By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
June 29, 2012
- What the FDA ruling on high fructose corn syrup means for you
- Why the corn lobby is lying
- What’s at stake at the grocery checkout line
Well, they took their sweet old time, but the FDA finally made a ruling on a highly controversial request made by the Corn Growers Association to rename high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) “corn sugar.”
The FDA decided the case on a technicality, saying consumers generally consider “sugar” to be in a crystallized form, and HFCS is only made in a syrup form – and it could endanger people’s health to confuse them. Especially those with certain metabolic conditions.
So “high fructose corn syrup” as both a name – and a product – is here to stay. As any sports fan will tell you, even a win on a technicality is a win.
The victory, however, is inconsequential if you don’t understand the finer points of the matter. Particularly, how is HFCS different from “regular” sugar? Why did the proposed name change have health advocates incensed?
And most important, why you should use this ruling to help you screen out products with HFCS when you’re at the grocery store…
You may have seen the ads and commercials, sponsored by the corn industry of course, assuring us HFCS was a healthy choice.
My favorite was the Midwestern Dad walking with his daughter through a cornfield and saying he was relieved to learn there was no difference between high fructose corn syrup and cane sugar… and he wasn’t afraid to feed it to his daughter anymore.
And there went a generation of health, in one 30-second slot of TV time.
The truth is, there is a big difference between HFCS and cane sugar. And while industry advocacy groups may make it sound minor, to your body, it’s major.
Both HFCS and cane sugar contain fructose and glucose – that part is true. But these two differences are what make HFCS so dangerous:
- Unbalanced: Cane sugar contains a 50/50 mixture of fructose and glucose, while HFCS is 55% fructose, 42% glucose and 3% saccharides.
- Unbound: In cane sugar, the fructose and glucose molecules are bound to one another in a 1:1 ratio. This means your body has to break them down before they can be absorbed. But in HFCS, the fructose molecules are unbound during processing. So it’s instantly absorbed into the bloodstream upon ingestion.
Your body was simply not meant to ingest fructose in this way, and it isn’t prepared for the heavy load. Nature makes sugar harder to come by for a reason. When you eat fruits and vegetables, for example, the fructose is bound up with fiber and vitamins and minerals. So it never gets a heavy load of unprocessed fructose it can’t handle.
This overload is a driving force behind fatty livers and the diabetes epidemic we’re facing, since high levels of fructose throw off the body’s insulin production.
It’s also at least partially responsible for the obesity problem we’re facing. Fructose slows down your secretion of leptin, the appetite hormone that tells you to stop eating when you’ve had enough.
This one-two punch is knocking out two of the most critical systems you need to stay healthy.
Meanwhile, the government-subsidized corn industry makes its money manufacturing cheap industrial food. And the pharmaceutical companies make their gargantuan profits selling you diabetes medication for life. So everyone’s happy.
Well, everyone except you.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the FDA ruling. I really do. But if you don’t use it to your advantage, it won’t do you a bit of good.
So, here’s what you need to know to be a smart, healthy consumer…
I’m not saying processed cane sugar is “good” for you, either. For the record, I believe you should eliminate – or at least cut way back – on processed foods with added sweeteners altogether. We have to remember, sugar at the level we consume it every day, is the enemy. It causes chronically elevated insulin levels and chronic systemic inflammation. These two things alone may the cause of more chronic degenerative disease in the western world than anything else.
But on a scale of good to evil, cane sugar and HFCS are not on equal footing. And the problem is greatly compounded by the fact that HFCS is found in so many foods – even those that don’t traditionally contain added sweeteners, such as bread, canned vegetables, chicken, and burgers.
And don’t even get me started on the dangers of soft drinks.
It no longer matters that you cut back on desserts or put less sugar in your tea, because HFCS is everywhere.
The recent FDA ruling helps. At least you will not have to decipher between cane sugar and corn sugar on labels that are often too small to read in the first place!
But if you’re not in the habit of reading labels – even for items that you would never think contained added sweetener – then you’re at a much higher risk than you realize.
Start in your kitchen – before you even take on the supermarket – and make a note of how many of the foods already in your cupboards have added HFCS. How many have sugar? How many have artificial sweeteners?
Now, make a list, and come up with a way to replace every item on it with something healthier. If your granola bars have HFCS, can you replace them with a brand that uses cane sugar instead? If your juice has added sugar, buy juice without next time. And so on and so on.
It might take a while to make replacements. Keep in mind that you are up against two huge industries – food and pharmaceutical. And they aren’t trying to make it easy on you. They are trying to make a profit.
But their profit shouldn’t be at the expense of your health.