When Sweet Isn't So Nice: What You Must Know About High Fructose Corn Syrup.
Posted Jul 31 2009 10:57am
By Colette Bouchez There is perhaps nothing more refreshing after a workout class or day in the park than a icy glass of soda or fruit juice. And, in fact, if you are trying to avoid artificial sweeteners then you might be tempted to switch to beverages and foods sweetened with “the real thing” , which of course is sugar.
While in some instances this might be a good idea, when it comes to your good health there are some important precautions to heed. Indeed, there are a number of good studies showing that consuming large amounts of sugar – be it in soda, fruit juice, candy or other snack foods – can be harmful . Indeed, while it was once believed that there was no link between dietary sugar consumption and the risk of type 2 diabetes, or even insulin resistance, we now that just how wrong this assumption was.
The truth is, a diet high in refined, “simple” carbohydrates (which are metabolized as sugar) as well as refined sugars can increase your risk of both these conditions. Moreover, drinking lots of sugar-laden soda or fruit juice can also increase your risk of a vaginal yeast infection and in the process upset the acid level of your vaginal fluids.
But there is something else about these “sweet” foods you need to know.
While some sodas, juices and snack foods are sweetened with “real “ sugar, increasingly manufacturers are replacing sugar with a “natural” sweetener known as high fructose corn syrup. It's made by changing the glucose in cornstarch into a product that is part fructose and part glucose. Because it's not only only cheaper than sugar, but also helps extend the shelf life of many foods, it's now the top choice of many food manufacturers.
But while the method of making corn syrup sounds simple, trust me, this is not something grandma would have cooked up on her kitchen stove. The process is actually quite complex, involving lots of chemicals and other somewhat murky ingredients necessary to change these molecules into a sweetening agent. It also requires the chemical “re-arrangement” of several key natural enzymes - all of which impact the way the body processes this ingredient.
Indeed, while natural sugar can be metabolized by every cell in the body, high fructose corn syrup is much like alcohol and most medications in that it must be metabolized in the liver – and there in lies some of the health concerns. In fact studies on animals fed diets rich in high fructose corn syrup were found to have liver damage similar to that which occurs from alcohol abuse. While other studies have been less conclusive, still the evidence has me, and many doctors putting a red flag on those foods that contain high fructose corn syrup.
Perhaps the most disturbing evidence of all recently came to light when studies showed us that some sources of high fructose corn syrup are high in mercury content – a heavy metal that, even in small amounts can have devastating health effects no matter your age. These include impairment of senses such as sight and hearing, movement and coordination disorders and other sensory malfunctions.
So how do you satisfy your sweet tooth without harming your health ?
As with most things in life moderation is the key. If you want to err on the side of caution go light and easy on all sugar consumption, but especially foods sweetened with high fructose corn syrup – and doing so may be easier than you think.
You can, for example, use fresh fruit to sweeten natural yogurt ( instead of the overly-sweetened store bought variety already containing sugar) and you can dilute your juices and sodas ( which can contain up to 6 tablespoons of sugar and even more fructose in a single serving) with lots of ice or even some plain club soda. You won’t taste much of a difference and you could easily cut your sugar consumption in half. Essentially, try to cut down when and how you can.
Copyright by Colette Bouchez 2009 - All Rights Reserved. In addition to US Copyright, the text of this RedDressDiary article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. All formatting and style elements of this page are not available under this license, and Colette Bouchez retains all rights in those elements.