Americas High on High-Fructose Corn Syrup


What is high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and why should you care? I want to briefly touch on what HFCS is so you have a foundation to then make healthy choices for you and your loved ones.

High-fructose corn syrup is a group of corn syrups that have undergone enzymatic processing to increase its fructose content. This higher fructose corn syrup is then mixed with pure corn syrup (100% glucose), becoming a HFCS. There are different ratios of fructose to corn syrup making different HFCS (ie HFCS 90, approximately 90% fructose and 10% glucose and HFCS 55, approximately 55% fructose and 45% glucose).

Where do you find HFCS? You can find it in processed foods such as soft drinks, yogurt, cookies, salad dressings, ketchup and tomato soup. It is used in these foods generally for two reasons. HFCS is somewhat cheaper in the United States due to a combination of corn subsidies and sugar tariffs. Since the mid-90s US Federal subsidies to corn growers have adjusted to $ 40 billion. The other reason is that HFCS is easier to blend and transport because it is a liquid.

Now that corn syrup has been artificially processed into having a higher fructose content what does this mean for you and your loved ones health? High-fructose corn syrup is a disaccharide, meaning made up of fructose and glucose. Regardless of the fancy scientific names, the problem lies in the fact that we are consuming increasing amounts of processed foods with HFCS daily and in larger quantities each year. This means that we are consuming larger amounts of processed sugar that has been modified from its natural form. We also are seeing increased rates of obesity with higher consumption of refined sugars, along with increased rates of type II diabetes and heart disease. These are the real problems you want to avoid.

Before we start blaming one single item for the mass destruction of our health as a modern society, we need perspective. The effects of processed sugar such as HFCS, is a great place to start. I often explain to my patients how sugar affects their body chemistry. I begin by explaining how if you eat or drink something with refined sugar such as a soft drink or a cookie, there is a cascade of effects that ensue.

1. The first thing to happen is your blood sugar rapidly spikes

2. Insulin is then released from your pancreas to bring blood sugar down by helping it move into your tissues such as muscle and fat, which advances prolonged elevated blood sugar that is destructive to your tissues

3. Your blood sugar than becomes low and the spike in elevated insulin due to the rapid spike of blood sugar causes increased fat storage (not usually the goal of most of my patients coming to me for weight loss)

4. The low blood sugar causes a signal to reach your brain that you are hungry again causing you to consume more calories and gain more weight regardless of the fact that you ate 30 minutes ago (again, not typically a goal of most of my patients )

I think we can all relate to this at least one time in our lives, maybe last weekend? So, what can you do to prevent this hamster-in-a-wheel effect of increased hunger / cravings, weight gain and increased risk of diabetes and heart disease?

The solution is to reduce or completely eliminate processed sugars such as HFCS. What I suggest to all my patients is to consume a diverse whole foods diet. Whole foods are as nature intended them to be; unadulterated, unrefined in their original form such as fruit, vegetables, legumes, grains, some oils like extra-virgin olive oil and canola oil, nuts, seeds, spices, lean meats like poultry, fish and wild game.

Eating a whole foods diet will slow down the rate at which your blood sugar rises after eating food giving you sustained energy and reduced appetite. Other benefits include weight loss over time due to reduced calorie consumption, improved immune function, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes.

This is where I often teach my patients about the glycemic index. The glycemic index refers to the abundance that glucose from food increases your blood sugar levels within 2 hours of eating. This is an important concept because it greatly affects your sense of energy. Food that is higher on the glycemic index will release glucose into the blood stream faster than a food that is lower on the index. For example, pure sugar is rated 100% on the glycemic index, meaning that it goes into your blood stream the fastest. High-fructose corn syrup is roughly the same. Whole foods like almonds have a glycemic index that is approximately 15%, which means your body will see a more gradual rise in blood sugar. Eating whole foods, especially those that have a lower glycemic index, will give you a feeling of improved energy due to balanced blood sugars. One potential long term benefit is weight control, an important component of a healthy lifestyle. Not to mention reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer. I send my patients to The American Diabetes Association website at for a glycemic index of general foods.

So how do you incorporate whole foods and the glycemic index into your busy schedule? Begin with one whole food at a time. Take your glycemic index of foods to the grocery store and shop the perimeter avoiding the center aisles where HFCS is found in prolific amounts. On the perimeter you will find whole foods like fruit, vegetables, grains, legumes and meat. Another great resource would be to go online to become familiar with whole foods and how to prepare them. Next, incorporate these foods into simple recipes like those found at and repeat, repeat, repeat.

Over time you will have a gamut of whole foods and recipes to choose from that provide diversity to your palate and that will have a substantial impact on your energy, immune system and your longevity.


Source by Anna Colombini, ND

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