Have you heard of high-fructose corn syrup? It’s in pretty much everything you eat, and it’s very, very bad for you.
High-fructose corn syrup is a heavily processed sweetener found in all kinds of foods, including ice cream, soda, bread, and even salad dressing. Even though high-fructose corn syrup is one of the most common food ingredients, you should avoid it like the plague.
There’s nothing natural about high-fructose corn syrup. It’s just a thick syrupy combination of weird chemicals like alpha-amylase, glucoamylase, and xylose isomerase and corn kernels spun at a high velocity. Because high-fructose corn syrup is super cheap, easy to obtain, and sweeter than sugar, food companies love that stuff. They pump it into ketchup, spaghetti sauces, canned fruits, breakfast cereals, and a slew of other food products… and eventually into our bodies.
Since everything contains high-fructose corn syrup these days, the average American consumes 1,000 times more high-fructose corn syrup than people did in the 1970s. That adds up to 63 pounds a year… each person! We’re consuming that stuff in gigantic quantities never before experienced in human history, and it’s slowly killing us.
High-fructose corn syrup is the main culprit in a slew of health problems brought by processed foods. Not only is it processed so much to the point where it’s nutritionally empty, high-fructose corn syrup also contributes to obesity and the development of many diseases. The sooner you reduce your consumption of high-fructose corn syrup, the healthier you will be. Here are seven alarming reasons for you to start cutting back on it right away.
1. High-fructose corn syrup can make you gain weight.
Aside from the fact that it’s a sweetener that helps increase your waist size, high-fructose corn syrup is actually quite manipulative. It plays tricks on your brain. It hinders the functionality of leptin, an important protein that tells your brain when it’s time to stop eating. Basically, the more high-fructose corn syrup you consume, the longer your body will think you’re hungry, making you eat more food than necessary. As a result, you’ll pack on some extra pounds.
2. High-fructose corn syrup can lower your IQ.
Eating a high fructose diet may affect your intelligence and long-term memory. Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles did a study on rats and concluded that your diet greatly affects how you think. The rats fed high levels of fructose navigated the designated maze much slower than the rats that were fed high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, one of the researchers, said in a statement, “Eating a high-fructose diet over the long term alters your brain’s ability to learn and remember information.”
3. High-fructose corn syrup often contains mercury.
In 2005, an FDA researcher named Renee Dufault posed as a fictional soft drink company and asked corn producers to ship a barrel of high-fructose corn syrup to her. After testing 20 vats, she found that at least 50% of them were contaminated with mercury. Another 2005 study, conducted by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, had researchers pulling random food products off of supermarket shelves. All these products contained high-fructose corn syrup, and the researchers found traces of mercury in one-thirds of them. What’s scary is that the FDA doesn’t regulate or even pay attention to the amount of mercury slipped into processed food, so there’s no telling how much mercury a person could ingest by eating Twinkies or anything else that’s chock full of high-fructose corn syrup.
Mercury is one of the most toxic natural elements. It interferes with the brain and the nervous system. Exposure to mercury can be especially hazardous for children and pregnant women. It may affect a child’s development and cause learning disabilities. An unborn baby exposed to high levels of mercury faces a higher risk of mental retardation, cerebral palsy, deafness, or blindness. Parents and pregnant women often go to great lengths to avoid mercury exposure, but what many of them don’t realize is they could easily ingest mercury by eating a hamburger topped with a generous helping of ketchup, which contains high-fructose corn syrup.
4. High-fructose corn syrup is bad for the environment.
Environmentalists hate high-fructose corn syrup as much as food companies love it. As plentiful and useful corn is, it isn’t so good for the environment. Corn uses more pesticides and fertilizers than any other crop, and the more pesticides we spray on our crops, the more we pollute our soil and ground water. Since corn is the most grown crop in the United States, it’s grown as a monoculture, meaning that the land is used solely for corn. That leads to soil erosion. Since there’s a high demand for high-fructose corn syrup, we’re faced with more dead soil and contaminated water than ever.
5. High-fructose corn syrup can damage your liver.
Because fructose is much more readily metabolized to fat in the liver than glucose is, excessive intake of fructose can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. It’s a disease where fat builds up in the liver, causing inflammation, scarring, excess triglycerides, and bad cholesterol. In severe cases, the disease may progress to liver cancer or liver failure. A 2010 study of 427 patients at the Duke University Medical Center revealed that the patients who consumed more soft drinks (which are notorious for containing high levels of high-fructose corn syrup) had more serious liver inflammation and scarring than those who consumed fewer soft drinks. The study also concluded that reducing your intake of fructose is a good way to modify your risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
6. High-fructose corn syrup can cause diabetes.
Given how the average person consumes 63 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup per year, it’s no surprise that one out of four Americans today has diabetes. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (caused by excessive intake of fructose) leads to hepatic insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body use or store the blood glucose, a primary source of energy for the body’s cells. People with type 2 diabetes have pancreas that successfully make insulin, but their bodies don’t respond well to it. Consuming high levels of fructose hinders, or may even permanently impair, the body’s ability to use or store glucose. That may lead to type 2 diabetes.
7. High-fructose corn syrup can fuel tumor growth.
Did you know that cancer cells and tumors feed on sugar, especially high-fructose corn syrup? A 2010 study conducted by University of California Los Angeles showed that the pancreas, the organ that creates insulin, has a higher risk of developing cancer if it processes too much fructose. Tumor cells thrive on sugar, but they proliferate on fructose. This kind of explains why cancer rates have been on the rise in the past few decades.
The smart way to avoid high-fructose corn syrup
Just because practically everything contains high-fructose corn syrup doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make an effort to avoid it. You just have to pay attention to what you eat. That means cutting back on soda and junk food, and start reading the labels. If you see too many suspicious ingredients even a chemist would have a hard time rolling off his tongue, think twice about buying the product. If high-fructose corn syrup is among the first 10 ingredients, you should put it down, walk away, and never look back.
You have to pay close attention, though. The Corn Refiners Association, also known as the evil masterminds behind high-fructose corn syrup, is onto us health-conscious people. They took Harry S. Truman’s quote, “if you can’t convince them, confuse them,” to heart. They’re trying to trick us into ingesting the very thing we’re trying to avoid simply by confusing us. They came up with a new name for high-fructose corn syrup: corn sugar. Corn sugar sounds natural, wholesome, and healthy, doesn’t it? It sounds like something you’d find at an organic food store or a farmers market.
Unfortunately, corn sugar is high-fructose corn syrup. It’s the exact same thing. If you see corn sugar in the ingredients list while scanning the labels, drop it like a hot potato and go for a product that contains cane sugar or beet sugar, which are much better alternatives.
While it takes some extra time to read the labels and rummage through the shelves for products that are free of high-fructose corn syrup, it will pay off in the end. Your waistline, brain, organs, and Mother Earth will thank you!
[This is an article I wrote for Lifed.com. You can find the original article here.]