We Get Greener Kit Cassingham & her Bigger Half

More on the Evils of High Fructose Corn Syrup

Mr. Skeptic didn't feel I answered his question on why high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is evil. What I came to understand as we talked about it, back and forth in email, was he wants a Pros and Cons list. I can do that. And I've included, at the end of this post, a 90 minute video of Dr. Robert H. Lustig about the damage caused by sugary foods, like those containing HFCS.

This is not intended to be a scientific or scholastic paper. It is an article that takes my research and summarizes it into a quick list of pros and cons. I'm not citing any of my research, but none of the items on the Pros or Cons list are made up by me. I've tried to be fair and even handed in my fact sharing.

But first, a bit of science. Sucrose, the sugar of fruits, is a disaccharide comprised of 50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose. Starch breaks down into glucose when digested. The fiber content of fruit slows the absorption of fructose.

Corn syrup can be manipulated to contain higher amounts of fructose than naturally occur, and has been stripped of fiber.

Lysl oxidase is an enzyme dependent on copper for the formation of elastin and collagen; fructose interferes with copper metabolism and thus the formation of elastin and collagen, impacting the growth and health of vital organs, especially in the young. Another drawback to the reduced copper metabolism is a wide range of health issues ranging from anemia and increased bone fragility, to defects of connective tissue, and arteries, to heart arrhythmias and heart attacks.

In 1980 the ratio of fructose to sucrose consumption was 39:84. In 1994 the ratio of fructose to sucrose consumption was 83:66. That trend continues today, but is compounded by 25 percent of our caloric consumption being from sugars.

Ok, so now for my list of Pros and Cons of high fructose corn syrup.

Pros

  • it's used as a preservative
  • sweeter than sugar
  • cheaper than sugar (because of the sugar embargo on foreign sugar cane)
  • same number of calories per gram as sucrose
  • helps baked goods to stay moist and have brown crusts
  • enhances flavor of fruit fillings
  • helps yogurt from separating
  • enhances the spice flavor in spaghetti sauce
  • balances or regulates tartness of foods
  • protects the firmness of canned fruit
  • lowers the freezing point of foods

Cons

  • present in a wide range of processed foods
  • promotes disease more than glucose
  • metabolized only in the liver, vs glucose that is metabolized in all cells
  • contains no enzymes, minerals or vitamins
  • depletes the body's stores of nutrients so it can assimilate itself into something useful
  • free, or unbound, fructose interferes with the heart's use of minerals like magnesium, copper and chromium
  • implicated in elevated cholesterol
  • implicated in the creation of clots in the blood stream
  • inhibits the white blood cells' defense mechanisms
  • reduces protein quality
  • increases the toxicity of protein in the body
  • reduces the affinity of insulin for its receptor, the hallmark of type-2 diabetes
  • increases concentration of uric acid, an indicator of heart disease
  • increases in blood lactic acid
  • elevates insulin levels in women taking oral contraception
  • produces higher kidney calcium
  • leads to mineral losses, especially iron, magnesium, calcium and zinc
  • may aggravate cellular aging through oxidative damage
  • converts to fat more than any other sugar, and mostly in the liver
  • doesn't cause the pancreas to release insulin
  • raises serum triglycerides

On the surface there is no conclusive evidence that HFCS is bad for you. But if you look at the experiments done that shows there is no problem with HFCS you will see the experiments are not thorough, and even seem to be biased. When you combine all of the solid research you see conclusive evidence that HFCS is not only evil, but a poison. It's a poison that's not regulated by the government as alcohol is, and is ubiquitous in processed foods.

I was reminded, during a conversation with someone about healthy eating, that if you shop along the perimeter of the store and avoid the inside isles for food you will heat more healthfully. By shopping the outer edges you will mostly avoid processed foods, many of which contain HFCS.

Ok, Mr. Skeptic, how did I do this time? Did my list help you better understand why I've taken my stance that HFCS is evil?


Dr. Robert H Lustig: "The Bitter Truth"


Comments

Whew! I just finished watching the 90 minute video of Dr Robert H Lustig about the evils of fructose. You also get an interesting discussion of LDL. He talks about Metabolic Syndrome which is the presence of obesity, type-2 diabetes, lipid problems, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. HFCS is associated with increased gout problems too. The list of problems is long. If you are really interested in this topic go watch that video, it's more damning than my articles. Then, go get rid of all the HFCS products in your home and office.

Kit Cassingham at April 30, 2010 9:42 AM

"But first, a bit of science. Sucrose, the sugar of fruits, is a disaccharide comprised of 50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose. Starch breaks down into glucose when digested. The fiber content of fruit slows the absorption of fructose."

I thought sucrose was the sugar of sugar cane and sugar beets, and fructose was the sugar of most fruits?

Riley at April 30, 2010 12:07 PM

Riley, I wonder if that's a common misconception. The sugar in fruits and vegetables is sucrose, made of glucose and fructose. Sugar cane is a produce with that style of sugar too. And fruits/veges have fiber, a very important aspect of sugar digestion.

-Kit

Kit Cassingham at April 30, 2010 12:15 PM

There is conclusive evidence that added sugar is bad for you. If one doesn't add sugar, and doesn't eat foods with added sugar, the question of HFCS is moot.

A sensible recommendation I saw the other day said to limit "discretionary sugar" to 100 cal/day, or between 6 to 7 teaspoons. Think it was in a Nutrition Action newsletter put out by Center for Science in the Public Interest. (Yes, jan/feb issue. Don't think it's online, but you can check http://www.cspinet.org/nah/archives.html)

Riley at April 30, 2010 12:20 PM

We avoid added sugar as much as possible. Obviously used in recipes and such. Making the switch to bread with no HFCS is what we're working on now. I cannot stand all these sugared yogurts marketed for kids & babies! We do plain yogurt (just made my own!) with a little agave nectar.

I HATE the "it's OK in moderation" nonsense HFCS commercials. Until we demand that it be done away with, it will continue to be in EVERYthing, just like partially hydrogenated oils. It's so difficult to avoid. I do the best I can, but my budget doesn't allow me to shop exclusively at organic markets etc.

Maria at April 30, 2010 9:26 PM

Maria,

You may have missed the comment that agave nectar/syrup has more fructose than HFCS. I was dismayed to learn that since I love it in my freshly-ground whole wheat bread.

I feel your frustration about the ubiquitous ingredient. One thing we can do is strive to eat more whole foods, leaving the HFCS products alone -- voting with our dollars. We can and should also start making noise about it to our politicians. Between the two pressure points we will make a difference.

-Kit

Kit Cassingham at April 30, 2010 9:40 PM

I am currently saddened by the demise of honey used by KFC. Ok, so the biscuits probably aren't that good for you anyway, but the honey was a nice touch. Now it's "honey sauce", mostly high fructose corn syrup and a tiny drop of honey. So sad. So bad. I'll be eating my biscuits at home from now on, with clover honey from my local farmers market!

Linda at May 1, 2010 8:07 PM

Maybe the tide is turning in the battle against HFCS. My Bigger Half shared this article from the NY Times: For Corn Syrup, the Sweet Talk Gets Harder.

-Kit

Kit Cassingham at May 2, 2010 12:51 PM

Linda, are you kidding me?!?!? What a bummer. My sentiments echo yours -- a good KFC biscuit with honey was a treat. Back to home cooking for me! But then, I haven't had a KFC anything in years, so maybe I'm not missing that treat as much as I would have.

Thanks for the heads-up.

-Kit

Kit Cassingham at May 2, 2010 7:38 PM

My takeaway from the video is that added sugar is evil. I get that, mostly from the video, and have started looking more closely at the sugar content, including HFCS, of the foods I eat.

But in that same video the presenter goes out of his way to lump sucrose and fructose together. "Same thing" I think is used in a couple of places. To me that means he's saying "sugar" is bad and not calling out fructose or HFCS as anything more than a sugar.

Now, HFCS may be the worlds cheapest and most effective sugar delivery system, but that appears to be where the HFCS-specific evil ends, being superseded by the more general "sugar is evil".

So what, specifically, am I missing? His statements in the video seemed really clear on this point.

Mr. Skeptic (yep, that one)

Mr. Skeptical at May 8, 2010 1:14 PM

Sorry to be a bit late commenting on this thread. I just wanted to say that I gave up HFCS completely 2.5 years ago, when it was much harder than it is today (believe it or not, market pressures have actually forced the removal of HFCS from a LOT of food products; unfortunately, it's been mostly replaced by regular corn syrup, which is almost as bad!). At the time, I was eating A LOT of HFCS--probably more than the average American. I went cold turkey, and it took about 2 days to work it all out of my system. I experienced drastic changes in my health and energy levels, basically overnight. I went from being constantly exhausted, frazzled, and unfocused to being able to play actively and productively with my 3 small children (and do housework at the same time!). It was literally like a miracle in my life. My husband came home from work that first day and said, "OMG, what happened to my wife?" Now maybe I just happened to be allergic to HFCS and that's why the dramatic change; perhaps not everybody would react that way. But I also wasn't surprised to read the research last summer that found mercury (a NEUROTOXIN) in HFCS. So in short, I agree with you: HFCS is evil. I'd encourage anyone to try an HFCS-free diet for a week or two and see how it makes them feel.

Jacquelyn at June 2, 2010 2:10 AM

Sorry for the long silence on this topic everyone, especially Mr. Skeptic. But I'm ready to focus on this debate again, and this is my reply to Mr. Skeptic.

I agree that sugar is unhealthy, especially given how much tends to be in a typical US diet. But I didn't get the same message from the video you did, that sugar is evil. And as you "force" me to use correct terminology when talking about computers, I'm going to "make" you be accurate in your terminology. That will maybe help clear things up. On the other hand, it may muddy the waters even further.

Sugar is a generic term, if you will, for various sweeteners, including sucrose, fructose, glucose and lactose. This topic started out on why fructose is evil and has morphed into "sugar" is evil". In and of itself, fructose isn't evil. IMHO. It's important to specify which sugar being discussed to keep the conversation clear. I'm mostly talking about fructose here.

What makes fructose a scary sugar is that it's over utilized -- both in quantity per food item and in the number of food items it's tucked into. And it's been separated from fiber which helps improve your body's utilization of that sugar. You can hardly get away from fructose, much less HFCS!

Sucrose is comprised of half glucose and half fructose, and when its source is fruit there is fiber to help delay the absorption of fructose, further reducing its "evilness".

It's because HFCS is so cheap that it's used so pervasively. I think HFCS is bad for the body (see my list of Cons), especially in the quantities it's ingested by the unsuspecting public.

When we pick up sugary items we think we can control our sugar intake. But when you buy condiments, breads and grains, sauces, and most processed foods that you don't think of as sugary, you are being tricked into ingesting sugar. I think that's where much of the evilness comes in. Most people don't know how much sugar they are eating because they aren't/can't read the labels to see just how much sugar they are being subjected too.

-Kit

Kit Cassingham at June 7, 2010 7:34 PM

Kit:

I posted this in the previous HFCS discussion, but in case anyone missed it, here it is again. This is a great topic, and one of my pet peeves. I've posted an article I wrote for the Bangor Daily News:
http://www.fitz42.net/stuff/BDN-HFCS.pdf

Remember, folks, it isn't the "high" or the "corn syrup"; it's the fructose. Too much of it is problematic, and HFCS is in everything. Despite the Corn Refiners Association claiming it's the same nutritionally as table sugar, there's a lot more about fructose people should know.

Luckily, more and more products every day are coming without HFCS. People are starting to take notice, and companies are responding!

Best,
-David M. Fitzpatrick

David M. Fitzpatrick at June 8, 2010 11:43 AM

Thanks for sharing that link here too, David.

Yes, changes are happening. And while HFCS is starting to be used less, there's still too much of it in our foods. And, the marketers have taught us to eat too much, so we're still eating too much sugar, of any type.

I'm reading The Omnivore's Dilemma (I've been slow at it) and points made there are echoed in Food.Inc and in Jamie Oliver's "Food Revolution" TV show. We're eating too much, and too much of that is processed with more sugar and fat than we need for our non-lean times.

We ate out the other night, something that's harder to do as I know more about our food industry, and had to fight down the realization there was nothing on the menu I really wanted to eat. No locally raised, free range animals, no local produce, no organic anything. I did finally relax and ordered what I wanted, ate half and took the rest home (My Bigger Half grazed a bit on it before it got packaged for home in a cardboard box).

Being healthy, or at least aware, sure takes the fun out of eating out! :~)


-Kit

Kit Cassingham at June 8, 2010 12:30 PM

I saw reference to the harm HFCS causes honeybees. Seems some apiarists feed their honeybees HFCS. When HFCS gets warm (and that temperature wasn't defined) hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), an organic compound that seems to be toxic. This is being associated with "colony collapse disorder", a problem that's wiped out more than 1/3 of the US honeybee populations.

I checked into hydroxymethylfurfural a bit to try to better understand it. I gather it's the precursor of DMF -- 2.6-dimethylfuran -- a liquid biofuel and of 2,5-furandicarboxylic acid, an ingredient in some plastics. I can better understand why honeybees would suffer from that as a food ingredient.

Not that humans respond to things the same way honeybees do, but it gives me even further pause about using HFCS.

Kit Cassingham at June 12, 2010 6:46 PM

It looks like fructose is metabolized differently than glucose--a surprise. It's used by (pancreatic) cancer cells differently.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100803092150.htm

Personally, I don't add sugar to much of anything, and don't eat foods with added sugar. I get my fructose from fruit.

Riley at August 4, 2010 10:43 AM

Riley,

This morning My Bigger Half grabbed a box of cereal from my brother's cabinet -- Raisin Bran that advertised it was HFCS-free. Maybe HFCS is going the way of Trans Fats -- out of our food. Yahooo! Each small success makes me smile.


-Kit

Kit Cassingham at August 12, 2010 2:23 PM

Greets, folks!

The corn industry is trying to rename hfcs to "Corn Sugar".
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39169416/ns/business-consumer_news/

I'm not sure I have a problem with that, per se, and neither does Michael Jacobson, of Center for Science in the Public Interest (disclaimer: I'm a card carrying member).


But sugar and high fructose corn syrup are nutritionally the same, and there's no evidence that the sweetener is any worse for the body than sugar, said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The bottom line is people should consume less of all sugars, Jacobson said.

"Soda pop sweetened with sugar is every bit as conducive to obesity as soda pop sweetened with high fructose corn syrup," he said.

My take is don't add sugar and don't consume products that do.

Riley at September 14, 2010 4:46 PM

One of the other points that I think should be made about HFCS is that, like Ethanol and E85 fuels, it is artificially cheap because of corn subsidies paid for by our taxes. The more corn the corn industry grows, the more money they get from us through taxes, instead of product pricing, so they keep trying to find ways to use corn to substitute for anything else.

If we removed (or restricted) the corn subsidies, HFCS will become more expensive than "regular" sugar, products that contain either HFCS or other sugars will be more reasonably priced (instead of being artificially attractive relative to better for you alternatives).

Mark at September 17, 2010 12:52 PM

As someone who has a family history of weight issues, the results of this study were the final nail in HFCS's coffin (so to speak) for me: Princeton News on HFCS.

N. Davis at September 17, 2010 1:04 PM

Mark, thank you for bringing this out. Though I did make a passing mention of the subsidized corn in the first of the HFCS articles, it was only a passing comment. I agree it needs more publicity.

Corn is being misused in a wide range of areas -- livestock feed, fuel, sweeteners and the food the sweeteners go in. It's criminal that corn is subsidized.

It's an environmental problem as well as financial problem. Monoculture is unnatural and has ramifications we don't totally grasp yet. The subsidies encourage monoculture.

Time for a change, don't you think?

-Kit

Kit Cassingham at September 17, 2010 1:10 PM

I read labels a lot more often now (darn when did that print get so small???) and noted on the post above that HFCS is being renamed Corn Sugar. I've seen labels with Corn Syrup on it.. is this the same as Corn Sugar aka HFCS?

@Kit, yes it is discouraging to eat out sometimes. Every bottle of ketchup I pick up in a restaurant has HFCS. Glad I don't like ketchup that much!! And when will they stop automatically assuming everyone wants bread?? I had to send it back last weekend....get the temptation out of my face please. :)

Lisa at September 17, 2010 3:00 PM

Lisa, it's my understanding that corn syrup and corn sugar are similar, but different, just as maple sugar and maple syrup are similar but different. That is to say they come from the same source but are different styles of the "sap". HFCS is concentrated corn syrup with more fructose than standard corn sugar or syrup.

I have another article on HFCS, and one on sugar, if you want to read a bit more on the subject. There are several articles in the general Health category as well.

-Kit

Kit Cassingham at September 17, 2010 3:49 PM

On the topic of the difference between high fructose corn syrup and regular corn syrup, HFCS is regular corn syrup that has gone through an enzymatic process that changes some of the glucose (which is metabolized mainly in muscle tissue) into fructose (which is metabolized mainly in the liver). Depending on which form of HFCS is used, it contains either 55% fructose and 45% sucrose or 42% fructose and 58% glucose. Table sugar is very similar to HFCS with 50% fructose and 50% glucose, so you should actually avoid both since they're very similar.

Also an FYI, if you want to avoid HFCS without having to read the ingredients when grocery shopping, then look for products that have the "USDA organic" seal (be aware that if the label says a product is "made with organic ingredients", but you don't see the seal, then it does NOT meet the USDA's standard of having 95-100% organic ingredients and, therefore, is not a certified organic product). The reason organic products don't contain HFCS is because organic HFCS doesn't exist; that is, the processing agents used to make HFCS are not organic, so even if organic corn is used in the process, the final HFCS product doesn't meet the USDA's 95-100% organic ingredient requirement.

N. Davis at September 17, 2010 7:32 PM

It seems the brain is the real organ that is impacted by the ingestion of HFCS, or any fructose.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110209131951.htm

Kit Cassingham at February 10, 2011 9:22 PM
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