High Fructose Corn Syrup: It's Still Junk

Like the air we breathe High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is seemingly all around us. According to the Melanie Warner of The New York Times even unlikely foods like yogurt and salad dressing contain “the Devil’s Candy.” Most people contend HFCS has helped spawn the current obesity epidemic, but others don’t see such a connection.

Take Dr. Walter Willet for example:

"There's no substantial evidence to support the idea that high-fructose corn syrup is somehow responsible for obesity," said Dr. Walter Willett, the chairman of the nutrition department of the Harvard School of Public Health and a prominent proponent of healthy diets. "If there was no high-fructose corn syrup, I don't think we would see a change in anything important. I think there's this overreaction."

Dr. Willett says that he is not defending high-fructose corn syrup as a healthy ingredient, but that he simply thinks that the product is no worse than the refined white sugar it replaces, since both offer easily consumed calories with no nutrients in them. High fructose corn syrup's possible link to obesity is the only specific health problem that the ingredient's critics have cited to date — and experts say they believe that this link is tenuous, at best.

Dr. Fuhrman spends very little time differentiating HFCS from traditional refined white sugar, explaining that both are dangerous and should be avoided; each one contributes to disease. Consider this excerpt from Eat to Live:

Refined sugars include table sugar (sucrose), milk sugar (lactose), honey, brown sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, molasses, corn sweeteners, and fruit juice concentrates. Even the bottled and boxed fruit juices that many children drink are poor food; with no significant nutrient density, they lead to obesity and disease.1

But for skeptics of the overall association between HFCS and obesity, check out this section from a previous post: Adapted from Dr. Fuhrman’s book Disease Proof Your Child.

Obesity rates have risen in tandem with soda consumption, and in the last twenty years the consumption of soft drinks by teenagers had doubled.2 Twelve to nineteen-year-old boys consume thirty-four teaspoons of sugar a day in their diet, and about half of that comes from soft drinks. Children start drinking soft drinks at a very young age, and advertisements and promotions by the soft drink manufacturers are aggressively marketed to the young.

Source: Data from the National Soft Drink Association, Beverage World, published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (www.cspinet.org)

Soft drinks and processed foods are full of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS is not only fattening, but this inexpensive and ultra-concentrated sugar has no resemblance to real food made by nature. It is another experiment thrust upon our unsuspecting children with unknown dangerous consequences. Besides sugar, corn syrup, and chemicals, these drinks often contain caffeine, an addictive stimulant. Children crave more and more as they get older. By adolescence most children have become soft-drink addicts. It is no surprise that six out of the seven most popular soft drinks contain caffeine. Contrast this high level of sugary “liquid candy” with the meager intake of fresh produce by children and teenagers, and it is no surprise that we have an obesity epidemic beyond all expectations.

1. Berenson, G. S., S. R. Srinivasan, W. Bao, et al. 1998. Association between multiple cardiovascular risk factors and atherosclerosis in children and young adults. N. Eng. J. Med. 338: 1650-56.

2. French SA, Lin BH, Guthrie JF. National trends in soft drink consumption among children and adolescents age 6 to 17 years: prevalence, amounts, and sources, 1977/1978 to 1994/1998. J Am Diet Assoc 2003;103(10):1326-1331.
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Comments (3) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Emily - July 3, 2006 1:13 PM

Like the air we breathe High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is seemingly all around us.

Yes, and it's especially insidious for those of us that are sensitive/intolerant to corn and corn products.

Great post. Gives me yet another reason to avoid the stuff...

anet - July 4, 2006 11:48 AM

if you are eating something w/ an ingredient list ...proceed cautiously--theres a strong possibility that it is junk...if the ingredient list has HFCS on it...there's your signal-- now YOU KNOW its JUNK.

che - July 17, 2007 3:36 PM

I went off HFCS for more than three months. Without changing my diet, I lost a couple of pounds a month and felt much better. I also noticed that I did not have as much (head/chest) congestion. This would not have raised major flags until by mistake I had some HFCS in the course of a couple of days. The results: third day after consuming, I had fairly bad head and chest congestion. I can make no solid link, but as soon as it was out of my system, I cleared up. I am currently not consuming HFCS and feel fine. Interesting to say the least!

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