Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why all the hype about high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)?

Another current health fad is avoiding anything that contains high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  HFCS is corn syrup that has been modified by enzymes, converting glucose to fructose.  Most HFCS used in the USA is 55% fructose and 45% glucose. It is used as a cheap sugar substitute in breads, cereals, salad dressings, soda pop, and many, many more processed foods.  It has the same calories per weight as regular table sugar (sucrose). Sucrose is composed of 50% glucose and 50% fructose.  There is only a 5% difference in the fructose content between HFCS and sucrose. (And by the way, fructose is the same sugar found in fruit!)  Calorie for calorie, they are exactly the same.  A few studies in mice and rats have shown that animals fed HFCS gain a little bit more weight when compared to sucrose-fed animals.  These studies have been fairly small and need to be repeated.  The real danger of HFCS is that it lurks in literally everything. You could be eating lots of it and not even be aware of it. Seriously, I bought some Italian bread crumbs the other week and realized later that it had HFCS in it!  Why do my bread crumbs need added sugar? 
If you eat sucrose (table sugar) instead of HFCS, you will still gain weight and still get diabetes and still rot your teeth. "Throwback" soda or old-fashioned soda made with sucrose is still a sugary, high-calorie drink, although I think it tastes better so it's more "worth it."  HFCS is dangerous because it's a sneaky, pervasive sweetener that can blindside you from anywhere.  However, it is not especially bad for you compared to regular sugar. HFCS has done the impossible task of making "real sugar" seem like a health food! How in the world did that happen?   

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