can add up to a 10-pound weight gain in just one year. And the average American drinks 440 12-ounce cans of HFCS-laced soda each year!

The second reason that HCFS is bad news for your waistline and your health?

It makes you eat MORE!

Yes, you read that right. high fructose corn syrup actually increases your appetite. Here's how.

Regular table sugar is 50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose, while -- as its name implies -- high fructose corn syrup is 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose. Doesn't seem like a big difference, but it can have HUGE effects on your appetite.

When you eat fructose, it doesn't set into motion the chemical reactions and hormones that tell your brain you are full. For instance, fructose doesn't stimulate insulin secretion or the increase in leptin (the hormone that makes you feel full). While glucose is transported into the brain, affecting brain signals that control or limit appetite, fructose is not. 

Plus, fructose doesn't reduce ghrelin, a stomach hormone that stimulates appetite. And fructose may also decrease adiponectin levels, which is a hormone made by fat cells that helps make you more sensitive to insulin and helps control your weight and appetite.

What does all that mean? Simply put, when you eat more fructose you don't feel full -- so you keep eating!

Finally, HFCS isn't just bad for your weight, it's bad for your health in general.

Here's an undisputed medical fact: You can survive on an intravenous drip of glucose. But replace the glucose with fructose, and you'd get a fatty liver.

That's because fructose is the source the chemical building blocks of cholesterol and triglyceride production. And fructose just isn't digested, absorbed, or metabolized in the same way as glucose. Instead, it goes right to your cells without the help of insulin.

The result? Fructose moves right into fat production -- so it spikes your triglycerides but lowers your HDL ("good") cholesterol. It also increases your levels of small, dense LDL (called LDL-B) cholesterol, which is much more dangerous than regular LDL ("bad") cholesterol.

The science is clear: Fructose consumption is associated with insulin resistance, increased calorie intake, impaired metabolism, weight gain, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

And there's one more problem: The corn used in HFCS is typically genetically altered -- it has 13 carbon molecules, not 12. And we have no good long-term data on the effects of eating all that altered corn!

By now, you can probably guess my bottom line: Avoid high fructose corn syrup!

Easier said than done? Not necessarily.

Take these steps to reduce your intake:

1. Minimize your intake of all sugars, whatever the source.

2. Remove sweetened drinks ("liquid candy"), including sodas and sweetened fruit drinks.

3. Eat a whole-food, real-food diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds and healthy fats like olive oil and fish oil.

4. When you do use sugar, choose natural sweeteners such as those found in fruit. (Yes, fruit contains fructose, but it's also rich in antioxidants, fiber, and other healthy compounds.) Or try agave nectar, a natural sugar that your body may metabolize better.

5. If you see a food with "high fructose corn-syrup" on the label, put it back on the shelf. You will be doing yourself a favor.

If you weren't aware of HFCS and its potential risks before, you certainly are now. I hope you'll use this new awareness to improve your diet -- and your health.

What do you think?

Have you had problems with high fructose corn syrup before? Has consuming HFCS made you fat or destroyed your health?

Or, has stopping consumption of HFCS-containing foods and beverages helped you improve your health or lose weight?

To you and your good health,

Mark Hyman, MD UltraMetabolism Media LLC

This is provided for general educational purposes only and is not intended to constitute (i) medical advice or counseling, (ii) the practice of medicine including psychiatry, psychology, psychotherapy or the provision of health care diagnosis or treatment, (iii) the creation of a physician patient or clinical relationship, or (iv) an endorsement, recommendation or sponsorship of any third party product or service by the sender or the sender's affiliates, agents, employees, consultants or service providers. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly.

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