As sweeteners go, high fructose corn syrup is perfect — for food manufacturers. But research is showing that, eaten in large quantities, HFCS may not be so good for you.
High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has been used for decades as a food sweetener and preservative because it’s less expensive than sugar, is extremely sweet, and stays fresh for a long time. But recent events questioning the consumption of HFCS have thrown the spotlight of controversy on this processed food ingredient. Even First Lady Michelle Obama was reported saying she would not allow her children to eat food that contains HFCS.
Food manufacturers have reacted to the publicity. Sara Lee announced recently that it was removing high-fructose Corn Syrup from some of its popular breads. Kraft has taken similar steps with some of its products. And the Corn Refiners Association, which maintains that your body handles HFCS the same way it does table sugar or honey (and is running TV commercials with that message), is seeking U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval to change the name of high-fructose corn syrup to “corn sugar.”
HFCS: Is Moderation the Key?
“They are trying to make it as innocuous as they can,” says Jung Kim, RD, clinical dietitian specialist at the Hospital of University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Kim says the core of the problem may be overindulgence. “I am not saying that fructose is great, but if it’s in moderation, that’s not a terrible thing,” she says.
However, if consumption goes beyond moderate levels, it’s a different story. Recent research shows that the damaging effects of this sweetener could be considerable, from changing appetite satisfaction to increasing the risk of kidney stones, in addition to possible weight gain and the diabetic and cardiovascular issues that being overweight or obese can cause.
HFCS: Worse Than Sugar?
Both table sugar (sucrose) and HFCS are combinations of fructose and glucose. Sugar is about 50 percent fructose, and HFCS contains 42 to 55 percent fructose. Fructose is also naturally found in fruits.
Until recently, says Kim, there was no definitive evidence proving that HFCS is less healthy than sugar. But new findings suggest that it is. Researchers at Princeton University showed rats that drank water with high-fructose corn syrup gained more weight than rats that drank water with sugar, although this research has yet to be replicated in humans.
Other studies have shown that, besides causing weight gain, HFCS raises the risks of high blood pressure and vascular disease. It also can seriously affect the liver, at first causing a disorder called non-alcoholic steatotic hepatitis, in which fat appears in the liver. And this disease can lead to metabolic syndrome, an umbrella term for some very serious symptoms, including high blood pressure, excessive fat around the middle, and excessive fats in the blood.
Other research focusing on fructose has found these concerns:
- Belly fat. Researchers noticed that people gained belly fat, or weight in their midsection, when they ate fructose, but not glucose, over a 10-week period. They concluded the two sugars have a different effect on the way the body distributes fat.
- Insulin effect. Fructose is not an effective insulin stimulator, as compared to glucose (insulin is needed to convert sugar into energy).
- Effect on appetite. Scientists have observed that fructose seems to affect appetite differently than sugar — a meal with a high level of HFCS doesn’t leave you feeling as satisfied, which can lead to overeating.
When we start fiddling with foods and change their shelf stability or texture, [we] are changing the chemical process. This can lead to changing different chemical processes in the body in terms of nutrient absorption www.mygenewize.com/lifestyles.
As the debate over HFCS continues, it’s smart to be more aware of food labeling, especially when reaching for processed foods and sweets. Food manufacturers add the sweetener to sodas, fruit juices, bread, and even deli meats.