Nov 29, 2008

Health - High-Fructose Corn Syrup gets a bad rap

As a registered dietitian in private practice for many decades, I must respectfully disagree with an important statement made by the author of the article "To Tame the Belly, Manage the Brain." The disagreement relates to the statement that "high-fructose corn syrup, which is virtually unavoidable in processed foods, may trigger the brain's reward circuitry more strongly than other types of sugars."

Unfortunately, this comment is completely false and misrepresentative of a harmless sweetener. Uneducated and unresearched statements like these lead to decades of misinformation to the public about relevant and credible nutrition facts.

As I have stated to my clients for many years, high-fructose corn syrup is simply a sweetener with a bad rap!

It Does Not Make Us Fat

There is a lot of solid research out there clearing up a lot of misinformation on this harmless and alternative sweetener. Scientists continue to confirm that high-fructose corn syrup is no different from other sweeteners.

Simply stated, it's not sweeter than sugar, it's not higher in calories, and it's not metabolized in the body differently. There is no difference in fasting glucose, insulin resistance, nutrient intake, satiety, uric acid, appetite, leptin and ghrelin, and there is no difference in food consumed the next day.

Actually, most people don't realize that HFCS is composed of the same sugars found in table sugar and honey -- fructose and glucose -- in virtually the exact same ratios.

What HFCS does not do for us is make us fat! If consumption of HFCS has increased, then so have all other food categories. Obesity is becoming a more global problem each day, yet high-fructose corn syrup is used very little -- or not at all -- in many countries where obesity rates are rising.

Dr. Walter Willett, the chairman of the nutrition department of the Harvard School of Public Health, stated, "if there was no high-fructose corn syrup, I don't think we would see a change in anything important (i.e., incidence of diabetes and obesity). I think there is an overreaction [to HFCS]."

Excessive Calories Are Still Bad

Like sugar or honey, HFCS can only contribute to weight gain when eaten as excessive calories, regardless of the food source, and there is too little exercise. Replacing HFCS with sugar will not reduce obesity or improve health. As Americans, we are simply eating more, 24 percent more total food intake, to be exact. We are not eating disproportionately more HFCS; we are eating more of everything.

I recently saw an energy drink advertising that the product was made without using any HFCS; rather, it used Agave Nectar as its sweetener source. Well, the fact is that Agave Nectar is 74 percent fructose, whereas HFCS-42 is 42 percent fructose and 53 percent glucose. Table sugar is 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose -- so where is the misinformation here?

Here's to accurate nutrition reporting!

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