What’s the Deal with High Fructose Corn Syrup? Part 1

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:

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18 thoughts on “What’s the Deal with High Fructose Corn Syrup? Part 1

  1. SisterBoyd

    Thank you for posting this as it explains a lot. I took HFCS out of my diet last year and man has that been hard. Its in everything! This is yet another reason why I have to do a good portion of my shopping at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods – its almost impossible to find regular stuff at the regular grocery store without this stuff in it. You guys are going to be amazed at what its in!

  2. Savvy

    @CC REALLY? Banned in Cananda? I had no idea. But sulfates are banned in parts of Europe. But here in the US? we’ll take ANYTHING!

  3. afrikanlatina

    Its ridiculous how many “foods” HFCS is found in. I use the term food loosely. I rarely eat out simply because you just don’t know what is in the food in restaurants and so much of it has little to no nutritional value.

  4. Jennae @ Green Your Decor

    I’m a very lazy cook (shame on me), and so I’m fighting HFCS all the time. It can be found in nearly ANY convenience food, and even in toothpaste! I wrote a post about this a while back, expressing my frustration with it:

    We’re doing a little better, but we still have a long way to go. I seriously wish food companies would have a bigger sense of responsibility about their part in all of this. I can say from firsthand experience that they are lot more concerned about making stuff taste good so people will buy it than they are about what they put in the products. It sucks, but the almighty dollar wins again.

    If only capitalists would learn to put people before profit…

  5. Marjorie

    I have become so much more conscious about HFCS since reading Jillian Michaels’ book. It’s amazing how many foods in our refrigerators and pantries contain it! I couldn’t believe it was in my half and half I use in my coffee! I’m slowly weeding out foods that contain HFCS and finding other substitutes. It’s definitely worth it.

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  9. Eco-Friendly and Frugal

    Ugh, I hate those commercials! Whenever the other person challenges them I want the first person to come back with “It’s horrible for you and it’s not natural! It’s NOTHING like sugar!” Thank you for posting this. I’d hate to think someone is actually fooled by those commercials into thinking it’s not “that bad” for you, when it really is.

  10. Ron

    HFCS is horrible for the body.
    Dr. Oz had an entire segment on how to eliminate it out of your diet, and how it’s hidden on some product labels.

  11. Savvy

    Thanks Ron! I’ll have to see if I can find a link to that show. I’d like to see if I can find some of those “hidden” ingredients to share here.

  12. Alyson121

    I love how you broke this down, simply. My hubby (who is our natural food holistic health guru) has been telling of the ills of this and other chemical additives for YEARS. I’m going to share your article on my FB for those think “counting calories” in their diet is more important than WHATS in those calories.

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