Until the 1970s, most sugar was sucrose derived from sugar beets or sugar cane. But sugar from corn, especially high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), is now more popular because it is much less expensive to produce.
It also contains nearly twice the fructose of the sugars that came before it. Between 1980 and 1994, average fructose consumption rose from 39 pounds per year to 83 pounds per year.
Fructose contains no enzymes, vitamins or minerals, and it leeches micronutrients from the body. Unbound fructose, found in large quantities in HFCS, can interfere with the heart's use of minerals such as magnesium, copper and chromium.
Fructose also reduces the affinity of insulin for its receptor, which is the principle characteristic of type 2 diabetes.
HFCS has been implicated in elevated blood cholesterol levels, and it has been found to inhibit the action of the immune system's white blood cells.
The interesting report linked above highlights a host of health problems that have occurred as the result of the emergence of high fructose corn syrup in most processed foods.
If you haven't read the amazing scientific analysis on fructose in one of my favorite nutritional journals, I would strongly encourage you to do so as it will open your eyes to some of the major problems with this sugar that is commonly perceived to be healthy.
While some health "experts" are still debating the nutritional value of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), there's plenty of evidence to the contrary, starting with the obesity epidemic largely fueled by sugary sweet drinks.
The consumption of high fructose corn syrup not only exacerbates the obesity epidemic, it also harms organs like your liver and pancreas, leading to bone loss, anemia and heart problems, just to name a few.
Part of what makes HFCS so unhealthy is that it is metabolized to fat in your body far more rapidly than any other sugar. The entire burden of metabolizing fructose falls on your liver, and it promotes a particularly dangerous kind of body fat, namely adipose fat. This is the fat type of fat that collects in your abdominal region and is associated with a greater risk of heart disease.
Additionally, because most fructose is consumed in liquid form (i.e. soda and sweetened beverages of all kinds), its negative metabolic effects are magnified. Because while HFCS has about the same amount of fructose as cane sugar, the fructose in HFCS is in its "free" form and not attached to any other carbs.
The fructose in fruits and in cane sugar is bonded to other sugars which results in a decrease in its metabolic toxicity.
Consuming foods that contain high amounts of fructose—even if it's a natural product—is, to put it bluntly, the fastest way to trash your health. As a standard recommendation, I strongly advise keeping your TOTAL fructose consumption below 25 grams per day.
For most people it would also be wise to limit your fructose from fruit to 15 grams or less, as you're virtually guaranteed to consume "hidden" sources of fructose if you drink beverages other than water and eat processed food. Remember, the average 12-ounce can of soda contains 40 grams of sugar, at least half of which is fructose, so one can of soda ALONE would exceed your daily allotment. Fifteen grams of fructose is not much -- it represents two bananas, one-third cup of raisins, or two Medjool dates.
So, when you hear commercials for processed food products that pretend to be "natural," like 7-Up, remember that fructose is detrimental to your health and high fructose corn syrup is anything but organic or natural.
On Vital Votes, biochemist Russ Bianchi from Soquel, California warns about some of the deceptive ways that fructose is hidden in your foods: