The Not So Sweet Story on High Fructose Corn Syrup

It has been hard to ignore lately, the ads running on television trying to dispel the negative reputation that high fructose corn syrup has gained over recent years. It’s part of an 18-month campaign launched by the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) in effort to give high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) an image makeover. The message: High-fructose corn syrup is made from corn, has no artificial ingredients, has the same calories as sugar and is okay to eat in moderation. There is only one problem: High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is an ingredient in so many products on the market…how could you possibly eat it in moderation? I have found it listed as an ingredient in vitamins, bread, soda, English muffins, yogurt, cereal, ketchup….the list could go on. So unless your diligently reading your labels…to moderate your consumption of high fructose corn syrup is nearly impossible. So how did we get here? Why is the use of high fructose corn syrup so pronounced? HFCS has been used as an inexpensive sweetener since the 1970’s and we saw a dramatic increase in its use throughout the 1980’s as a result of the high prices of sugar import (the U.S. has a high tariff on any sugar brought into the country and very little sugar is actually produced in the United States….companies looked to HFCS as an alternative to the expensive, high taxed natural sugar). To them it’s simply a product that people buy so they want to make it as cheap as they possibly can to increase their own profits at the expense of public health. So if HFCS is “good for you”, “natural” and made from corn, what could possibly be the drawback? Let’s take a look at corn. Contrary to popular belief…it is NOT a vegetable, it is a grain. Grains are metabolized by our bodies into sugars very rapidly and cause a huge spike in blood sugar, thus requiring an outpouring of insulin from the pancreas further straining this already so overworked organ. This is one of the major contributors to the massive increase in type II diabetes, obesity and systemic inflammation. Not to mention that several disease states from high cholesterol, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis have also been linked to HFCS. Just because something is touted as being “natural” does not mean that it is healthy. HFCS is in actuality an entirely man-made substance. Nearly indestructible and stable. That is why it is used often as a preservative for foods, not only a sweetener. We are all well aware that sugar itself is not a purely healthy food. Moderation IS the key. But, unlike with HFCS, many of us know which products contain sugar. It is not hidden as a preservative in food products. In the end, it is much easier to moderate in our diets and is naturally sweet not laboratory made. In the end, read your labels. Eat natural, whole foods. For those who wish to sweeten foods and beverages without the effects of HFCS, and are also concerned about the impact of using sugar regularly, I would recommend the all-natural sweetner, stevia. For more information, start here.