Finally, we are in the full swing of summer! After the spring we had, I know I’m hoping for a long rain-free summer full of barbeques, fun times, and the sun. Usually in the summer, especially when I was a kid, I remember going to the lake quite a bit and eating unhealthy things, which let’s face it, is a common thing to do in the summer time. Which brings me to my topic of discussion for this month and that is High Fructose Corn Syrup or HFCS.
HFCS is in a TON of processed foods. If you’ve ever taken the time to look at the nutrition label and read the ingredients it just might astound you. Some other sweeteners on food labels are fructose, fruit juice concentrates, sugar, syrup, corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose, and honey being the lesser evil out of all listed. I have seen HFCS on foods such as ice cream, bread, cookies, crackers, deli meats, juices, sodas, breakfast bars, cereals, yogurts, peanut butter, ketchup, jellies, cheeses and literally hundreds of other products. HFCS is cheap, has a longer shelf life, and is sweeter than sugar.
HFCS really took off in the 1970’s when food manufacturers began replacing HFCS with sugar in their products. Since its inception, obesity has risen dramatically through the 1970’s, 1980’s, 1990’s to today.[i] Now this will really open your eyes. Ready? When HFCS is heated it produces a chemical called Hydroxymethylfurfural or HMF for short. This chemical has been found to kill honey bees. Beekeepers have been using HFCS to feed the bees instead of sugar because it’s cheaper and has a longer shelf life. In order for HFCS to have some of the chemical HMF it needs to be cooked to 120 degrees.[ii] Not very hot is it? Now the question is, is HMF dangerous to humans? HMF has been shown that when broken down by the human body to cause substances that may be more harmful and HMF may cause damage to DNA. Now to process HFCS it has to be subjected to heat. So therefore HFCS may already have HMF before you’ve purchased it off of the shelves. Plus, we cook the food AGAIN therefore, exposing HFCS to another round of temperatures over 120 degrees.[iii] Think that’s not so bad? Well there’s more.
A recent study was done at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) with rats. They trained rats for 5 days to traverse a complex maze. After this, they split that group into 2 groups. One group of rats was fed HFCS in their drinking water for 6 weeks while the other group was fed flax seed oil. After the 6 weeks the same rats were then tested to see how they performed at navigating the maze. They discovered that the rats that were fed with HFCS had reduced synaptic function of the brain. Meaning the brain cells of the rats could not signal each other properly and thus, could not remember the correct route they learned 6 weeks earlier. Not only that but, the researchers discovered that when the rats weren’t supplemented with DHA and Omega 3’s, the fructose in HFCS lead to insulin resistance because the fructose affected the brains neuronal function to absorb insulin. This is a cause towards Diabetes.
Remember watching those commercials about HFCS? Remember them claiming its “all natural” and “just like sugar”? If what I listed above hasn’t changed your thoughts about HFCS consider this. Another recent study was done by Renee Dufault from the Food Ingredient and Health Research Institute or (FIHRI) and her colleagues. They looked at how some foods and environmental factors affect the development of children, particularly neurodevelopment, and how these factors change the body’s ability to eliminate heavy metals and toxins from the body. This research involves how the body responds from diet, environmental, and genetic factors. What they found was HFCS depletes the body’s natural mineral of Zinc.[v] Zinc is responsible for ridding the body of Arsenic (which is extremely common in well waters in Maine), Cadmium, Aluminum, Mercury, and other toxins. In 2009, HFCS was found to be a source of heavy metal poisoning as well. The heavy processing required to form HFCS, requires the use of Mercury and caustic soda chemicals. Because they are used in the process, ultimately, those two brain-destroying chemicals are left in the final product.[vi] So just imagine what our children eat. Juices, crackers, cookies, breads, sodas, even Ketchup among many others, have HFCS in them. Not only does HFCS affect zinc levels in our bodies and children’s but HFCS also depletes calcium and other vitamins and minerals.[vii] Now since our bodies are depleted of important vitamins and minerals our immune systems are weaker. Not to mention the other toxins we come in contact with everyday from pesticides and flame retardant material in bedding and clothing.
Recently, the HFCS industry asked the federal government if they could change the name of High Fructose Corn Syrup to just “Corn Sugar”.[ix] Now I don’t know about you but from a consumer’s stand point “Corn Sugar” makes a processed sweetener seem better than hearing High Fructose Corn Syrup. This is mostly because the HFCS industry is worried about the bad rap that HFCS has been getting recently due to these recent findings about HFCS. Also, the soda 7UP had to drop its “all natural” ingredient claim because it had HFCS in its product.
In closing, I know this newsletter was a bit longer but I thought this information was just too important not to share. Some good natural alternatives to sugar and HFCS are organic honey and Stevia. Stevia is an herb from South America that is estimated to be 150-400 times sweeter than sugar. It has been used by millions of people for hundreds of years with no apparent bad effects.[xi] In short, please be aware of what you’re putting in to your bodies. Have a great rest of July and enjoy the warm weather because we all know it doesn’t last nearly long enough! As always keep this in mind, you are what you eat.
Dr. Benjamin J. Myerowitz D.C.Return To Blog