High-Fructose Corn Syrup’s Bitter Bite

     I honestly believe the biggest threat to America today is not terrorism or global warming, but our health (or lack thereof). Granted, this may be my own bias as a physician, however the facts are disturbing nonetheless.

     As a country, our waistlines are growing rapidly. According to the CDC, 35.7% of U.S. adults are obese. In 2012, more than 1/3 of children and adolescents were obese or overweight. As a result, it’s estimated that by 2020, 52% of all U.S. adults will have diabetes or pre-diabetes!

     Healthcare alone consumes approximately 18% of our gross domestic product. That ranks us number one in the world. This averages out to spending $8,745 per person. That’s $2,500 more per person than Sweden, coming in at second place.

     Throwing more money at healthcare does not seem to be helping. There has to be a shift in our paradigm of health. That shift should begin with what we are putting in our mouths. We will start with fructose.

     Fructose is a naturally occurring sugar found in fruit. It’s poorly absorbed from the digestive tract when consumed alone. However, absorption improves when fructose is consumed in combination with glucose, as in sucrose (table sugar) and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

     According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the consumption of HFCS has increased more than 1000% between 1970 and 1990. During this time, overall obesity rates have doubled. HFCS now represents more than 40% of caloric sweeteners added to foods and beverages.

Trends in intakes of added sugar (sucrose) and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) by Americans aged ≥2

  Estimated intakes of total fructose (•), free fructose (▴), and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS, ♦) in relation to trends in the prevalence of overweight (▪) and obesity (x) in the United States.

Estimated intakes of total fructose (•), free fructose (▴), and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS, ♦) in relation to trends in the prevalence of overweight (▪) and obesity (x) in the United States.

     If you consumed your recommended daily allowance of fruits and veggies, you’d get, at highest estimations, about 15 grams of fructose. This is far from the average of 73 grams most teenagers get daily from HFCS-sweetened drinks.

A few other facts about fructose:

     When you eat 120 calories of glucose, less than one calorie is stored as fat. Compare this to 120 calories of fructose, which results in 40 calories being stored as fat. After eating fructose, 100 percent of the metabolic burden rests on your liver.

     But with glucose, this is only 20 percent. Every cell in your body, including your brain, utilizes glucose. Therefore, much of it is "burned up" immediately after you consume it.

     By contrast, fructose is turned into free fatty acids (FFAs), VLDL (the damaging form of cholesterol), and triglycerides, which get stored as fat. The fatty acids created during fructose metabolism accumulate as fat in your liver and muscle, causing insulin resistance and fatty liver disease.

Other issues surrounding HFCS:

• More than one study has detected unsafe mercury levels in HFCS.

• Crystalline fructose, a super-potent form of fructose the food and beverage industry is now using, may contain arsenic, lead, chloride and heavy metals.

• Nearly all corn syrup is made from genetically modified corn.

     Navigating a healthier lifestyle can often be confusing. Removing HFCS from your diet is one simple thing you can do to move you in the right direction.

Dr. Ashley May, ND is a naturopathic doctor who specializes in weight loss, physical therapy, and family medicine. He can be found at the Alaska Center for Natural Medicine. To learn more about Dr. May, call 907.452.3600 or check out his bio here. Make an appointment today!