There’s a lot of debate going on in the media as to the affects of High Fructose Corn Syrup on our bodies. I always err on the side of caution, if it doesn’t naturally occur in nature…I don’t eat it. But I decided to do some research just to be sure.
To understand more about how HFCS affects us, I researched how sugar works in the body:
Glucose is blood sugar that naturally occurs in the body. It’s created in two places, your intestines break food down and release a portion of it into yout blood as glucose. Your liver aids in this breakdown process and also makes glucose all on on its own. You know when you go to the doctor and they have to “check your sugar?” they’re checking the amount of glucose in your blood. Your pancreas creates iodine to help break down glucose, and your liver creates more of it. This balancing act, keeps your sugar levels constant, so that you don’t have a dip in energy.
Fructose naturally occurs in fruit, and some plants. One of those plants is the aagve cactus, where agave nectar comes from. It is also released by the intestines when eaten but MUCH more slowly than glucose. It does not need iodine to break it down.
High-fructose corn syrup does not occur naturally, and it is created in a lab. HFCS is produced by milling corn to produce corn starch, then processing that starch (which is almost entirely glucose), by adding enzymes that change most of the glucose into fructose. The end product is a combination of fructose and glucose.
I have two problems with this:
1. The fructose in HFCS was created in a LAB, not derived from a fruit or plant. The molecular structure of the fructose that is created is probably the same as the one that is found in nature, but it’s inorganic. It’s different. (It’s like the difference between a dirt road and a paved one, yes, they’ll both get you to where you have to go, but one’s better on you and your tires.)
2. Our bodies deal with fructose and glucose in 2 different ways, by combing the two, you make it VERY hard for your liver to process them and it slows things down (It’s like the difference between 1 bar and 3 bars on your cell phone, the call might go through with 1 bar, but it’ll take longer and you have to keep trying.)
Because it’s a preservative, low in calories and is cheaper than sugar, HFCS is put into a ton of foods. Things like syrup, ketchup, cool whip, even baby food and diet food.
There has been much speculation (mostly by corn growers) as to whether or not high-fructose corn syrup is any worse than any other sweetener for you. But everyone seems to be in agreement that it’s low in nutritional value. Regularly including HFCS in your diet has the potential to promote conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease. HCFS is really a chemical not a food, and it actually can become addictive. And since it debuted in a lab in the late 1970’s the obesity rate has skyrocketed in this country.
In Part 2, I’ll discuss some common foods HFCS is in, and (it’s not just Ding Dongs and Twinkies either) and how we made healthy substitutions over at the House of Brown.
Here are some great articles on HFCS: