They finally said it: high fructose corn syrup is worse than sugar

CC BY 2.0 Robert Couse-Baker

It's not fun being the food police.

Sometimes it's just a big bummer to harp on the bad news about our way of life, our food choices, and the teetering civilization that we all depend on but that seems sometimes so badly planned and executed.

Take poor old high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). It probably seemed like a great -- brilliant -- idea to the two men who came up with this sweet-as-sugar sweetener in the 1950s. What could be better than a sugar from cheap, subsidized corn?

A sugar from beets or sugar cane, apparently. Since HFCS has been commercially available since the 1970s, and sweeteners in our food supply increased 25 percent in the last quarter of the twentieth century, we've had plenty of time to start seeing the results of all the HFCS out there. And they don't seem too good.

For this latest University of Utah study, reported in the Oregonian, researchers fed a group of female mice a fructose-glucose (HFCS) diet – i.e. 25 percent of calories – while the control group had a sucrose (table sugar) diet. Female mice on the first diet were almost two times more likely to die than those on the sucrose diet, and in addition they produced fewer babies.

HFCS is different from sugar in its molecular structure, and thus affects the body differently -- the rise of global obesity is correlated with the rise of use of HFCS in our food supply. That's because in HFCS the fructose and glucose are separated which allows the fructose to go straight to the liver and be converted to fat, according to Dr. Mark Hyman.

Sodas are one of the biggest sources of HFCS in the average diet - and it seems sodas and other mainstream drinks contain remarkably high levels of fructose.

And there are other nasty physical effects of HFCS being documented by science.

they-finally-said-it-high-fructose-corn-syrup-is-worse-than-sugarMike Mozart/CC BY 2.0

Food manufacturers are starting to take note, creating or re-formulating products where they are highlighting the use of "real sugar" -- as opposed to HFCS -- as a positive benefit.

Another, added benefit of cutting HFCS from diets is that most of it is from genetically modified (GM) corn. While science hasn't yet shown conclusively that genetically modified foods are worse for the body than non GM ones, that could happen, as happened with good old HFCS.

Luckily, organic foods are by law still not allowed to have genetically modified ingredients in them, so eating mostly organic foods will limit your consumption of HFCS and GMs.

Tags: Food Safety

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