High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is made from cornstarch. Further processing converts cornstarch into corn syrup. Because corn syrup is almost 100% glucose, enzymes are added to convert some of the glucose molecules to fructose. There are two most common forms of HFCS: HFCS-55 which is added to soft drinks and HFCS-42 which is mainly used in ice-creams, desserts and baked goods. HFCS is also known as Glucose-Fructose, Isoglucose, Glucose-Fructose or Fructose-Glucose Syrup. There are a number of reasons why HFCS is unhealthy and why you should avoid it as much as possible:
It is linked to metabolic disturbances, weight gain and obesity
One of the main problems with HFCS is that we consume too much of it. Because it is sweeter and cheaper than sugar, manufacturers have added it to almost every product. A recent study published in the Journal of Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior shows that when rats were fed HFCS, in addition to their standard diet, they gained more weight than rats that were given sugar. They further showed that rats that had a diet high in HFCS developed metabolic disturbances such as abnormal weight gain, significant increases in triglycerides and they had increased visceral fat around the belly. Rats that were fed HFCS gained 48% more weight than those that had a normal diet. These metabolic disturbances are significant because they raise the risk of other more serious health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease and cancer.
It contributes to fatty liver and narrowing of the arteries
HFCS is different to sugar. Some HFCSs have a higher content of fructose than glucose and the bond between the fructose and glucose molecules are not as strong. What this means, is that when you eat HFCS, your body doesn’t need to digest it. The glucose almost immediately spikes the blood sugar level and fructose is sent straight to the liver where it triggers lipogenesis and produces triglycerides and cholesterol. Consuming too much of HFCS on a daily basis leads to too many triglycerides and too much cholesterol being produced by the body. This leads to a potentially dangerous syndrome known as fatty liver and narrowing of the arteries.
It contains dangerous chemicals like mercury and other contaminants
The exact process of making HFCS is not fully known. However we do know that it uses a chemical called chloralkali that contains mercury. In fact, there have been trace amounts of mercury found in beverages that are sweetened with HFCS. While this is not a problem if you consume HFCS only occasionally, over time mercury accumulates in the body causing various health problems. In addition, there are compounds that are part of the HFCS that are still untested and we know very little about.
Triggers immune reaction and inflammation
A research done by the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute shows that eating HFCS in large quantities creates holes in the intestinal lining allowing bad bacteria and undigested food from the gut to leak into the blood stream. This can trigger an immune reaction or an inflammation in the body that can lead to other health complications.
So how can you avoid HFCS?
1) Read the label – The most important thing is to read the label and if it has HFCS then don’t buy the product. There are often good alternatives available but it can take a while to find them.
2) Avoid fast food restaurants – Fast food restaurants are particularly bad because they use HFCS in almost everything. If you want to cut down on consumption of HFCS then avoid these at all costs.
3) Don’t drink sodas – Sodas are often entirely sweetened by HFCS because it is a cheaper and sweeter ingredient than regular sugar. Drinking just a half of can of soda already exceeds the new daily guidelines for sugar consumption. Choosing to drink water, milk, tea or unsweetened coffee is much better for you.