Tuesday, March 6, 2012

High Fructose Corn Syrup: Yes, Your Body Can Tell The Difference (May 2011)

High Fructose Corn Syrup in its natural state...
Since suffering a heart attack at the age of 43 nearly two years ago, I have been on a crusade to warn people of the dangers of consuming High Fructose Corn Syrup.  I have read many articles, but none summarizes the danger better than “The Not So Sweet Truth About High Fructose Corn Syrup” by Doctor Mark Hyman.  Feel free to leave my blog and read the whole article!

While I am not known for short posts, I’ll try to summarize the Doctor’s points as succinctly as I can for those of you that want to keep reading here:

1.  “Sugar in any form causes obesity and disease when consumed in pharmacologic doses.” Since HFCS was added to our food supply in 1975, rates of obesity and chronic disease – heart disease, diabetes, and stroke – have risen dramatically.  The average American consumes 60 pounds of sugar per year and 600 more calories per day than we did in 1980 (Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food).

Why? Because HFCS is cheap to produce thanks to corn subsidies.  It is also cheaper than cane sugar thanks to import tariffs.  Processed foods taste sweeter with HFCS and it costs food producers virtually nothing to add it.  Its pervasiveness is the problem – you may not even realize you’re consuming so much of it!  You’ll see why this matters in the next paragraph.

2.  “HFCS and cane sugar are NOT biochemically identical or processed the same way by the body.” Despite the corn industry commercials insisting that your body doesn’t know the difference between cane sugar and corn sugar, (“sugar is sugar”), Dr. Hyman demonstrates otherwise.

Cane sugar – sucrose – is a 50/50 blend of glucose and fructose bound together tightly as a disaccharide.  It must be broken apart in your digestive tract.  HFCS is a 45/55 blend of glucose and fructose NOT bound together.  Each is a separate monosaccharide.

Why is it bad that they are not bound together?  Because both are absorbed into your bloodstream more rapidly than when they need to be unbound in your digestive track.  The fructose goes right to your liver where it is converted into triglycerides.  Triglycerides are carried through your blood to fat cells for storage.  Triglycerides contribute to inflammation and plaque build-up.  Cut down on HFCS and you’ll also cut down on belly fat.

The glucose, meanwhile, spikes blood sugar and creates a rapid insulin response.  Constant insulin spikes can lead to insulin resistance which is the basis of Type II Diabetes.  During the insulin response the hormone Grehlin is suppressed.  This is the hormone that signals the brain that you are full.  No satiety signal, no need to stop eating!  Hence the extra 600 calories of consumption per day.  How ironic that you literally “can’t stop eating them”?

But wait, it gets worse, much worse.  Free fructose from HFCS (and not fructose found in fruit, btw) steals ATP from your intestinal lining causing body-wide inflammation.  For those of you unfamiliar with inflammation, it causes damage to artery walls.  Cholesterol, produced in your own liver, is forced to repair this damage.  The build-up of cholesterol in arteries is known as plaque.  When plaque ruptures, it causes a blood clot.  A blood clot in a coronary artery causes a heart attack.  A blood clot in the brain causes a stroke.

To summarize, HFCS spikes your blood sugar (diabetes), elevates your triglycerides (heart disease, body fat), causes inflammation (heart attack and stroke), and causes you to eat more (obesity). Regular sugar does all of this except cause body-wide inflammation, it just doesn’t do it quite as rapidly.

3. “HFCS contains contaminants including mercury that are not regulated or measured by the FDA.” This doesn’t require any further explanation.  Read the article and find out how the FDA had to procure HFCS to perform a test – amazing… 
4.” Many independent medical and nutrition experts DO NOT support the use of HFCS in our diet, despite the assertions of the corn industry.” This also speaks for itself.  Taking an expert’s comments out of context is not the same thing as securing his endorsement…

5. “HCFS is almost always a marker of poor-quality, nutrient-poor disease creating industrial food products or ‘food-like substances.’” Since you can’t squeeze an ear of corn and drip HFCS on your cereal, it goes without saying that it’s not a natural food.  It is made by a super-secret process that actually converts glucose into fructose.  Needless to say, you won’t find HFCS in vegetables (including corn) or fruit.

You will find it in soda, fruit juices (especially juice boxes), cookies, desserts, snack foods, and both “low fat” and “low sodium” prepared foods.  If HFCS, or any of its derivatives like corn sugar, are listed in the first five ingredients, the food you are purchasing is likely devoid of all nutritional value.

I truly believe that the HFCS in my Standard American Diet (aka the Western Diet) was the primary cause of my inflammation, plaque build-up, and subsequent heart attack.  Heredity played a part as well, that’s why I’m always careful to give credit where credit is due – my Mom and Little Debbie…

Since eliminating all products containing HFCS from my diet I have lost weight quickly (200 down to 165), kept it off, and lowered my triglycerides (279 to 55).   My LDL is down to 42 and my HDL is up to 44.  I am on the lowest dose of statin my cardiologist will allow.

How do you eliminate HFCS from your diet?  I’m afraid that will have to come in another post!

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