Have you seen the recently, heavily played advertisement regarding high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), brought to you by the Corn Refiners Association?
A boyfriend is picnicing with his girlfriend, who hands him a popsicle containing high-fructose corn syrup. He questions her love for him: why would she give him a popsicle with this ingredient, since we all know how bad it is for us? When she quizzes him on exactly why it's bad if it's "made from corn", he is stumped. So, they live happily every after as they share the now healthy (?!) high fructose corn syrup-laden popsicle with all smiles.
Well, let me set the story straight, and offer the stumped boyfriend a few pieces of information as to why high fructose corn syrup is not the ingredient-of-choice, as the Corn Refinders Association would like us to think.
Facts on HFCS
- High fructose corn syrup did begin life as a "natural" product (milled corn), then after a high level of processing and the use of at least one genetically modified (GMO) enzyme...it becomes high fructose corn syrup.
- As there are no conclusive studies showing that this substance is any worse than other heavily processed products in causing adverse health conditions, according to the Mayo Clinic, "animal studies have shown a link between increased consumption of high-fructose corn syrup and adverse health effects, such as diabetes and high cholesterol. However, the evidence is not as clear in human studies."
From the American Dietetic Association and American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,
- "In 2000, the intake of added sugars for the average American was two and a half times that recommended by the Dietary Guidelines, and nearly half of the added sugars came from high fructose corn syrup."
- The digestion, absorption, and metabolism of fructose differ from those of glucose. Fructose does not stimulate insulin secretion or enhance leptin production, which may suggest that dietary fructose may contribute to increased energy intake and weight gain. Furthermore, calorically sweetened beverages may enhance caloric overconsumption.
The most recent study I could find (March 2008) resulted in finding "no substantial short-term metabolic effects with the consumption of HFCS" (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition), which is a relief since the consumption of HFCS has increased by 1000% from 1970 to 1990! Studies are still being conducted on the long-germ adverse effects of HFCS.
Another recent study (January 2008) in the AJP found "fructose consumption in drinks (particularly soda) acutely elevates blood pressure in healthy young men and women" (ages 21-33 years old). This was a small study (15 subjects), and more tests need to be conducted to replicate this finding.
Lastly, there may be growing evidence that "dietary fructose intake is a possible risk factor for gout".
The bottom line
- The jury is still out on the negative health effects of high fructose corn syrup
- HFCS, in and of itself, has not been proven to cause adverse health effects in humans (as it has in animal studies), but the products it is in are highly processed, low-nutritional value, empty calorie, high sugar, high caloric foods. These foods are usually sodas and fruit-flavored drinks (not 100% fruit juice). These foods are also usually fruit in heavy syrup instead of fruit canned in its own juice.
- Only a temporal association (occurring at the same time, not a causal relationship) has been found between increased intake of HFCS over the past 30+ years and the rise in obesity. Researches think this is due to the caloric consumption of foods that contain HFCS instead of this one ingredient alone.
Now that you are armed with this factual information from leading clinical nutrition journals: does this make you want to have a picnic with your loved one, and purposefully serve them food containing HFCS? Probably not. Studies (as of today) show that HFCS consumption may not adversely effect your health (unless you are a laboratory animal) as an ingredient, but this does not mean it is an ingredient that should be promoted!!
Read up on it, if you'd like, and draw your own conclusions! I included the professional peer-reviewed journals that I consulted below:
Bray, GA, Nielsen, SJ, Popkin, BM. (2004) Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: 79,537-543
Stanhope, KL, Griffen, SC, Bair, BR, Swarbrick, MM, Keim, NL, Havel, PJ. (May 2008). Twenty-four-hour endocrine and metabolic profiles following consumption of high-fructose corn syrup-, sucrose-, fructose-, and glucose-sweetened beverages with meals. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 87, No. 5, 1194-1203.
Brown, CM, Dulloo, AG, Yepuri, Gayatrhi, Montani, J-P. (January 2008). Fructose ingestion acutely elevates blood pressure in healthy young humans
AJP- Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology. 294: R730-R737
Underwood, Martin. (February 2008). Editorial: Sugary drinks, fruit, and increased risk of gout. BMJ 2008;336:285-286.