Fructose is Pervasive

Something has happened to our food supply and it is so subtle that most of us are not even aware of it.  It is a food substance that is found in virtually every package of prepared foods, frozen foods, canned foods, juices, nutritional beverages, sodas, candy bars and even protein bars.  It has changed the nature of our farming practices and our farm subsidies.  In fact, it is the most heavily subsidized crop at $10 billion a year. (1)

It was invented in Japan in 1966 and introduced to the U.S. in 1975.  Since that time its usage has increased 1000% and the average rate of consumption is 132 calories per day. (2)  For some, this is 10% of their daily caloric intake.  The current annual consumption in the U.S. is 63 pounds per year. (3)

Needless to say, its use is pervasive!

This substance is high fructose corn syrup!

Why Corn Syrup?

With the advent of low fat foods, fructose has been added to make up for the loss of fat.  It is added to sweeten and enhance the flavor of countless products.  It is also a browning agent and usually found in the following forms:

  • High fructose corn syrup (55% fructose)
  • Sucrose (50% fructose)

It can be disguised under other names:

  • Dextrose    Glucose
  • Maltose    Fructose
  • Maltodextrin

It is chemically made by splitting cornstarch with a weak acid.  It is popular among food manufacturers because it is inexpensive, blends quite easily and maintains its liquidity.  Corn sweeteners are on the GRAS list and thus the FDA claims they are safe to use.  Our imports of corn are down because the European Union refuses to purchase our corn as much of it is genetically modified.  Thus, there is a surplus of corn and it is being bought up by the food processors.  There is no end in sight to its inclusion in our diet.

Corn Syrup and Obesity

According to University of California San Francisco pediatric endocrinologist and fructose researcher, Dr. Robert Lustig, it is no coincidence that our obesity epidemic has coincided with the addition of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) to our food supply.  He cites research that shows that fructose suppresses leptin production which is the hormone that signals satiety. (4).  This means that we may not know when we are full and still thing that we are hungry.

HCFS also forces the liver to produce more insulin.  This is the hormone that is responsible for escorting blood sugar into the cells.  But, when it is overproduced it stores blood sugar as fat and increases appetite.  Eventually, this can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes.  This vicious cycle combined with overeating among fructose consumers may be one of the reasons for the rise in obesity.

Dr. Lustig claims that obesity starts in infancy with infant formulas that are typically high in corn syrup.  Note the ingredients label on a can of “Isomil” baby formula:

43.2%              Corn syrup solids

14.6%              Soy protein isolate

11.5%              High oleic safflower oil

10.3%              Sugar (sucrose)

8.4%                Soy oil

8.1%                Coconut oil

(5) The child’s consumption of fructose doesn’t stop when off of the infant formula.  Sweetened juices and sodas soon take the place of the formula and thus a vicious cycle of fat storage and overeating takes place.  A vicious cycle of addiction to fructose sweetened foods isn’t far behind!

Corn Syrup and Aging

One of the more damaging aspects of fructose corn syrup consumption is the effect it has on the rate of aging.  High fructose corn syrup in high amounts on a daily basis can increase free radical production in the body.  It produces special types of free radicals called amino glycosylated end products (AGE’s).  These are sticky proteins that make the blood platelets stick together and thicken the blood.  The AGE’s are implicated in all of the diseases of aging including diabetes, heart disease, atherosclerosis and cancer.

Alan Gay, a nutrition oriented physician and author, in his article entitled “Adverse Effects of Dietary Fructose” cites some research that demonstrated that the “glycosylation of proteins in the body was 7.5 times greater in the presence of fructose.”  He concludes from his analysis of some recent research studies that “long-term fructose consumption may accelerate the aging process.” (6)

What is the Answer?

Dr. Robert Lustig, who is on a campaign to raise the awareness of the dangers of consuming high levels of high fructose corn syrup, has a particular fondness for children’s health issues.  He decidedly states:

“Children cannot be blamed or expected to take personal responsibility for their dietary behavior in an environment when the foods they are offered – especially cheaply prepared “fast foods” that are full of sugar and devoid of fiber – are toxic.  The concept of personal responsibility is not tenable in children.  No child chooses to be obese.”  (7)

What Can We Do?

In order to change the situation, it would take an act of government to put pressure on the food industry to make changes.  It would also impact agriculture and the entire political climate in the United States.

Our best solution is to eat a diet of wholesome fresh foods and not consume fruit juices or sweetened beverages nor feed them to our families.  When in doubt, eat fresh foods!

References

  1. Wilson, K. The tragic abuse of corn, July 20, 2005, Organic Consumer’s Association, at www.organicconsumers.org/Corn/abused072705.cfm
  1. Bray, G. How Bad is Fructose? American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, October, 2007,  Vol. 86:895-896.
  1. Lustig, R. Seminar Notes from March 2008.
  2. Bray, G. et.al., Consumption of high fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, April 2004, Vol.79, No.34:537-543.
  1. Lustig, R. op.cit.
  2. Gaby, A. Dietary Effects of Fructose, Alternative Medicine Review, December 2005, Vol. Vol.10, No.4: p.294-306, Thorn Research, Inc.
  3. Brown, P. Childhood obesity caused by “toxic environment” of Western diets, study says, UCSF Media Advisory, August 11, 2006, retrieved May 9, 2009 at News.ucsf.edu/releases;Childhood-obesity-caused-by-toxic-environment-of-western-diets-study-says/

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