Sometimes we get information overload fatigue, and we just don’t want to hear about one more thing that’s bad for us. We get tired of hearing bad news and just start filtering it out. Or we pick one bad thing to worry about, and let the other nine go and become someone else’s problem. But the HFCS anxiety is starting to look like a keeper. High fructose corn syrup is shaping up to be one of the issues worthy of quite serious concern.
It’s like a story from one of those old science fiction magazines with the lurid covers. What would extraterrestrials do if they wanted to take over the planet, without being obvious about it? Introduce something into the food supply, a substance that would cause a debilitating condition. The worldwide plague of obesity would take a bit of time to kill off all the humans, but the invaders are patient.
It doesn’t even have to be the aliens. If there were a megalomaniac of Dr. Evil proportions determined to eradicate the human race, and do it undetected, what would be the plan? Aha! Make everybody fat, AND make them think it’s their own fault.
Here’s another science fiction scenario. What if a giant pharmaceutical conglomerate wanted to make sure that most of the population will have to buy lots of pharmaceuticals throughout their entire lifespan? What could serve that purpose better than some kind of goop that’s in all the food, something that causes plenty of medical conditions and complications?
Okay, that’s a walk on the wild side. But the things they’re saying about HFCS are science-fiction scary. Here’s a report from Sara Novak of Planet Green. She says that despite the claims of its makers, HFCS is not natural:
The process starts off with corn kernels, yes, but then that corn is spun at a high velocity and combined with three other enzymes: alpha-amylase, glucoamylase, and xylose isomerase, so that it forms a thick syrup that’s way sweeter than sugar and super cheap to produce.
Now, here is a very important point. The supporters of HFCS say it is not harmful if used in moderation. Many people are beginning to suspect that there is no such thing as moderation. Imagine saying heroin is fine in moderation, or nicotine. Maybe so, and maybe there are a rare few individuals for whom moderation is possible. But most people are going to get hooked. And there seems to be something about HFCS that works and acts like an addictive substance. This is how Novak explains it:
It’s truly hard to control cravings because high fructose corn syrup slows down the secretion of leptin in the body. Leptin is a crucial hormone in the body that tells you that you’re full and to stop eating. That’s why it’s so closely associated with obesity in this country. It’s like an addictive drug.
A couple of years ago, Jennifer Gibson wrote about the research at the University of Florida showing that a diet high in fructose will mess up your leptin. Leptin is supposed to tell the body it has eaten enough. But fructose appears to cause leptin resistance. Meaning, your off-switch is turned off. There is something about triglycerides, too, Gibson tells us:
Several studies have already shown that elevated triglycerides impair the transport of leptin to the brain, thereby preventing the brain from responding to the leptin.
So, there is no such thing as “enough.” When you used to be happy with one cupcake, now you want 10 cupcakes. This is the same kind of thing that happens with hard drug addicts. They keep doing more and more of the substance, but never find the same satisfaction that a smaller dose used to bring.
Here is a more recent fructose discussion, and the prospect is only getting worse. Dr. Shannon Weeks has been following the message of Dr. Robert Lustig, who says that fructose is as harmful as alcohol. Like alcohol, fructose is a hepatotoxin, or poison to the liver. It does the same kind of damage that alcohol does, but with a different kind of high. And, like alcohol, it just might be addictive. At this point, people start saying, “Wait a minute, fructose is natural, it’s in fruit, it’s good for us.” To explain the problem, the author quotes Dr. Lustig:
When God made the poison, he packaged it with the antidote.
In other words, in real food the fructose comes with fiber, and while a person might eat an entire orange, few people would eat four oranges at a sitting. But a glass of juice contains fructose equivalent to four oranges, with no fiber. In processed food or drink made with HFCS, the fructose isn’t “cushioned” by any fiber. Here is how Weeks explains it:
Fiber reduces the rate of intestinal carbohydrate absorption and increases the speed of transit of intestinal contents to the ileum, which induce satiety and inhibits the absorption of free fatty acids in the colon.
She goes into the whole history of propaganda, delusion, sloppy science, incorrect interpretation, etc., that caused fructose consumption to rise to such heights. Before 1978, when HFCS came on the market, people were already eating getting way too much fructose, about 37 grams a day. Then, 15 years later, we were up to about 55 grams a day. Now, the average teenager takes on board more than 70 grams of fructose per day. If you don’t want gout, fructose should not be a part of your diet. If you don’t want metabolic syndrome, a precursor of diabetes, fructose should definitely be avoided. Weeks says,
The negative effects of excess fructose include hypertension, increased risk of heart attacks, pancreatitis, obesity, fatty liver, fetal insulin resistance, and addiction as well as all the diseases that are associated with type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Dr. Weeks said the “A” word! Childhood obesity results from food addiction and also from too much fructose, and it looks like there is an unignorable connection. In Overweight: What Kids Say, Dr. Pretlow writes,
Is the food industry trying to sweeten as many foods as possible, so people will buy more of them… and get hooked on them?… The many-fold increase in food’s total sugar content is what’s likely contributing to obesity. The sweetness of sugar is very pleasurable and comforting, so people eat more of sweetened foods.
The high fructose corn syrup industry was a sponsor of the 2008 Obesity Society scientific meeting, and Dr. Pretlow noticed that by 2010, the meeting did not even have a category for presentations on addiction, and the word “addiction” was censored from the titles of two presentations before the program went to its final printing.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Four reasons to avoid high fructose corn syrup,” Yahoo News, 12/20/10
Source: “Fructose Leads to Leptin Resistance and Obesity,” BrainBlogger, 01/14/09
Source: “The Devil in the Fructose,” DrShannonWeeks.com, 01/04/11
Source: “Overweight: What Kids Say,” Amazon.com
Image by Javier Aroche, used under its Creative Commons license.