Monday, September 8, 2008

"The Dirty Dozen" #9

9. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) by Jordan Rubin

HFCS or corn sweetner, is more than plain bad for you--its horrible for your health and the worst form of sugar. Americans receive some 200 calories daily, mainly from soft drinks. HFCS is a major contributionto weight gain because foods with fructose may not turn off your hungar signals. You get hungry after eating a snack containing HFCS because youre not satiated. Your appetite is saying, " Nice try, but Im still famished!"

With such a high falutin' name, youd think that a sweetener with the word corn in it wouldnt be as bad for you as regular white sugar, but it is. With HFCS, research scientists invented an enzymatic processing method tha tbegins with milling corn to produce cornstarch, which is then made sweeter by chemically converting some of the glucose to fructose. The more fructose in the end product, the sweeter it is. A widely used variety of HFCS, known as 55-HFCS, consists of 55% fructose and 42% glucose. Thanks to a system of price supports and sugar quotas that have been in plance for 25 years, importing sugar into the US has become cost prohibitive, which has opened up a huge markey for American companies manufacturing HFCS.

Coca-Cola and Pepsi dumped the sugar from their carbonated soft drinks back in 1984, substituting cheaper HFCS in its place. These days youd be hard pressed to walk into a 7 eleven and find a soda pop sweetened with sugar. The only hold out I could find was Goose Island sodas, although Jolt Cola did use sugar one time with the following marketing slogan: "All the sugar twice the caffeine." But the makers of Jolt Cola reforumlated their product with HFCS, no doubt to make the product less expensive in stores. Im sure the opportunity to lower costs is the reason HFCS has become the principal sweetener in fruit juices, baked goods, canned fruits, dairy products, cookies, gum, and jams and jellies.

So what makes HFCS such an unhealthy, fat promoting form of sugar? The body handles fructose differently than it does other sugars. For starters, the body metabolizes fructose into triglycerides more than other sugars, which raises blood triglycerides significantly and increase the risk of heart disease. (Triglycerides are the body's storage form for fat and are found in fat tissues.) Unlike glucose, fructose does not stimulate leptin, the hormone that tells you "Im Full," but reduces ghrelin hormone levels, which tell you "Im still hungry." Consumption of fructose from corn sweeteners comes with no enzymes, vitamins, or minerals, so it cheats the body of micronutrients. HFCS is different from the natural fructose found in whole fruit because with fruit, the body gets the enzymes, vitamins, and minerals to help with digestion and utilization of the fructose.

The liver cannot handle fructose very well. When fructose reaches the liver, says Dr. William J. Whelan, a biochemist the University of Miami School of Medicine, "the liver goes bananas and stops everything else to metabolism the fructose." The fructose propels the liver into a fat promoting maode by activating the formation of enzymes that lead to elevated levels of "bad" cholesterol and triglycerides.

The consumption of HFCS in beverages--about 2/3 of all HFCS consumed in the US is in beverage form--has certainly left its fingerprints vis-a-vis our nations obesity epidemic. The consumption of HFCS increased 1000% between 1970 and 1990, far exceeding the changes in intake of any other foods or food group. Juice drinks like Minute Maid's Hi-C are among the worst offenders: despite flavors like Blazin' Blueberry and Orange Lavaburst, Hi-C lists pure filtered water and HFCS as its first and second ingredients. At least they're filtering water!

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