When it comes to healthy eating, there are facts about high fructose corn syrup that you need to know. High fructose corn syrup is another form of sugar that is added to nearly all processed foods, like soda and fruit-flavored drinks, because it is cheap and sweet, driving you to buy more! While we don't know everything just yet about HFCS, we do know that as our consumption of it in the US has increased (1000%!), so have our obesity rates (64% of our nation is overweight or obese). Whether it is the high fructose consumption or sugar consumption in general, education is the only thing that will lead to change. In hopes to clear things up just a bit, here are 7 facts about high fructose corn syrup that you need to know.
1. Sugar is Equally as Detrimental
One of the first facts about high fructose corn syrup that you need to know is that just as you may have heard that high fructose is damaging to your health, so is sugar. Sugar is sugar is sugar… and high fructose corn syrup is sugar. Regardless of what you may hear or read, both sugar and high fructose corn syrup can wreak havoc on your health. Many people tell me that they avoid high fructose corn syrup like the plague, yet they down candy bars, cakes and pastries made out of sugar. One is no better than the other; both are highly processed and leave your body craving more, usually resulting in unintentional weight gain down the road.
2. It is GMO
Another issue that I have with high fructose corn syrup is that it is a genetically modified organism (GMO). High fructose corn syrup is made out of corn which is one of the top genetically modified products. Toxic pesticides are used in the production of the corn which means along with the sweet flavor comes chemicals too and foreign substances too. Because of the dangers linked to GMOs, countries like Australia, Brazil, China and Spain require GMO labeling, however, here in the US, it is not yet required.
3. It is Digested and Absorbed Differently than Sugar
Chemically, high fructose is is similar to sugar, however, because it contains fructose along with glucose (55% fructose + 42% glucose + 3% other sugars), it is digested differently in your body. The glucose is digested just as regular sugar would be, triggering your body to store any excess sugar as fat; however, the fructose is sent directly to your liver for metabolism there. We will talk about why this is problematic next!
4. It Can Cause Health Troubles Too
Some research suggests that the metabolism of fructose in the liver triggers your body to store abdominal fat while increasing your triglycerides (fat in the bloodstream), cholesterol and blood sugar. Due to its glucose component, HFCS still has the ability to raise your blood sugar, storing any excess as fat. However, due to its fructose component, it has also been shown to increase your triglycerides and thus your total cholesterol, as well as leading to insulin resistance too.
5. It Can Lead to Fatty Liver
As the name insists, fatty liver is the condition in which too much fat accumulates in the liver. Some research suggests that a high intake of fructose can lead to and worsen fat accumulation in the liver, also known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Since fructose is metabolized by the liver, in order to remove excess fructose, the liver converts it into a triglyceride (a fat particle) and stores it. This can be very damaging if it isn't reversed through a healthy diet and weight loss.
6. It is Just as Sweet as Table Sugar
When it comes to your tastebuds, high fructose corn syrup is equally as sweet as table sugar. Other than the cheap price tag, there really is no reason that companies should be using HFCS over sugar. What you eat shouldn't be decided by the low cost of production; unfortunately, your best health interests are infrequently kept in mind.
7. It is Cheaper to Make than Table Sugar
Due to an excess of corn growth, it is much cheaper for companies to use HFCS versus traditional sugar. Some estimates report that it is actually 20% cheaper to use HFCS than table sugar because of this overgrowth. Companies reach for HFCS for many reasons including to extend the shelf life of their products, to add a sweet flavor, to give their product a "browned" caramelized appearance and to give products a softer texture.
You might be surprised to see how many products contain high fructose corn syrup including the following: soft drinks, bread, snacks, cookies, pasta sauces, cereals, canned fruits, yogurts, fruit cups, peanut butter, baked beans, just to name a few. Start reading food labels and ingredient lists and you will be surprised at just how much HFCS is used! Do you already choose to avoid HFCS?