Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Does High Fructose Corn Syrup make us fat?

Have you seen the new commercials put out by the Corn Refiners Association? They’re meant to convince us that the much talked about High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is no worse for us than table sugar or honey. For a while now, HFCS has been targeted as the cause of the obesity epidemic. That’s because the rise of obesity parallels the increased use of HFCS by food manufacturers, both of which started in the 1980s. By 1984, Coca-Cola had completely replaced sugar with HFCS. Corn sweeteners are made from corn, and corn is a subsidized crop and is therefore cheaper than sugar to use, explaining the huge increase in its use. In 2005, about 77 lbs of corn sweeteners were produced per capita in the US, compared to 35lbs in 1980.

Does HFCS make us fat?

According to most experts, including the Centre for Science in the Public Interest, and probably to the delight of the Corn Refiners Association, HFCS itself is not responsible for making people fat. Although far from natural, as the Corn people would like you to think, HFCS does start out as simple cornstarch- basically made up of chains of glucose molecules. Enzymes from cultured molds are then added to the cornstarch to break down the long glucose chains. To increase the sweetness, enzymes from various species of a bacteria are added to convert some of that glucose to fructose. HFCS is usually either 45% or 55% fructose. Table sugar, or sucrose, also contains glucose and fructose, in equal proportions. As such, it can be deducted that the physiological impact of both these sweeteners are similar.

However, a recent study published in the July issue of the Journal of Nutrition found that study participants given a drink containing more fructose than glucose (50% each and 75% fructose/25% glucose) converted sugar into body fat at a significantly higher rate than those given a drink of just glucose. These findings are interesting but it would be misleading to use these results to imply that fructose is responsible for increasing body fat. First of all, the study only had 6 young and healthy subjects. More importantly, however, we’ve known that we metabolize fructose somewhat differently than glucose but, even the lead researcher of this most recent study has said, we also know that fructose is not responsible for weight gain and dieters should not eliminate fruit, which have a high fructose concentration, from their diet. Excess caloric consumption results in weight gain. Incidentally, Americans are consuming an additional 200 calories per day compared to what they were eating 30 years ago.

Want to lose weight? Reduce caloric intake and that involves reducing all sugar intake- including HFCS.


“Limiting Fructose May Boost Weight Loss, Researcher Reports”. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080724064824.htm

“Food Additives”. http://www.cspinet.org/reports/chemcuisine.htm

“Corn Refiners Ad Campaign Called Deceptive”. http://www.cspinet.org/new/200806231.html

Pollan M. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. Penguin Books 2006.

Willett W. Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy. Free Press 2001.

Nestle M. What to Eat. North Point Press 2006.

Schwarcz J. That's the Way the Cookie Crumbles. ECW Press 2002.

1 comment:

Mark Martinez said...

I heard that even ketchup has this stuff. Talk about Frucstose Corn Syrup overload. Plus, there's talk about it influencing the liver to kick more fat out into the bloodstream.
Mark Martinez,
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