The Health Hazards of High Fructose Corn Syrup
HFCS can lead to obesity and a host of other problems as well.
What is HFCS
The world over, people eat processed fast food to match their fast lifestyle. And many of these processed food from bread, pasta sauces, yogurts, protein/energy bars to sodas contain, instead of sugar, a sweetening agent called high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Many consumers think that because it contains "fructose", which they associate with fruit – natural food that it is healthier than sugar, the HFCS is healthy as well. A team of investigators at the United States Department of Agriculture led by Dr. Meira Field has discovered that is not true.
How HFCS is manufactured
HFCS is artificially manufactured from corn starch to yield glucose, which is again processed to produce a high percentage of fructose. Corn starch is composed of chains of glucose molecules of almost infinite length, and three different enzymes are used to break it down. First, corn starch is treated with alpha-amylase to produce shorter chains of sugars called polysaccharides.
Next, an enzyme called gluco-amylase breaks the sugar chains in a fermentation vat to yield the simple sugar glucose.
The third enzyme, glucose-isomerase, converts glucose to a mixture of about 42 percent fructose and 50-52 percent glucose with some other sugars mixed in. More processes increase the proportion of fructose to make the syrup sweeter to make the product more dense and economical to use.
Alpha-amylase and glucose-isomerase, the enzymes used in the above processes are genetically modified to make them more stable so that they can be heated to higher temperatures without becoming unstable.
HFCS are bad for the same reasons why MSG and trans-fats are unnatural and bad. Even though human bodies may produce glutamates or trans-fats naturally, they do not process/metabolize natural chemicals and artificially made substances the same way. Trans-fats are made by the hydrogenation of unsaturated vegetable oils which are normally liquid by breaking the double bond between two carbon atoms and adding a Hydrogen atom at high temperature and pressure in the presence of a catalyst. Thus H2C=CH2 becomes H3C-CH3 resulting in a mixture of totally unnatural trans fatty acids which are the reasons for the rise in ischemic heart disease as well as cancer.
Essentially, the multinational food corporates break down commodities into their basic components, and then put them back together again as processed food. Consumers who are wary of genetically modified (GM) food are least likely to know that HFCS comes from GM corn that is processed with GM enzymes.
Why HFCS is bad
High fructose corn syrup may contain equal amounts of fructose and glucose, or up to 80 percent fructose and 20 percent glucose. In fact, it is estimated that an average American consumes about 12 teaspoons a day of HFCS.
For the manufacturers, HFCS offers many benefits: it is more economical than sugar, extends the shelf life of products, retains moisture, controls crystallization, prevents microbiological growth and blends easily with sweeteners, acids, and flavorings.
For a consumer, HFCS spells disaster to their health. Many people routinely have fruit juices as their main breakfast item. Fruits normally 50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose, and contain fiber which slows down the metabolism of fructose and other sugars. But commercial fruit juices have HFCS added with no fiber at all, which means the fructose in HFCS is absorbed very quickly. The worst offenders are the sodas and colas which most people have with every meal. These have no nutrition at all and contain HFCS. Unlike excess glucose, which passes through our digestive tract and is excreted, all of fructose that's consumed is taken up by the liver. Large amounts of HFCS over time give rise to fatty deposits and cirrhosis of the liver, similar to liver damage experienced by alcoholics. This also leads to increased fat deposition in the abdominal cavity and increased blood levels of triglycerides – both risk factors for heart disease and diabetes.
When fructose sugar is given to rats in high amounts, the rats develop multiple health problems, especially when the rats were deficient in certain nutrients, such as copper. The male rats had anemia, high cholesterol, heart hypertrophy or enlarged hearts and delayed testicular development. Dr. Field explains that fructose in combination with copper deficiency in the growing animal interferes with collagen production.
Naturally occurring sugars contain fructose bound to other sugars, high fructose corn syrup contains "free" or unbound fructose. Research indicates that this free fructose, being devoid of enzymes, vitamins or minerals, robs the body of its micronutrient treasures like magnesium, copper and chromium in order to assimilate itself for physiological use. This has been the chief reason for many of the harms caused by HFCS such as blood clots and elevated blood cholesterol levels and decrease in immunity.
Fructose reduces stores of chromium, a mineral essential for maintaining balanced insulin levels. Research has shown fructose to contribute to insulin intolerance and cause complications in diabetes by interfering with insulin and their receptors. Fructose reduces the affinity of insulin for its receptor, thus the ability of glucose to enter a cell and be metabolized is compromised. As a result, the body needs to pump out more insulin to handle the same amount of glucose.
HFCS can trigger behavior episodes in children with Attention Deficit Disorder and Autism.
Nancy Appleton, PhD, author of several books such as Lick the Sugar Habit and Heal Yourself With Natural Foods points out that consumption of fructose causes a significant increase in the concentration of uric acid, an indicator of heart disease. Furthermore, fructose ingestion in humans results in increases in blood lactic acid, and can cause fatal metabolic acidosis.
HFCS and obesity
The obesity rate rose dramatically in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, a rise that coincided with the wide spread use of HFCS. As said before, the body processes fructose differently than it does sucrose, or simple sugars. Fructose actually interferes with hormones that control appetite and regulate body weight and encourages the liver to produce fat. So if overuse of sugar does lead to obesity, HFCS is surely a worse offender.
The researchers at Princeton university report "Compared to animals eating only rat chow, rats on a diet rich in high-fructose corn syrup showed characteristic signs of a dangerous condition known in humans as the metabolic syndrome, including abnormal weight gain, significant increases in circulating triglycerides and augmented fat deposition, especially visceral fat around the belly."
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