What is High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)?
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is one of the first ingredients many people ditch on the way to a healthier, more natural diet. But why? What’s so terrible about this syrupy substance. The current debate about HFCS’s lack of harm is simply a public relations tactic. As Harry Truman said, “If you can’t convince them, confuse them.”
How is HFCS made?
High fructose corn syrup is an industrial food product. It’s neither naturally processed nor is it a naturally occurring substance. Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill keep the process of its extraction from corn stalks secret. Michael Pollan was not even allowed to observe the extraction process for his book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma.
What we do know is that it’s a chemical enzymatic process resulting in a chemically and biologically novel compound called HFCS. Regular cane sugar (sucrose) is made of two-sugar molecules bound tightly together—glucose and fructose in equal amounts.The enzymes in your digestive tract break down the sucrose into glucose and fructose, which are then absorbed into the body.
HFCS is made of glucose and fructose, too. But instead of a 50-50 ratio, HFCS has a 55-45 fructose (the sweeter of the two) to glucose ratio in an unbound form. Since its unbound, no digestion is needed and the sugars are absorbed directly into the bloodstream.
HFCS is sweeter, and—because of government farm bill subsidies—HFCS is cheaper. Soda manufacturers increased the size of single serving sodas from 8 to 20 ounces with little financial impact. Unfortunately, the impact on society was much greater with increased obesity, chronic disease and diabetes all part of the fallout.
Sugars can absolutely devastate your metabolism and send your health into a tailspin, according to a recent study.
And HFCS in particular has its own set of horrors.
5 Ways HFCS is Bad For You
1. Fatty Liver Deposits: Consuming this additive contributes to fat deposits in your liver, increasing buildup of lipoproteins. Fructose goes right to the liver and triggers lipogenesis (the production of fats like triglycerides and cholesterol). It causes a condition called “fatty liver,” which affects 70 million people.
2. Plaque Buildup and Narrowing of Blood Vessels: HFCS also can allow plaque to build up in blood vessels, leading to blood pressure and heart issues.
3. Diseases: Further studies find it can lead to insulin resistance, high triglycerides, increased levels of the harmful cholesterol and increased fat accumulation in the liver and abdominal cavity. Heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer are all associated with sweetener. The unbound, rapidly-absorbed glucose triggers big spikes in insulin—our body’s major fat storage hormone. That means HFCS consumption leads to increased metabolic disturbances that drive increases in appetite, weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia, and more.
4. Unchecked Mercury: HFCS contains unregulated amounts of mercury. It can contain toxic levels of mercury due to the chlor-alkali products used to manufacture it. The FDA neither measures nor regulates the amount of mercy contained in HFCS.
5. Poor Quality Foods: Whether or not you even consider the health risks of consuming HFCS, its mere presence in a food is indicative of poor quality food that’s lacking in nutrients. Low cost, chemically-manipulated foods contain all sorts of other disease-promoting compounds, fats, salt, chemicals and even mercury.
Photo credit: maxym