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High Fructose Corn Syrup

Posted on 2009-01-26 at 9:21 p.m..

Too often we as consumers are under the spell of the idea that our health depends on our own free will. That is, what we do or do not do for ourselves makes all the difference in our health. Watching a new commercial for Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers on TV, I am struck by how easy, offhand and rampant this assumption is. If only each American could do their part to reverse the obesity epidemic through personal self-control and initiative? And yet this is not entirely true. What we don’t know can hurt us.

What is High Fructose Corn Syrup?

High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) – called isoglucose in Europe and glucose-fructose in Canada – comprises any of a group of corn syrups that has undergone enzymatic processing to increase its fructose content, and then been mixed with pure corn syrup (100% glucose). HFCS is used in various foods and beverages, including soft drinks, yogurt, cookies, salad dressing and tomato soup.

According to a food technology expert, two of the enzymes used, alpha-amylase and glucose-isomerase, are genetically modified to make them more stable. Enzymes are actually very large proteins and through genetic modification specific amino acids in the enzymes are changed or replaced so the enzyme's "backbone" won't break down or unfold. This allows the industry to get the enzymes to higher temperatures before they become unstable.

Consumers trying to avoid genetically modified foods should avoid HFCS. It is almost certainly made from genetically modified corn and then it is processed with genetically modified enzymes. I've seen some estimates claiming that virtually everything--almost 80 percent--of what we eat today has been genetically modified at some point. Since the use of HFCS is so prevalent in processed foods, those figures may be right.

Laboratory tests High Fructose Corn Syrup causes male rats to never fully develop their testicles. And High Fructose Corn Syrup also causes the hearts of female rats to expand until they burst. Exit pornography, enter horror flick.

But is this a rat tragic story or a human tragedy? Well, hold into your seats because the seemingly innocuous little sweet nothings that Secretary Butz so gracefully introduced to our bellies in the seventies are now linked to obesity, diabetes, and yes, even cirrhosis of the liver. And as if the above were not enough, there is also some preliminary evidence that HFCS is carcinogenic.

What are the possible risks of eating high fructose corn syrup?

High fructose corn syrup has been shown in a number of studies to cause the following within the average person's body;

  • Blood clots
  • Liver damage
  • Elevated cholesterol levels
  • Inhitbits white-blood cell action
  • Decrease in body's protien quality
  • Decreased ability to digest protien
  • Diabetes
  • Concentration of uric acid
  • Heart desease
  • Increase in lactic acid within the blood
  • Diarrhea
  • Elevated insulin levels dramatically for women on birth control
  • Mineral loss, especially magnesium and iron
  • Accelerated aging
  • Oxidative damage
  • Obiesity
  • Cravings
  • Inability to tell when you're full

    (And believe it or not, I have not listed every possible side effect. They're literally endless.)

    I don't have time to read this entire page, do you have an overview?

    An overweight America may be fixated on fat and obsessed with carbs, but nutritionists say the real problem is much sweeter -- we're awash in sugar.

    Not just any sugar, but high fructose corn syrup.

    The country eats more sweetener made from corn than from sugarcane or beets, gulping it down in drinks as well as in frozen food and baked goods. Even ketchup is laced with it.

    Almost all nutritionists finger high fructose corn syrup consumption as a major culprit in the nation's obesity crisis. The inexpensive sweetener flooded the American food supply in the early 1980s, just about the time the nation's obesity rate started its unprecedented climb.

    The question is why did it make us so fat. Is it simply the Big Gulp syndrome -- that we're eating too many empty calories in ever-increasing portion sizes? Or does the fructose in all that corn syrup do something more insidious -- literally short-wire our metabolism and force us to gain weight? The scary truth is that it does both.

    Loading high fructose corn syrup into increasingly larger portions of soda and processed food has packed more calories into us and more money into food processing companies, say nutritionists and food activists. But some health experts argue that the issue is bigger than mere calories; The body processes the fructose in high fructose corn syrup differently than it does old-fashioned cane or beet sugar, which in turn alters the way metabolic-regulating hormones function. It also forces the liver to kick more fat out into the bloodstream.

    In his groundbreaking book FatLand, Greg Critser breaks down exactly how HFCS is metabolized by the human body. In short, because our bodies have absolutely no way of understanding this highly engineered substance…they convert it into storage material and chuck it away…hence we are fattened up.

    The explanation goes like this: glucose molecules, which are the building blocks of sucrose, can be metabolized (used, eaten) by any and every cell in the human body. This is not so with Fructose. It has to be metabolized through the liver. Hence, your liver ends up releasing triglycerides into your bloodstream and generally has trouble dealing with this weird substance. Fructose, which used to be advised for diabetics because it did not stimulate insulin production, really does appear to do a lot of fancy footwork with enzymes and other hormones, too. It does not allow the release of the hormone that tells the brain you are full. Hence, you overeat.

    The end result is that our bodies are essentially tricked into wanting to eat more and at the same time, we are storing more fat.

    That's the short version, but read on for shocking facts, experiments and also ways to help rid yourself of this toxin.

    But do the studies prove that HFCS is bad?

    Read on, and decide for yourself.

    Consumers may think that because it contains fructose--which they associate with fruit, which is a natural food- -that it is healthier than sugar. A team of investigators at the USDA, led by Dr. Meira Field, has discovered that this just ain't so.

    Sucrose is composed of glucose and fructose. When 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 researchers wanted to know whether it was the fructose or the glucose moiety that was causing the problems. So they repeated their studies with two groups of rats, one given high amounts of glucose and one given high amounts of fructose. The glucose group was unaffected but the fructose group had disastrous results. The male rats did not reach adulthood. They had anemia, high cholesterol and heart hypertrophy--that means that their hearts enlarged until they exploded. They also had delayed testicular development. Dr. Field explains that fructose in combination with copper deficiency in the growing animal interferes with collagen production. (Copper deficiency, by the way, is widespread in America.) In a nutshell, the little bodies of the rats just fell apart. The females were not so affected, but they were unable to produce live young.

    "The medical profession thinks fructose is better for diabetics than sugar," says Dr. Field, "but every cell in the body can metabolize glucose. However, all fructose must be metabolized in the liver. The livers of the rats on the high fructose diet looked like the livers of alcoholics, plugged with fat and cirrhotic."

    Now, what about the HFCS advocates who maintain that High Fructose Corn Syrup really is an “all-natural ingredient” because, they say, it is made from corn and fructose is the sugar naturally occurring in fruit? Well, wine and isopropyl alcohol both contain alcohol. However, the rubbing stuff for cotton balls should never go in your wineglass. Get it?

    Disturbing Facts

    HFCS contains more fructose than sugar and this fructose is more immediately available because it is not bound up in sucrose. Since the effects of fructose are most severe in the growing organism, we need to think carefully about what kind of sweeteners we give to our children. Fruit juices should be strictly avoided--they are very high in fructose--but so should anything with HFCS.

    Interestingly, although HFCS is used in many products aimed at children, it is not used in baby formula, even though it would probably save the manufacturers a few pennies for each can. Do the formula makers know something they aren't telling us?

    Pure fructose contains no enzymes, vitamins or minerals and robs the body of its micro nutrient treasures in order to assimilate itself for physiological use. While naturally occurring sugars, as well as sucrose, contain fructose bound to other sugars, high fructose corn syrup contains a good deal of "free" or unbound fructose. Research indicates that this free fructose interferes with the heart’s use of key minerals like magnesium, copper and chromium. Among other consequences, HFCS has been implicated in elevated blood cholesterol levels and the creation of blood clots. It has been found to inhibit the action of white blood cells so that they are unable to defend the body against harmful foreign invaders.

    High fructose corn syrup is the primary sweetener used in soft drinks, now readily available to children in school vending machines. The soft drink industry increased US production from 22 to 41 gallons of soft drinks per person a year between 1970 and 1997.

    Teenagers and children, the industry’s main targets, are among the largest consumers. In the past 10 years, soft drink consumption among children has almost doubled in the United States. Teenage boys now drink, on average, three or more cans of soda per day, and 10 percent drink seven or more cans a day. The average for teenage girls is more than two cans a day, and 10 percent drink more than five cans a day. A typical 20-ounce Coke contains zero fat, zero protein and 67 grams of carbohydrates, usually in the form of high fructose corn syrup.

    There are an estimated 20,000 vending machines in schools nationwide, according to the National Automatic Merchandising Association. The USDA collected data on vending machines in schools and reported that 88 percent of high schools, 61 percent of middle schools and 14 percent of elementary schools have food or beverage vending machines for student use. Thirty-four percent of high schools and 15 percent of middle schools permit students to use school vending machines at any time, and 6 percent of elementary schools allow students to use vending machines during lunch.

    A single 12-ounce can of soda has as much as 13 teaspoons of sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup. And because the amount of soda we drink has more than doubled since 1970 to about 56 gallons per person a year, so has the amount of high fructose corn syrup we take in. In 2001, we consumed almost 63 pounds of it, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    So, the absolutely spine-tingling fact is that shortly after the 1970s, and especially throughout the 1980s, HFCS began to replace sucrose (table sugar, cane sugar, or beet sugar) in almost everything. This means that for the last 25 years — a lifetime for some reading this — this jacked-up, messed up “all-natural” toxic sweetener has been in all of our foods as we developed into the fat ADD-riddled little monsters that we are.

    The average American eats an astounding 41.5 lbs of high fructose corn syrup per year.

    HCFS inhibits leptin secretion, so you never get the message that you’re full. And it never shuts off gherin, so, even though you have food in your stomach, you constantly get the message that you’re hungry.

    Where does HFCS comes from?

    The process for making the sweetener high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) out of corn was developed in the 1970s. Use of HFCS grew rapidly, from less than three million short tons in 1980 to almost 8 million short tons in 1995. During the late 1990s, use of sugar actually declined as it was eclipsed by HFCS. Today Americans consume more HFCS than sugar.

    In the 1970’s the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture made a bold — though shortsighted – stroke when he enabled the development of a compound called High Fructose Corn Syrup. The American farmer had lost a great deal of profit due to overseas imports, and the U.S. government was therefore charged with coming up with a more profitable way for farmers to use their corn surplus. At the same time, groundswell pressure from consumers was rampant to keep grocery prices affordable.

    With that great American crop, corn, threatened, so was the livelihood of our all-American corn farmers. Enter High Fructose Corn Syrup – the new sweetener that would drive up demand for corn and provide a super cheap new form of sweetener for packaged foods, breads, cereals, sodas, spaghetti sauce, ketchup - you name it, HFCS would be in it. The future looked sweet indeed.

    High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is produced by processing corn starch to yield glucose, and then processing the glucose to produce a high percentage of fructose. It all sounds rather simple--white cornstarch is turned into crystal clear syrup. However, the process is actually very complicated. Three different enzymes are needed to break down cornstarch, which is composed of chains of glucose molecules of almost infinite length, into the simple sugars glucose and fructose.

    More stable than sugar against the disintegrating elements (such as moisture), foods with High Fructose Corn Syrup can literally travel thousands of miles and sit on the shelf of your local convenience store forever and (almost) never go bad. Cheaper ingredients meant cheaper groceries for the good American consumer. A win- win situation, it seemed.

    Because of the unusually long shelf life of HFCS, store-bought cakes, cookies, brownies, mixes, breads, sodas, juices, tomato sauce and all of the rest could be sold with practically no expiration date. HFCS, despite misleading labels that read “all natural,” is an ENTIRELY man-made substance. It's almost indestructible. Like Styrofoam, eternal and immortal.

    Today HFCS is used to sweeten jams, condiments like ketchup, and soft drinks. It is also a favorite ingredient in many so-called health foods. Four companies control 85 percent of the $2.6 billion business--Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, Staley Manufacturing Co. and CPC International. In the mid-1990s, ADM was the object of an FBI probe into price fixing of three products--HFCS, citric acid and lysine--and consumers got a glimpse of the murky world of corporate manipulation.

    But haven't I heard that HFCS isn't really that bad?
    Isn't it all just hype?

    Wouldn't the soda companies just love for you to believe that their product is good for you? Wouldn't is just be easier to believe that?


    Seriously, I mean it. Don't be a sheep. Don't start pointing out people you know who seem perfectly fine but drink lots of soda. High fructose corn syrup is not the only toxin, nor is it the biggest and badist of them all. Soda itself is not the one big bad enemy, and drinking some soda on occasion will not make you suddenly become fat and diabetic overnight.

    What you have to understand is that poisons affect your nerves, your intestines, your blood cells. Just because a person is still slim and going for a jog everyday does not mean they're impervious to poisons. You may very well already have problems stemming from your diet or lifestyle that you have not noticed.

    "Research has yielded conflicting results about the effects of high-fructose corn syrup. For example, various early studies showed an association between increased consumption of sweetened beverages (many of which contained high-fructose corn syrup) and obesity. But recent research — some of which is supported by the beverage industry — suggests that high-fructose corn syrup isn't intrinsically less healthy than other sweeteners, nor is it the root cause of obesity."

    That's because there is no root cause. There are many causes. Stress, lack of exercise, trans-fats, as well as sugars, and worse, high fructose corn syrup.

    "The American Medical Association (AMA) recently concluded that "high fructose corn syrup does not appear to contribute to obesity more than other caloric sweeteners."

    There are some key things to understand when you hear statements like that. One, calories are not a problem. Carrots have calories, but I guarantee that you can eat as many carrots as you want without gaining weight. I promise. You can come to my house and punch me in the face if you get fat from eating carrots. (Granted that these carrots don't have cream filling!)

    Second, you have to understand that the only "sage" sweetener is honey. Honey is the only sugar to provide nutrition. It's the only sugar that has never been connected with severe side effects in multiple studies. All sweeteners are unsafe, and if the industry wants to say that HFCS is no worse than the rest, then fine, let them say it. Just remember that they're all bad.

    Another shock: HFCS is bad for the planet, not just we humans!

    Much ink has been devoted to the dietary hazards of high-fructose corn syrup, the cheap, ubiquitous sweetener found not just in soda and Twinkies but in many foods that aren't even considered sweets, such as bread and ketchup. Though the jury's still out on whether the substance is to blame for rising obesity rates, environmentalists have been trumpeting another reason to avoid it: Doing so is a step toward going green.

    High-fructose corn syrup "may be cheap in the supermarket, but in the environment it could not be more expensive," Michael Pollan, author of "In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto" (Penguin Press, 2008), writes in an e-mail.

    Most corn is grown as a monoculture, meaning that the land is used solely for corn, not rotated among crops. This maximizes yields, but at a price: It depletes soil nutrients, requiring more pesticides and fertilizer while weakening topsoil.

    "The environmental footprint of HFCS is deep and wide," writes Pollan, a prominent critic of industrial agriculture. "Look no farther than the dead zone in the Gulf [of Mexico], an area the size of New Jersey where virtually nothing will live because it has been starved of oxygen by the fertilizer runoff coming down the Mississippi from the Corn Belt. Then there is the atrazine in the water in farm country -- a nasty herbicide that, at concentrations as little as 0.1 part per billion, has been shown to turn male frogs into hermaphrodites."

    Milling and chemically altering corn to form high-fructose corn syrup also is energy-intensive. That's not to say that corn is evil and other foods aren't; all crops require energy to grow and transport. What makes corn a target is that federal subsidies -- and tariffs on imported sugar -- keep prices low, paving the way for widespread use of high-fructose corn syrup and, in the process, keeping the American palate accustomed to the sweetness it provides.

    Corn is a useful crop with high yields, although it uses more fertilizers and insecticides and causes more soil erosion than other crops, according to David Pimentel, a professor in Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. "Organic corn is not a large part of the industry, but it should be," he says. Pimentel published a study in 2005 demonstrating that, over 22 years, growing corn organically produced the same yields as conventional growing and used 33 percent less fuel.

    How, then, to satisfy a sweet tooth without bitter repercussions for the planet? You might not buy corn syrup at the grocery store, but you can scale back your consumption of processed foods that contain it. As for tabletop sweeteners, the most Earth-friendly options are locally produced organic honey and real maple syrup from the northeastern United States. Agave nectar is extracted from cacti that grow in the Mexican desert -- not exactly local, but at least it's on this continent -- and it's also popular because of its low glycemic index. (Ironically, many agave farmers have begun torching their crops in response to the ethanol industry's demand for corn.)

    Why is this poison even made?

    High fructose corn syrup is extremely soluble and mixes well in many foods. It is cheap to produce, sweet and easy to store. It’s used in everything from bread to pasta sauces to bacon to beer as well as in "health products" like protein bars and "natural" sodas.

    Until the 1970s most of the sugar we ate came from sucrose derived from sugar beets or sugar cane. Then sugar from corn--corn syrup, fructose, dextrose, dextrine and especially high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)--began to gain popularity as a sweetener because it was much less expensive to produce.

    Are you trying to tell me it's a conspiracy?

    Indeed, I probably am.

    "Those of us who are "into" health know all about stevia," said Wilton D. Alston "This is a very powerful natural sweetener, extracted from South American plants much as sugar is extracted from cane. One can find stevia in health food stores, but it is not allowed as an ingredient in processed foods. Why not? The typical statist would say "because it is not shown to be proven safe and effective" which is FDA-speak for "because we didn’t say you could use it." Call me a conspiracy realist, but I doubt that "safe and effective" had much to do with the FDA deciding to ban stevia. Nothing drives this point home better than this little tidbit: the FDA initially labeled stevia as an "unsafe food additive" after an anonymous complaint. (Yes, an anonymous complaint!) You simply cannot make this stuff up.

    "But stevia has been used by other cultures for thousands of years with no ill effects. Yes, thousands of years. If it’s so dangerous, why are we in the U.S. alone on Earth in recognizing the danger? In Japan the government will not allow artificial sweeteners in soft drinks, so they use stevia instead. In fact, it accounts for 40% of the Japanese sweetener market. In the U.S. the government won’t allow stevia, but we get a heaping helping of Aspartame, Sucralose, and all manner of other chemical junk. Where is the logic? (Maybe I should just follow the money.) Interestingly, many of the sweetening chemicals we're allowed to have as additives come with warning labels, by the way, so the government considers it established that there are health problems with those."

    Mercury in HFCS?

    Jan. 27, 2009

    "Some foods and drinks rich in high-fructose corn syrup may contain detectable levels of mercury, a new report shows."

    "The report, published on the web site of the Minneapolis-based nonprofit Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), shows detectable levels of mercury in 17 out of 55 tested products rich in high-fructose corn syrup."

    "But the researchers aren't telling people to avoid those products or other items containing high-fructose corn syrup, and they aren't sure what form of mercury those products contained."

    Right, because warning people would get them in trouble with the manufacturers. And the FDA really doesn't want to have to admit to all of their lies either. Nope, they can't warn the public, but I sure as hell can.

    "The Corn Refiners Association stands by high-fructose corn syrup, calling it "safe."

    Right, because something that doesn't go bad when left out for years is perfectly natural and safe.

    "The new report comes from researchers including David Wallinga, MD, director of the IATP's food and health program. They bought 55 products that list high-fructose corn syrup first or second on their list of ingredients, which means high-fructose corn syrup was a leading ingredient in those products."

    Scary part of this statement is that they bought fifty-five different products that each had that much HFCS in them. I bet it wouldn't have been too hard to find another fifty-five just like them. Even if you're not convinced that you should stop eating all HFCS, think about it this way: we're meant to eat a lot of different foods. Not a bunch of differently flavored forms of sugar (refined or not.)

    "Wallinga's team sent samples of those products to a commercial lab, which checked the levels of total mercury in each sample."

    "Overall, we found detectable mercury in 17 of 55 samples, or around 31%," write Wallinga and colleagues.

    But, after all, 31% isn't significant, nope. (Sarcasm folks, sarcasm.)

    Here is the list of those products:

  • Quaker Oatmeal to Go bars

  • Jack Daniel's Barbecue Sauce

  • Hershey's Chocolate Syrup

  • Kraft Original Barbecue Sauce

  • Nutri-Grain Strawberry Cereal Bars
    As a side note, I used to eat these because I thought they were healthy. They made me constipated and gave me headaches. I went on and off them several times hoping it wasn't really the "nutri-grain" that was so bad. But it was. This was back when I didn't fully understand how bad HFCS reall is.

  • Manwich Gold Sloppy Joe

  • Market Pantry Grape Jelly

  • Smucker's Strawberry Jelly

  • Pop-Tarts Frosted Blueberry

  • Hunt's Tomato Ketchup

  • Wish-Bone Western Sweet & Smooth Dressing

  • Coca-Cola Classic: no mercury found on a second test

  • Yoplait Strawberry Yogurt

  • Minute Maid Berry Punch

  • Yoo-hoo Chocolate Drink

  • Nesquik Chocolate Milk

  • Kemps Fat Free Chocolate Milk

    Wallinga and colleagues caution that their list was "just a snapshot in time; we only tested one sample of each product. That clearly is not sufficient grounds to give definitive advice to consumers."

    "Mercury exposure at high levels can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system. A form of mercury called methylmercury is particularly risky to a baby's developing brain and nervous system, according to background information from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)."

    But again, they are not warning the public. After all, brain damage is only a small possibility.

    "Wallinga points out that the lab only tested for total mercury levels, not methylmercury or other types of mercury. He also notes that the EPA has a "reference dose," or upper limit, for methylmercury intake but not for other forms of mercury."

    Can anybody run around screaming "oh my god that's disgusting!?" for me?

    But what can I do?

    Most importantly, you always can and should read the label on the package!

    Also, you can educate yourself. Keep researching and reading until you feel like you understand just how bad this poison is for you. Don't stop reading until you know it's a poison. Once you know it, it's easy to give it up. The cravings are difficult to deal with, but they do stop. I'm not just saying this, I've been there, and I've done it. It's the knowing that makes the difference. When I finally understood that the hydrogenated oils were not leaving my intestines on their own, and that high fructose corn syrup was going to destroy my liver and my cell walls and that sugar was going to give me a short and unhappy life; well, then, it was an easy choice: Live long and happy, or live miserably and die miserably. It's as the Dhali Lama says; one of the major keys to happiness is health.

    The bottom line: The more fuel, energy and chemicals that go into processing a food, the less nutritious that food probably is. So steering clear of high-fructose corn syrup can't be bad for your health -- or the planet.

    The nerve these people have:

    “High fructose corn syrup contains no artificial or synthetic ingredients or color additives and meets FDA’s requirements for the use of the term ‘natural.” Erickson said.

    FDA is bought out by lobbyists who make millions of dollars to poison you. When you remember that detail, Erickson is a laugh; a deadly laugh.

    Now that you've read the dirt do you want to test your knowledge or take a survey to evaluate your own health? click here.

    But don't take it from me! Go to the source if you're not convinced!

    Sources for this page:


    How High Fructose Corn Syrup Is Made

    How High Fructose Corn Syrup Works


    HFCS: Not so sweet for the planet

    HFCS: The Dirt

    HFCS: Conspiracy Realist

    Mercury in HFCS

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