High Fructose Corn Syrup, Good or Bad: Really?

The NPI (Natural Products Industry) newsletter came in today. A banner ad sat at the top suggesting I get the facts on high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Since the NPI is about “natural” products, why would they be supporting an ingredient used in processed foods? Aren’t processed foods the reason the NPI started in the first place? Processed foods are the bad guys and natural (unprocessed foods) are the good guys. Or so one would think. Seems somewhat deceptive. I’ll get to that in my ending paragraphs.

So I clicked and went to their video. The facts weren’t necessarily spoken. Did meet a 5th generation farmer. Seemed like a nice enough guy. Told me about the corn (looked GMO, but that wasn’t one of the facts he wanted to talk about) and how HFCS is “natural” from corn. OK.

I was feeling a bit, I don’t know, misled maybe? Is HFCS really natural? And is it, as an alternate “HFCS quick facts” website states

  • a natural sweetener made from corn
  • handled by the body the same as sugar
  • the same number of calories as sugar
  • as sweet as sugar
  • fine in moderation
  • whether it’s corn sugar or cane sugar, your body can’t tell the difference. Sugar is sugar.

Here is what Dr Mercola, who is adamant about the dangers of HFCS states on his web site

Fructose is a major contributor to:

  • Insulin resistance and obesity
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Elevated triglycerides and elevated LDL
  • Depletion of vitamins and minerals
  • Cardiovascular disease, liver disease, cancer, arthritis and even gout

Dr. Robert Lustig, Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco,  a pioneer in decoding sugar metabolism, lists  major differences in how different sugars are broken down and used:

  • After eating fructose, 100 percent of the metabolic burden rests on your liver. But with glucose, your liver has to break down only 20 percent.
  • Every cell in your body, including your brain, utilizes glucose. Therefore, much of it is “burned up” immediately after you consume it. By contrast, fructose is turned into free fatty acids (FFAs), VLDL (the damaging form of cholesterol), and triglycerides, which get stored as fat.
  • The fatty acids created during fructose metabolism accumulate as fat droplets in your liver and skeletal muscle tissues, causing insulin resistance and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Insulin resistance progresses to metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes.
  • Fructose is the most lipophilic carbohydrate. In other words, fructose converts to activated glycerol (g-3-p), which is directly used to turn FFAs into triglycerides. The more g-3-p you have, the more fat you store. Glucose does not do this.
  • When you eat 120 calories of glucose, less than one calorie is stored as fat. 120 calories of fructose results in 40 calories being stored as fat.
  • The metabolism of fructose by your liver creates a long list of waste products and toxins, including a large amount of uric acid, which drives up blood pressure and causes gout.
  • Glucose suppresses the hunger hormone ghrelin and stimulates leptin, which suppresses your appetite. Fructose has no effect on ghrelin and interferes with your brain’s communication with leptin, resulting in overeating.

I have given a bit more space to the cons of HFCS haven’t I? There isn’t much out there on the pros of HFCS, except for information stating that the cons are debatable in scientific research. And that leads me to my conclusion.

This is similar to the debate over the safety of cosmetic ingredients. Studies say certain ingredients are “toxic,” cause cancer are endocrine disruptors and so on. Other studies say that these dangers are unsubstantiated or are proven by bad science.

So, my conclusion and answer to the use of HFCS is similar to what I say about cosmetics.  Why eat processed foods that contain HFCS? Just like the scary cosmetic ingredients lack any value for skin and only makes the cosmetic product “consumer friendly,” HFCS only makes processed foods sweet – very sweet. There is no nutritional value, which is supposedly why we eat, or need, food.  Forget about who’s right, who’s wrong and whether HFCS is good or bad, if you eat foods that contain it, you are eating processed foods that are overall not healthy and contribute to many diseases and ill health.

The NPI promoting HFCS use through this banner ad is deceptive to those who want to eat healthy. Foods in the natural products store that have HFCS are not “natural” foods. Whether similar to sugar or not, If you see products with HFCS it is a processed food and not a healthy food. Eat foods in their whole form (that would eliminate refined sugar, also in processed foods) and you can let go of these silly debates about whether chemically altered things are edible or not.