A major contributor to weight gain is a sweet little additive known as HFCS (high fructose corn syrup). Since the brain does not recognize HFCS as a food, one can eat a lot of it without feeling full.
Hunger signals aren’t turned off when eating foods containing HFCS. That’s why many of us keep on eating and eating and eating whenever we have foods containing it (hey, whose idea was that? – certainly not the manufacturer’s! Hmmm…).
Even low-fat foods containing HFCS can pack on the pounds because our brain is not getting the signal, “Enough already!”
U.S. sugar consumption declined between 1974 and 1986 as HFCS replaced sugar in most sweetened liquid products. Since then, the growth of HFCS use has not let up, expanding an average of 3.5 percent a year, or almost twice the growth rate of sugar consumption. America’s love affair with sugar has risen from 114 pounds per person in 1967 (most of which was raw or refined sugar) to 142 pounds in 20.
Add to that HFCS (which wasn’t invented until the early 1970s by Japanese research scientists), and you can pile on an additional 61 pounds of sugary, syrupy goo per year per person. Just think—if you’ve made a concerted effort to avoid sugar and HFCS, someone is eating your portion as well as their own!
Sadly, in 2003 Americans consumed on average only 8.3 pounds of broccoli and 25 pounds of dark leafy green lettuces per year. Considering all of sugar and HFCS-laden foods most Americans ate, no wonder—there was no room left for vegetables! However, if you’re eating an abundance of living foods, you’re probably eating someone else’s portion of broccoli and leafy greens.
Gee, I Always Wanted to be a Thermometer…
In January 2009, the Washington Post printed a report by HealthDay News about additional dangers to HFCS.
According to two recent studies conducted by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and another published in Environmental Health, “Almost half of tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) contained mercury, which was also found in nearly a third of 55 popular brand-name food and beverage products where HFCS is the first- or second-highest labeled ingredient, according to two new U.S. studies.”
Dr. David Wallinga of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, and a co-author of both studies said, “Mercury is toxic in all its forms. Given how much high-fructose corn syrup is consumed by children, it could be a significant additional source of mercury never before considered. We are calling for immediate changes by industry and the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply.”
Considering that the average adult eats 12 teaspoons of high fructose corn syrup per day and teenagers and other “high consumers” may be ingesting 80 percent more HCFS than average, there is cause for concern.
Who's Kidding Whommm?
What do you think when you read a product label that says “No Sugar Added”? No sugar in it, right? That's what most people would think. However, you'd be mistaken. There may not be “sucrose” in it, but there may indeed be something sweeter than sugar in it: high fructose corn syrup.
Is there a difference between “No Sugar Added” and “No Added Sugar”? Yes. It's been my experience that the second descriptive “No Added Sugar” means that there indeed IS some form of sugar in there (fructose, HFCS or some other form of sweetener).
Critics of the extensive use of HFCS in food sweetening argue that the highly processed substance is more harmful to humans than regular sugar (sucrose), contributing to weight gain by affecting normal appetite functions.
HFCS and Diabetes
The effect of HFCS on insulin resistance has been shown to have an impact on diabetes risks. In 2004, a study was done on the relationship between food consumption of refined carbs and cases of type 2 diabetes in the U.S. from 1909 to 1997. They found that during his period, the use of corn syrup (practically non-existent as a sweetener during the early part of the 20th century), increased by more that 2100%! During this time, diabetes cases soared.
Although it is derived from a natural source, HFCS is considered an unnatural product, in the sense that for most of human history we consumed no more than about 15 grams of fructose per day (approximately one-half ounce), mostly from fruits and vegetables. Our bodies are not accustomed to ingesting such high concentrations of sugar — and many are suffering from the consequences in obesity and other health risks.
Minimize the Risks
Avoid foods with added sugars as well as processed or pre-packaged foods and high-sugar fruit juices. Instead, consider the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes whole grains, vegetables, low-fat dairy, fresh fish, and limited meat proteins.
- Consider “The Little Stevia Wonder.” Stevia is a sweetener that has no calories and is derived from a shrub linked to the the chrysanthemum family. Also consider limited amounts of honey (it's real!), and agave nectar as sweeteners.
- Avoid sweetened soft drinks. Consider seltzer water sweetened with flavored stevia or home-brewed herbal tea (not the packaged, powdered variety).
- Read labels. Avoid “high-fructose corn syrup” or fructose. Cut back on fruit juices – or dilute them with water or sparkling water.
- Cut down on all sugar and processed/packaged foods. While hard to do at first, once you make the switch you will find you feel better, have more energy and will actually begin to lose that excess weight!
For more information, please see my book The Busy Woman's Guide to Total Fitness on Harvest House Publishers, available in our store.