While new campaigns are popping up left and right stating that high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is just like cane sugar, we’re not sure we’re fooled. Is this banter fair or is it marketing at it’s finest?

We didn’t have to dig very deep in our research to uncover risks associated with this highly processed sugar. Of course, too much sugar regardless of the source, is no good thing for our health, but cutting out high-fructose corn syrup from our diets specifically may be one of the simplest dietary changes we can make to greatly improve our health.

Here’s what you should know to begin eliminating this processed sugar from your diet…

Why should we care about hfcs?

Our diets have changed quite drastically over the decades. While we are truly beginning to see a shift from fad diets to more traditional and whole food focused ones, our population is still making up for our years of dietary mishaps. Our bad food habits have left a wake and we are still recovering from a trend of health issues including diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancers.

It’s no secret that we as humans are consuming way more sugar than ever before. It’s hard to believe that 10,000 years ago, our ancestors  consumed as little as 20 teaspoons of sugar a year. Today, one 20-ounce soda alone contains 17 teaspoons of sugar and on average we consume 140 pounds of sugar a year each!

When it comes to high-fructose corn syrup, human consumption has gone from zero to sixty of late. Humans never consumed HFCS until the 1970s when it was introduced to the market as a cheap sweetener. Since then, individually we consume an average of 60 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup, annually. In the same time frame, obesity rates have tripled along with diabetes, heart disease, cancers, dementia, liver failure, tooth decay and many other health symptoms linked to poor diet and widespread inflammation.

What is High fructose corn Syrup?

Sugar is sugar, right? Not quite. While many interested parties may lead us to believe it’s all the same in the end, high-fructose corn syrup is suspected to be more detrimental to our health and should be avoided. Here’s why:

The Process: The process of creating HFCS is a highly-secretive patented process where corn sugars are extracted and highly refined using a chemical enzymatic process, leaving a food product void of any nutritional value beyond empty calories. During manufacturing, clod-alkali products leave HFCS tainted with chemical by-products and heavy metals like mercury.

What’s the difference between HFCS and cane sugar?

How we digest HFCS: The main concern and difference compared to cane sugar is how it is metabolized by the body.

Cane sugar and HFCS are similar in that they are both composed of glucose and fructose. Cane sugar is made up of two molecules, one glucose and one fructose, bound tightly together, creating a balanced and secure sugar that must be broken down by the digestive tract before being absorbed.

HFCS is also composed of fructose and glucose, but not of equal parts (55% fructose to 45% glucose). The troublesome issue is that these molecules are unbound, meaning, they don’t require any digestion before being rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and then processed by the liver – which triggers lipogenesis, a process that produces fats like triglycerides and cholesterol.

It’s this process that contributes to the term fatty liver. The liver is working overtime, requiring more energy trying to process these fats, and ends up storing the fats throughout the body.

Because the process of digesting this sugar requires more energy and depletes the body of ATP (also required to maintain a healthy intestinal lining), consuming HFCS on a regular basis could lead to widespread inflammation in the body and the gut, contributing to allergies, leaky gut and immune reactions.   

Sugar, not fat is linked to obesity:

When our bodies processs excess sugar, this creates a spike in insulin, the hormone the pancreas makes that allows our bodies to use glucose. It’s insulin that helps to keep our blood sugar levels at a stable level. When we consume carbohydrates, the pancreas triggers the release of insulin into the bloodstream to help absorb the sugar into cells and utilize it for energy. But when we have too much sugar in our bloodstream, insulin, also known as the fat-storage hormone, helps to store the sugar in our livers and release it when when our blood sugar drops. The more sugar we consume the less receptive our pancreas is to insulin – meaning more and more insulin is required for the body to process it, leading to insulin resistance, high blood sugar, Type II Diabetes, obesity and fatty liver.

how to make a change:

Do your research and always read nutrition labels and ingredients! If you’re going to read labels for just one ingredient, we recommend looking for and avoiding high fructose corn syrup. HFCS is potentially detrimental to our health, but it’s a good idea to limit overall intake of sugar in all forms.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 9 teaspoons (38 grams) of added sugar per day for men, and 6 teaspoons (25 grams) per day for women – and this should not include any high-fructose corn syrup. The main sources of high-fructose corn syrup are sodas, fruit and sports drinks and fast foods, but keep in mind they are often lurking in savory items as well as some of our favorite fat-free treats, like frozen yogurt.

In addition, HFCS and sugar alike may go by many different names. Check out this excellent resource, Sugar Science, for more information on sugar and HFCS and of a list of 61 names for sugar.

The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease. 
All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise, or other health program. 

What do you think? Should this sweetener be removed completely from our diets? Weigh in on the use of high fructose corn syrup in the comments below! 

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