High Fructose Corn Syrup: Is it really dangerous?

High Fructose Corn Syrup: Is it really dangerous?

It's become almost impossible to walk into a grocery store and pick up a food product that does not contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as one of the first 3 ingredients, with fresh produce being the exception. Some health fanatics warn us to avoid HFCS at all costs. On the other hand, we are bombarded by aggressive television ads created by the Corn Refiner's Association telling us that HFCS is perfectly healthy. So who's right? It's time to get to the bottom of this debate with the facts!

What started out as an idea pushed by a marginal group of natural/organic food proponents quickly snowballed into a mainstream war on high fructose corn syrup.  So what's the deal? Should we be ridding our shopping carts of everything that has high fructose corn syrup in it?

The short answer: Nope.

High fructose corn syrup is an extremely common sweetener and preservative found in a wide array of foods such as soft drinks, soups, yogurts, breads, salad dressings and other packaged goods.  HFCS is created by changing the sugar or glucose in the cornstarch to fructose - another form of sugar. The United States started using HFCS when they realized that it gave processed foods a longer shelf life and that it was cheaper to produce than real sugar. High fructose corn syrup has the same number of calories as real sugar and is processed by our bodies in a similar way.

One theory floating around is that high fructose corn syrup is causing a spike in obesity since a trend was noticed between increasing obesity rates and consuming more HFCY. This led many to believe that consuming this ubiquitous sweetener would lead to obesity. The studies that concluded this relationship, however, are anything but cut and dry. 

Many of the studies used soda pop sweetened with HFCS.  The problem with this is that soda is filled with empty sugar calories.  So while the subjects who drank more soda had higher obesity rates, the weight gain could also be attributed to excess calories rather than HFCS.  Even if the subjects drank soda sweetened with real sugar, the results could easily be the same.

High fructose corn syrup is not any less healthy than other sweeteners nor does it directly cause obesity; however, any excess of sugar will cause people to gain weight as well as increase a person's risk of suffering from type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. 

So instead of eliminating all products with HFCS (which is no easy task!), limit your intake of processed foods and foods with added sugar. Also, try and avoid drinking soda pop and othery sugary beverages. Studies say that drinking 2 or more sodas a day can help pack on an additional 24 pounds a year! Focus on incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet, and you will be taking a big step in the right direction to leading a healthier lifestyle.




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