High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)….tasty or terrible?
What is corn syrup?
Corn syrup is made from the starch of corn. It is used in food to soften texture, add volume, prevent the crystallization of sugar and enhance flavoring (source)
What is HFCS?
HFCS is made by processing corn syrup to produce a syrup that is both sweeter than regular corn syrup and has higher levels of fructose (source). HFCS is also referred to as glucose-fructose syrup in the UK, glucose/fructose in Canada, and high-fructose maize syrup (source).
What foods are HFCS used in?
HFCS is mainly in processed foods and beverage such as breads, cereals, breakfast bars, lunch meats, yogurts, soups and condiments. Check the labels of your foods at home and I bet you’ll be surprised at how pervasive HFCS is.
Why do some sources say to avoid it?
The correlation between HFCS and obesity was proposed due to the the fact that an increase in obesity began about 40 years ago which coincided with the invention of HFCS (source). However, this does not take into account other cultural changes that have also occurred since the 1970s.
What’s the big deal about fructose?
Fructose is a naturally occurring sugar that is well tolerated. However, fructose does not lead to a rise in insulin production. Thus, consumption of HFCS also does not lead to a rise in insulin production.
Insulin release suppress our appetite. If these is no insulin release after eating a high-fructose food, there is no suppression of appetite.
If one’s appetite is not suppressed, it makes sense that this person may continue to eat or overeat.
Is there any truth behind its bad reputation?
But what if one can control their desire to overeat. Are there still additional health risks associated with HFCS? Let’s find out!
The data concerning HFCS and its potential health risks is certainly conflicting. Below are some highlighted studies. Let’s first focus on the studies indicating that HFCS may be the same as regular sugar:
- In 2009, The American Medical Association concluded that it appears unlikely that HFCS contributes more to obesity or other conditions than sucrose. They did, however, cite a lack of chronic studies on this topic (source)
- A study in 2007 looked at colas which all had the same number of calories but were sweetened with either HFCS, sucrose or aspartame (artificial sweetener). They found that all of these drinks produced similar satiety (fullness) responses and there was no difference on subsequent caloric intake (source). This study found similar results.
- In 2008, a study was done that compared meals with sucrose or HFCS and their effects on 24 hour plasma glucose, insulin, leptin and ghrelin levels as well as subsequent caloric intake. They found no difference (source) (source)
- A long term study in obese individuals showed that 10-week supplementation with glucose or fructose resulted in no change in body weight (source)
And the studies indicating that HFCS may be worse than sugar:
- Mice fed increased fructose developed metabolic syndrome (source)
- In 2008, a study was done where healthy volunteers were fed a high fructose diet for 2 weeks. These individuals developed a 25% reduction in insulin sensitivity (a hallmark of Type II Diabetes). They showed that even though limited sugar may not lead to insulin resistance or diabetes, however higher amounts of sugar consumption may cause both(source)
- After fructose meals, both insulin and leptin (the signal that tells us to stop eating) were lower (source)
- Dietary fructose has shown to increase the liver production of lipids, decreases insulin sensitivity and increases visceral adiposity (the dangerous fat around organs) in overweight/obese adults (source)
- Evidence suggests that healthy offspring of patients with type 2 diabetes may be more prone to developing increased lipid levels when challenged with high fructose (source)
So now what?
It appears as though with most nutritional topics, more research needs to be conducted. However, the majority of food products (like pop) which contain HFCS are unhealthy whether or not HFCS has additional detrimental health benefits. Try to avoid foods and drinks with added sugars and you’ll be sure to avoid all the potentially harmful effects of sugar and HFCS.
What do you think about HFCS? Do you think it’s as bad as some make it out to be? Do you try to avoid HFCS?