Have you seen the newest commercials discussing the benefits of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) because it’s just corn? And that corn is a vegetable? I decided to do a little more investigating into this common food sweetener, especially because new research in the Journal of Cancer Research reports that pancreatic cancer cells readily uses fructose to proliferate. This is not good news considering the amount of foods with high fructose corn syrup!
High fructose corn syrup is made through a process of converting glucose in cornstarch to fructose. The United States is a large consumer of HFCS because of government subsidies of U.S. corn and an import tax on non-U.S. sugar. This combination drives the cost of sugar up and HFCS down. Also, some 85 percent of HFCS is genetically modified.
Many companies use HFCS as a sweetening agent, however with consumers concerned about its health effects, some are switching back to sugar. As an example, Pepsi and Coca Cola offer sodas flavored with real sugar from time-to-time. Hunts took all the HFCS out of its ketchup in 2010, and Jason’s Deli (200 locations in 27 states) is switching over to sugar.
There is a lot of debate about its health benefits or detriments, depending on which side you’re on. Many critics say it can lead to obesity, however studies with sugar show that (duh!) high sugar diets also cause obesity. Some research notes that while both high sugar and high fructose-containing diets lead to weight gain, the HFCS group gained more around the belly and had a greater incidence of insulin resistance.
There is some research that foods containing HFCS have some mercury or other toxins contained within it as reported by both Environmental Health and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. A study presented at the 2009 American Heart Association High Blood Pressure Research Conference reported that it raised blood pressure and metabolic syndrome, mostly in men.
Other research points to HFCS as a cause to abdominal pain and irritable bowel syndrome, particularly in kids and teens although I personally see this in adults too.