Sweet and Dangerous

HFCS – High Fructose Corn Syrup. Sweeter than sugar and piling on the pounds.

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.

  1. An Excerpt From Mercola.com

    Many people interested in staying healthy have switched to agave as a safer “natural” sweetener. They want to avoid well documented dangerous sweeteners like HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) but are unaware that most agave is actually WORSE than HFCS.

    This expose will offend many hard core natural health advocates because they have been convinced of the agave hype by companies that are promoting it.

    Some have even criticized me for having “ulterior” motives. But nothing could be further from the truth. Although I do offer natural health products for sale on this site, I sell no competing products to agave.

    Rather, I recommend other options such as stevia products. You can also use xylitol in small amounts or glucose which is sold as dextrose and can easily be purchased on Amazon for $1 per pound. I do not sell any of these products.

    My only purpose for sharing this information is to help people understand the truth about health. In case you haven’t noticed, we have an epidemic of obesity in the US and it wasn’t until recently that my eyes opened up to the primary cause – – fructose.

    I had similar epiphanies about omega-3 fats and vitamin D since I started this site, but this is the most major health appreciation I have had since I learned about vitamin D over five years ago. This is serious business and it is my intention to make the public fully aware of it and let you make your own choices.

    Yes it is all about freedom of choice. It is hard to have freedom if you aren’t given the entire story, and up until now that has been the case with agave.

    So Just What is Agave?

    Blue agave is an exotic plant growing in the rich volcanic soil of Mexico under a hot tropical sun, boasting a stately flower stem that blooms only once in its lifetime. “Agave” literally means “noble.” It’s generally recognized as a superstar of the herbal remedy world, claiming to offer relief for indigestion, bowel irregularity, and skin wounds.

    Ferment it, and you have Mexico’s favorite adult beverage — tequila.

    Just the name “agave” conjures up images of romantic tropical excursions and mysterious shamanic medicine.

    These are the mental images many agave “nectar” sellers want you to hold. They use agave’s royal pedigree to cover the truth that what they’re selling you is a bottle of high-fructose syrup, so highly processed and refined that it bears NO resemblance to the plant of its namesake.

    Such a high fructose content isn’t typical of all agave products. “Depending on how the syrup is processed, it may or may not contain more fructose,” says Roger Clemens, a professor at USC and spokesman for the Institute of Food Technologists, whose research has focused on functional foods, food processing and nutrition.

    Depending on the source and processing method used, agave syrup can, therefore, contain as little as 55% fructose, the same amount found in high-fructose corn syrup — in which case the syrup would offer no advantage.

    What is the “Real” Truth about Agave?

    If you knew the truth about what’s really in it, you’d be dumping it down the drain — and that would certainly be bad for sales.

    Most agave “nectar” or agave “syrup” is nothing more than a laboratory-generated super-condensed fructose syrup, devoid of virtually all nutrient value, and offering you metabolic misfortune in its place.

    Unfortunately, masterful marketing has resulted in the astronomical popularity of agave syrup among people who believe they are doing their health a favor by avoiding refined sugars like high fructose corn syrup, and dangerous artificial sweeteners.

    And if you’re diabetic, you’ve been especially targeted and told this is simply the best thing for you since locally grown organic lettuce, that it’s “diabetic friendly,” has a “low glycemic index” and doesn’t spike your blood sugar.

    While agave syrup does have a low-glycemic index, so does antifreeze — that doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
    Most agave syrup has a higher fructose content than any commercial sweetener — ranging from 70 to 97 percent, depending on the brand, which is FAR HIGHER than high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which averages 55 percent.

    This makes agave actually WORSE than HFCS.

    It is important to understand that fructose does not increase insulin levels, which is not necessarily good as what it does do is radically increase insulin resistance, which is FAR more dangerous. You see, it’s okay for your insulin levels to rise, that is normal. You just don’t want these insulin levels to remain elevated, which is what insulin resistance causes.

    That is why fasting insulin is such a powerful test, as it is a very powerful reflection of your insulin resistance.

    In addition to insulin resistance, your risk of liver damage increases, along with triglycerides and a whole host of other health problems, as discussed in this CBC News video about the newly discovered dangers of high fructose corn syrup. The study discussed in this news report is about HFCS, however, it’s well worth remembering that agave contains MORE fructose than HFCS, and in all likelihood, it’s the FRUCTOSE that is causing these severe liver problems.

    1. Thank you for the reply, Brian. I’ve done some more research and come up with a few points.

      While agave nectar is high in fructose, so are many foods that we eat. Dr. Mercola may be a bit alarmist. Fructose is found in all fruits, while dried fruit (dates, raisins, etc. have the highest concentrations). It’s been a natural source of carbohydrate and energy for thousands of years.

      I admit I have to watch my intake of sugars and carbohydrates in any form to maintain my *girlish* figure, but HFCS and highly processed foods stay on my “don’t touch” list.

      Agave and honey in small amounts are fine for most people. The American Heart Association found that consuming limited amounts of fructose had no negative effect on the majority of individuals. Other studies show that fructose, in limited amounts, may even reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

      Another study found that nutritional elements within agave may help fight osteoporosis, diabetes and colon cancer. The research also suggested that fructans within agave may promote the creation of beneficial intestinal bacteria, helping with the absorption of calcium and magnesium (necessary for bone health).

      There’s also some debate on stevia (which saddens me – I really like stevia!).

      As in all things, moderation, prayer – and listening to the leading of the Lord.

      Thank you for posting the article, Brian!

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