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HFCS The Good the Bad the Ugly

Posted Oct 23 2008 10:03pm
If you are a fan of western movies you know that phrase. If not you may be under the impression that anything labeled good is actually good without any reservations.

I was just sort of watching TV yesterday, you know when you are doing housework and stuff and the TV is on. A commercial caught my eye. Two teenage brothers are sitting at the breakfast table and the younger (nerd) is eating cereal. The older (football jock) is telling him that he is eating junk cereal loaded with HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) and everybody knows that is bad. The football jock cannot tell him "who said" it was bad and ends with everybody knows.

The slim younger boy proceeds to tell his brother that HFCS is good for you. That it is the same as sugar. That the body processes it as sugar and that eating it is not bad for you. The older brother immediately steals the bowl and eats the cereal.

The older boy was presented as a dim witted unthinking football player. Sorry but my grandson is a high school football player, and an A student. He knows more about nutrition than most kids and yet his information is still lacking. His coach has him on a regimen to bulk up and is pushing protein.

The younger slim boy was presented as being knowledgeable without giving any backup to his statements. He quoted no sources or statistics. It was the same sort of visual imagery that women face everyday - Buy this or that product and you will be young beautiful and desirable.

Facts that you can verify --

"Natural Sugar" processed first to syrup and then dried, has a higher glucose percentage which our body burns as a source of immediate energy. The glucose is stored in muscles and liver for later use, and also signals for the release of insulin.

HFCS is higher in fructose rather than glucose and fructose does not signal for the release of insulin.

Insulin is a naturally occurring hormone that helps to metabolize our foods by pushing carbohydrates into our muscle cells to be used as energy, and allows carbohydrates to be stored in our liver for later use.

Glucose also stimulates production of another hormone, leptin, which helps to regulate our storage of body fat and increases our metabolism when needed.

These two hormones regulate our body fat and tell us when we are satisfied when eating and sends the message to our brain to stop eating.

These two hormones are influenced by glucose but not fructose.

Therefore --

HFCS - good - a cheap sweetener in manufactured products. Originally kept the cost of the product low. Since the US government sets the price of sugar to protect USA growers, sugar costs more here than anywhere else in the world. Cheap sugar is one reason the rest of the world still consumes more "natural" sugar than HFCS.

HFCS - bad - distorts the body's ability to process sugar, causes the appetite controlling hormones to ignore the intake of this sweetener thereby leading to eating more. This form of sweetener has more fructose which is basically ignored by your body.

HFCS - ugly - some claim fructose is addictive like MSG- the more you eat, the more you want. This can lead to excessive eating and insulin problems,which certainly contributes to disease and early death. Again, the fructose in comparison to the glucose.

I am sure when the manufacturers first came up with HFCS as an alternative sweetener it was a boon. It was created using "natural" ingredients. More and more manufacturers found HFCS a cheap way to add flavor to prepackaged foods.

Why is it necessary to put HFCS in canned vegetables? Then again why is it necessary to put regular sugar in canned vegetable. Same reason you add salt - take away the salt and the sugar and canned vegetables would taste like - nothing.

Can you become obese with regular sugar? Sure - diabetes and gout have always been part of society. Don't most people prefer something sweet to anything else? The sweet stuff usually has no redeeming value just empty calories - but it tastes good. Parents know that babies must be given the less appealing vegetables before they are introduced to the tasty desserts. And what busy parent can resist the temptation of giving the children a box of cereal and milk rather than cooking a high protein breakfast.

The big controversy here is fructose (yes found in fruits but balanced by the entire benefits of the fruit) and glucose. Fructose, more than sugar, contributes to your overweight problem. Natural sugar is just as processed as HFCS, but the difference is the balance of fructose and glucose. One the body can't cope with and the other is used.

Researchers at the University of Michigan found that men who consume very high levels of fructose elevated their triglyceride level by 32 percent. As triglyceride enters our blood stream, it makes our cells resistant to insulin, making our body’s fat burning and storage system even more sluggish.

In 1966 per capita consumption of high fructose corn syrup was zero – in 2001 that rose to 62.6 pounds per person per year. Yes, we consumed more sweet stuff knowing it was fattening, but we also consumed the HFCS because we didn't know it was in the prepackaged products. Then again we probably didn't know about the sugar and salt either. MSG is another one of those lovely taste enhancers that leads to obesity.

That small but significant difference in sweeteners can help to explain why we are, as a nation, becoming obese. The same amount of exercise cannot accomplish the same fat burn because of the nature of what we eat and drink. Add to that the fact that we are all becoming more sedentary and using less energy -- the result is overweight and diseased bodies.

Wait you say, I know people who consume vast amounts of sugar and HFCS and fats and they never gain any weight. They have no health problems. They don't do lots of exercise.

Our genetic nature is so diverse that there will always be people who do not fall into the general statistics of any society. My mother ate sweets like there was no tomorrow and never gained a pound. Why oh why didn't I inherit that gene?

until next time -- smile


Labels: Health and Diet, losing weight, nutrition

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