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Diet Danger: High Fructose Corn Syrup

The Effects of Corn Syrup Aren't So Sweet

Trying to save money, food companies introduced High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) into the food market in the 1970s. Sweetening manufactured foods this way is profitable, because it is less expensive and much sweeter than sugar, yet easy to transport because of its liquid state. Today HFCS is found in a variety of foods from soda pop to ketchup, fruit drinks to salad dressings, cereals, breads, flavored yogurt, and sauces.

What is Fructose?
Fructose, a monosaccharide, is sometimes called “fruit sugar” because it is naturally found in fruits. Fructose is also found in honey, and is a component of table sugar (sucrose), which is a disaccharide composed of fructose and glucose.

When we eat most carbohydrate foods, the blood sugar level increases and insulin is secreted to transport the sugar into the body’s cells. Besides helping to transport blood sugar, insulin also triggers the release of a hormone called leptin. Leptin helps control hunger by signaling the brain that the body is full and therefore to stop eating.

The interesting fact about fructose is that it is metabolized in a totally different way than other carbohydrates. It does not stimulate or require insulin for transportation to the cells. Since there is no need for insulin release, there is also no secretion of leptin. Therefore the feeling of satiety is altered—you continue to eat and possible overeat.

Is Fructose the Enemy?
Fructose should not be eliminated from your diet. It is primarily found in fruits, which provide a wealth of nutritional benefits to the body. Fructose found in fruits is fine! However, are we setting up our bodies for damage by constantly feeding it foods that have been filled with sucrose (fructose and glucose) and heavily loaded with HFCS, which is approximately one-half fructose?

What the Research Says…
A few studies have demonstrated that participants who consumed soda sweetened with HFCS did not reduce their total caloric intake to compensate for excess calories consumed as HFCS (compared to subjects who drank artificially sweetened soda). The data suggests that HFCS does not provide the body with a sense of fullness. This may cause an increase in excess calorie intake, leading to weight gain.

A recent study conducted by the University of Cincinnati provided additional information. Mice freely consumed either water, fructose-sweetened water, or soft drinks. The researchers found increased body fat in the mice that drank the fructose-sweetened water and soft drinks—even though these animals decreased the amount of calories they ate from solid foods.

The Smart SparkAction!
Whenever possible, avoid food products that contain HFCS and refined table sugar. This is not a magical cure for weight loss, but the preliminary research indicates that it may play a role. These foods often have little—if any—nutritional value.

* Take inventory of your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. Start reading the fool labels. If HFCS is one of the main ingredients (which are listed in descending order on the food label), scratch it off your grocery list—permanently.
* Try to limit foods that have “sugar” as one of the first ingredients.
* Start shopping around the perimeter of your grocery store; this is where you will find the foods in their natural, unprocessed state.
* Fill your grocery cart with low fat dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, eggs, beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds, whole grains, cereals and breads.

Although food manufacturers may lose out on your business, your body will thank you!

SparkPeople.com is a free weight loss and fitness website that helps people transition from dieting to living a healthy lifestyle. This article has been reprinted with the permission of SparkPeople, Inc.

Diet Danger: High Fructose Corn Syrup

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