High Fructose Corn Syrup Hfcs

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a corn-based sweetener that manufacturers have added to processed foods since the 70s. Food companies like to use HFCS because it’s cheap, it keeps foods moist and it gives products a longer shelf life, allowing them to be stored and transported with minimal refrigeration. However, chemical additives like HFCS aim mainly to increase profits, rather than benefit individual or public health.

Recent studies show that high fructose corn syrup may cause significant harm to the human body. To counter this, the Corn Refiners’ Association requested that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) change the product’s name to “corn sugar” to win over health-conscious consumers.

High Fructose Corn Syrup and Health

High fructose corn syrup is an artificial combination of two simple sugars, glucose and fructose (also known as fruit sugar). Like all simple sugars–also known as monosaccharaides–HFCS contains four calories per gram. However, calorie counts don’t represent the primary danger of HFCS. The problem lies mainly in its effect on insulin production.

What is Fructose?

So, what is fructose exactly? Pure fructose occurs in fruit and honey. Fructose is healthy in moderate amounts, or the amount naturally contained in these foods. It provides the primary carbohydrate content in these two foods and half the carbohydrate content of table sugar.

Unlike other carbohydrates, however, fructose doesn’t stimulate the secretion of insulin, which controls the release of a very necessary hormone, leptin. Leptin tells our body we are full and can stop eating. Excessive amounts of chemically concentrated fructose prevent the transmission of these signals to the brain, which can lead to accumulation of fat.

Acetyl CoA and HFCS

The body metabolizes fructose differently than other carbohydrates. Since it skips a few steps in the metabolism process, fructose provides concentrated levels of acetyl CoA–the starting material for fat synthesis. Excess acetyl CoA, combined with an absence of leptin, can lead to uncontrolled weight gain.

Because of its effect on insulin production and its contribution of acetyl CoA, high fructose corn syrup levels can cause false feelings of hunger, insulin resistance, obesity and type 2 diabetes.

How Can I Avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup?

Ingredients on package labels are listed in the order of composition, so if high fructose corn syrup is the first ingredient named on a given list, it’s better not to buy or eat the product.

The best way to avoid HFCS is to stay in the outer edges of the grocery store–the dairy, produce, fresh meat and bakery sections. Avoid the center aisles, where you’ll find foods in cans and boxes. These are the foods that are subjected to the highest degree of chemical processing. Experts recommend avoiding many of these foods altogether, including highly sweetened breakfast cereal, popsicles and soda.

Resources

Diabetes Health. (2005). The dangers of high fructose corn syrup. Retrieved September 20, 2010, from http://www.diabeteshealth.com/read/2008/08/20/4274/the-dangers-of-high-fructose-corn-syrup/

Mayo Clinic. (2010). High fructose corn syrup: What are the concerns? Retrieved September 20, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-fructose-corn-syrup/AN01588