High Fructose Corn Syrup: This Harmful Food Product is Changing its Name - Don't Get Swindled

corn syrupThe Corn Refiners Association (CRA) has petitioned the U.S. FDA to allow manufacturers the option of using the term “corn sugar” instead of “high fructose corn syrup”.

In their press release on the subject, they claim that “independent research demonstrates that the current labeling is confusing to American consumers.”

They blame “inexact scientific reports and inaccurate media accounts” for the current stigma associated with high fructose corn syrup.

In reality, as opposed to the CRA’s dream world, if you need to lose weight, or if you want to avoid diabetes and heart disease, high-fructose corn syrup is one type of sugar you’ll want to avoid.

Part of what makes HFCS such an unhealthy product is that it is metabolized to fat in your body far more rapidly than any other sugar.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

As I’ve stated on many occasions, the number one source of calories in the United States is high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), mainly in the form of soda.

This dangerous sweetener is also in many processed foods and fruit juices.

Even seemingly “health-conscious” beverages like Vitamin Water, Jamba Juice and Odwalla SuperFood contain far more added sugar and/or fructose than many desserts!

The corn industry persistently claims that it is not much different than sugar and is perfectly safe, but we know otherwise.

The primary reason it’s so dangerous is that it is quite cheap to produce,  so it has been added to nearly all processed foods. The excessive consumption of fructose, such as HFCS, is a primary driving factor behind a number of health epidemics, including obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Don’t Get Confused By the Latest Smoke and Mirror Tactics

Americans' consumption of corn syrup has fallen to a 20-year low, probably due to consumer concerns that it is more harmful or more likely to cause obesity than ordinary sugar.

This is why the corn industry wants to sugar coat the fact that their product may be prematurely killing hundreds of thousands of Americans each year, and rename it to confuse people to keep using it – all in the name of trying to “clear up” confusion!

You have probably seen their new marketing campaign on television. Two new commercials try to alleviate shopper confusion, showing people who say they now understand that "whether it's corn sugar or cane sugar, your body can't tell the difference.”

This is an absolutely brilliant marketing strategy and will work as the average consumer will not be smart enough to realize the difference.

However with your help, spreading the message through your Facebook accounts, your blogs and websites, and sharing it with your friends and family, we can sabotage their plans to manipulate and deceive you and the rest of the public.

Their latest strategy is aimed at seeking to defend their market and their profits, and your health depends on whether or not you buy into their smoke and mirrors routine.

The corn industry is still holding fast to the claim that all sugars are metabolized by your body in the same way, even though this outdated belief has been entirely SHATTERED in more recent years by a number of scientific studies.

This research has devastated the image of high fructose corn syrup which is why they are doing this massive makeover, to do an end around the science.

The CRA claims that “a continuing series of inexact scientific reports and inaccurate media accounts about high fructose corn syrup and matters of health and nutrition have… increased consumer uncertainty.”

Folks, there’s nothing inexact about the evidence against fructose. It’s very clear. If you want to improve your health, you need to avoid fructose in all its forms, especially HFCS, which is a highly processed, unnatural form of fructose.

Why the ADA’s Support of Fructose as ‘Safe and Equivalent to Other Sugar’ Means NOTHING…

The industry has one ace up their sleeve that they pull out again and again -- the 2008 report by the American Dietetic Association (ADA), which concluded that HFCS is "nutritionally equivalent to sucrose (table sugar).”

But, could that report possibly have had anything at all to do with the fact that the ADA partnered with Coca-Cola Company earlier that same year?

The press release declaring this unholy union states:

“The Coca-Cola Company’s Beverage Institute for Health & Wellness team of physicians, PhD-level nutrition scientists and registered dietitians serve as a resource for health professionals and others interested in the science of beverages and their role in health and living well.

The Coca-Cola Company will share research findings with ADA members in forums such as professional meetings and scientific publications, to augment the body of knowledge around consumer motivation and health behaviors. To improve understanding of consumer behavior and motivation around healthy living, The Coca-Cola Company will also share its consumer research and expertise with ADA members.”

How nice. I’m sure we can all sleep better knowing that one of the authorities for dietary recommendations in the US is getting their scientific information from such a health-minded group of corporate scientists.

And while we’re at it, who are some of the other ADA sponsors?

Let’s see… there’s PepsiCo… and sugary-snack giants Hershey and MARS Inc…  oh, and SoyJoy, along with a couple of sugary-cereal giants.

All in all, I’m not impressed. In fact, it’s downright frightening to see how many corn syrup-reliant companies support the ADA.

Financial alliances such as these are a major part of why it is virtually impossible to get honest, impartial, factual information about health from conventional media, medicine, and government health agencies.

The Truth about High Fructose Corn Syrup

The truth is, scientists HAVE linked the rising HFCS consumption to the epidemics of obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome in the U.S., and medical researchers HAVE pinpointed various health dangers associated with the consumption of HFCS specifically, compared to regular sugar.

This is why the corn industry is now scrambling to save face and profits – NOT because it’s really okay to consume an average of 59 pounds of HFCS a year.

If you haven't yet read the  impressive 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 sweetener.

And for an in-depth review of just how different fructose and HFCS really is from regular sugar, please read through this article and watch the lecture given by Dr. Robert Lustig.

If you have not yet taken the time to see it, you owe it to yourself to do so. It’s a real eye-opener!

Another expert on fructose is Dr. Richard Johnson, who has also written the best book on the market on the dangers of fructose, called The Sugar Fix.

The information presented by Drs. Lustig and Johnson is exactly why I am so passionate about educating you about the dangers of fructose!

I am thoroughly convinced it’s one of the leading causes of a great deal of needless suffering from poor health and premature death.

If you received your fructose only from vegetables and fruits (where it originates) as most people did a century ago, you’d consume about 15 grams per day -- a far cry from the 73 grams per day the typical adolescent gets from sweetened drinks today. And, in vegetables and fruits, the fructose is mixed in with fiber, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and beneficial phytonutrients, all which moderate its negative metabolic effects.

The main factor that makes fructose so dangerous is the fact that people are consuming it in absolutely MASSIVE DOSES.  This is largely related to technology advances in the mid 70s that made it so cheap to produce.  The vast majority of processed and restaurant foods are now loaded with it, so it is very difficult to avoid.

How Fructose Wrecks Your Health

Contrary to industry claims, your body does NOT recognize and treat all sugars the same.

HFCS is a highly processed product that contains similar amounts of unbound fructose and glucose.

Fructose and glucose are metabolized in very different ways in your body.

Glucose is metabolized in every cell of your body and is converted to blood glucose, while all fructose is metabolized in your liver, where it’s quickly converted to fat and cholesterol. (When a diet includes a large amount of fructose, it can therefore create fatty liver, and even cirrhosis.)

Sucrose, on the other hand, is a larger sugar molecule that is metabolized into glucose and fructose in your intestine.

Fructose is metabolized to fat in your body far more rapidly than any other sugar, and, because most fructose is consumed in liquid form (soda), its negative metabolic effects are further magnified.

Why does it turn to fat more readily than other sugar?

Most fats are formed in your liver, and when sugar enters your liver, it decides whether to store it, burn it or turn it into fat. However, researchers have discovered that fructose bypasses this process and turns directly into fat.

According to Dr. Elizabeth Parks, associate professor of clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern Medical Center, and lead author of a recent study on fructose in the Journal of Nutrition:

"Our study shows for the first time the surprising speed with which humans make body fat from fructose. Once you start the process of fat synthesis from fructose, it's hard to slow it down. The bottom line of this study is that fructose very quickly gets made into fat in the body."

It is also this uncontrolled movement of fructose through these metabolic pathways that causes it to contribute to greater triglyceride [i.e. fat] synthesis. There are over 35 years of hard empirical evidence that refined man-made fructose like HFCS metabolizes to triglycerides and adipose tissue, not blood glucose.

The metabolic pathways used by fructose also generate uric acid. In fact, fructose typically generates uric acid within minutes of ingestion. When your uric acid level exceeds about 5.5 mg per dl, you have an increased risk for a host of diseases, including:

  • Hypertension
  • Kidney disease
  • Insulin resistance, obesity, and diabetes
  • Fatty liver
  • Elevated triglycerides, elevated LDL, and cardiovascular disease
  • For pregnant women, even preeclampsia

Other specific health problems associated with excessive fructose consumption include:

  • Metabolic Syndrome 
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • An increase in triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels
  • Liver disease

Name virtually any disease, and you will find elevated insulin levels is a primary risk factor. This is why, if you want to be healthy, let alone optimally healthy, you simply MUST restrict your fructose consumption.

And if you’re currently eating a diet full of processed foods, sodas and sweetened drinks, that restriction will need to be quite severe, because you’re ingesting massive amounts of fructose in the form of HFCS and other forms of corn syrup, such as crystalline fructose.

Please understand that if you eat processed foods, there’s fructose in practically every single bite of food you put in your mouth.

Ironically, diet foods are clear culprits here as well.

Yes, the very products that most people rely on to lose weight -- low-fat diet foods -- are often those that contain the most fructose!

The downside of this is that fructose does not stimulate your insulin secretion, nor enhance leptin production. (Leptin is a hormone thought to be involved in appetite regulation.) Because insulin and leptin act as key signals in regulating how much food you eat, as well as your body weight, this suggests that dietary fructose may contribute to increased food intake and weight gain.

So, any “diet” food containing fructose will not help you lose any weight. And neither will diet foods containing artificial sweeteners for that matter....

Another significant health concern of HFCS is that the majority of it is made from genetically modified corn, which is fraught with its own well documented side effects. And, adding insult to injury, last year nearly 50 percent of tested HFCS-containing foods and beverages were found to be contaminated with mercury.

What about Fructose from Fruit?

Fresh fruits also contain fructose, although an ameliorating factor is that whole fruits also contain fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants that reduce the hazardous effects of the fructose.

Nearly every canned or bottled commercial juice, on the other hand, are actually worse than soda, because a glass of juice is loaded with fructose, and a lot of the antioxidants are lost. Additionally the processed juice has methanol which has its own toxicities.

It is important to remember that fructose in and of itself isn’t evil as fruits are certainly beneficial. (HFCS, however, is far from natural. It’s a highly processed product that does not exist anywhere in nature. Changing the name to ‘corn sugar’ will not change this fact.)

But when you consume high amounts of fructose – regardless of its source -- it will absolutely devastate your biochemistry and physiology.

Remember the AVERAGE fructose dose is 70 grams per day which exceeds the recommended limit by 300 percent.

So, I urge you to be careful with your fruit consumption as well – especially if you eat processed foods of any kind.

I recommend limiting your total fructose consumption to 25 grams per day, and your fructose from fruit to below 15 grams, since you are virtually guaranteed to consume plenty of "hidden" fructose in other foods.

Keep in mind, 15 grams of fructose is not much -- it represents two bananas, one-third cup of raisins, or just two Medjool dates! (For comparison, however, the average 12-ounce can of soda contains 40 grams.)

If you’re a raw food advocate, have a pristine diet, and exercise very well, then perhaps you could be the exception that could exceed this limit and stay healthy. Dr. Johnson has a handy chart, included below, which you can use to estimate how much fructose you’re getting in your diet.

Fruit Serving Size Grams of Fructose
Limes 1 medium 0
Lemons 1 medium 0.6
Cranberries 1 cup 0.7
Passion fruit 1 medium 0.9
Prune 1 medium 1.2
Apricot 1 medium 1.3
Guava 2 medium 2.2
Date (Deglet Noor style) 1 medium 2.6
Cantaloupe 1/8 of med. melon 2.8
Raspberries 1 cup 3.0
Clementine 1 medium 3.4
Kiwifruit 1 medium 3.4
Blackberries 1 cup 3.5
Star fruit 1 medium 3.6
Cherries, sweet 10 3.8
Strawberries 1 cup 3.8
Cherries, sour 1 cup 4.0
Pineapple 1 slice
(3.5" x .75")
Grapefruit, pink or red 1/2 medium 4.3
Fruit Serving Size Grams of Fructose
Boysenberries 1 cup 4.6
Tangerine/mandarin orange 1 medium 4.8
Nectarine 1 medium 5.4
Peach 1 medium 5.9
Orange (navel) 1 medium 6.1
Papaya 1/2 medium 6.3
Honeydew 1/8 of med. melon 6.7
Banana 1 medium 7.1
Blueberries 1 cup 7.4
Date (Medjool) 1 medium 7.7
Apple (composite) 1 medium 9.5
Persimmon 1 medium 10.6
Watermelon 1/16 med. melon 11.3
Pear 1 medium 11.8
Raisins 1/4 cup 12.3
Grapes, seedless (green or red) 1 cup 12.4
Mango 1/2 medium 16.2
Apricots, dried 1 cup 16.4
Figs, dried 1 cup 23.0

In his book, The Sugar Fix, Dr. Johnson includes detailed tables showing the content of fructose in different foods -- an information base that isn’t readily available when you’re trying to find out exactly how much fructose is in various foods. I encourage you to pick up a copy of this excellent resource. It is important to note however, that Dr. Johnson does promote the use of artificial sweeteners in this book - which I do not recommend, under any circumstances. 

One of the Simplest Ways to Improve Your Health NOW!

I recommend that you avoid sugar as much as possible, particularly fructose in all its forms.

This is especially important if you are overweight or have diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure as fructose will clearly worsen all of these conditions.

However, I also realize we don’t live in a perfect world, and following rigid dietary guidelines is not always practical or even possible.

If you want to use a sweetener occasionally, this is what I recommend:

  1. Use the herb stevia. My favorites are the flavored liquid bottles.
  2. Use organic cane sugar in moderation.
  3. Use organic raw honey in moderation, but remember, honey is also very high in fructose so it is not an ideal replacement.
  4. Avoid ALL artificial sweeteners, which can damage your health even more quickly than fructose.
  5. Avoid agave syrup since it is a highly processed sap that is almost all fructose. Your blood sugar will spike just as it would if you were consuming regular sugar or HFCS. Agave’s meteoric rise in popularity is due to another great marketing campaign, but any health benefits present in the original agave plant are eliminated during processing.
  6. Avoid so-called energy drinks, sports drinks, and vitamin-enriched waters because they are loaded with sugar, sodium and chemical additives. Rehydrating with pure, fresh water is your best choice.

    If you or your child is involved in athletics, I recommend you read my article Energy Rules for some great tips on how to optimize your child’s energy levels and physical performance through optimal nutrition.

As a last precaution, if you have high fasting insulin levels (anything above 3), high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or if you’re overweight, I strongly recommend avoiding ALL sweeteners, including stevia, until you’ve normalized your condition.

This is because any sweetener can decrease your insulin sensitivity, which as I’ve mentioned before, which drives up your risk of nearly every disease there is, from diabetes to cancer.

+ Sources and References