High fructose corn syrup — an ingredient in everything from soda to ketchup to pickles — has such a bad reputation that the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) wants to change the name of the popular sweetener to “corn sugar.”
The CRA argues that high fructose corn syrup is simply sugar and is no more harmful than any other popular full-calorie sweetener, like sugars derived from beets or sugar cane.
While some data links high fructose corn syrup to higher rates of obesity, some cancers and diabetes, compared with sugar, the evidence is inconclusive — though that doesn’t ease the public’s fears. The AP reports that “Americans’ consumption of corn syrup has fallen to a 20-year low on consumer concerns that it is more harmful or more likely to cause obesity than ordinary sugar, perceptions for which there is little scientific evidence.”
But some nutritionists and endocrinologists who specialize in diabetes argue that high fructose corn syrup tricks people into eating more food. When glucose (contained in sugar) enters the bloodstream, it stimulates production of insulin and of a hormone called leptin, which signals to the brain that the body has eaten enough. By contrast, the fructose contained in high fructose corn syrup doesn’t stimulate the production of leptin. Studies also show that fructose is processed into fat more quickly than is glucose.
Due to manufacturing, high fructose corn syrup contains 45% glucose, which is found naturally in corn, and 55% fructose. The body processes these sugars differently.
The American Medical Association says there is not enough evidence to suggest that high fructose corn syrup is linked to poor health. And other experts argue that other full-calorie sweeteners are no better.
“Soda pop sweetened with sugar is every bit as conducive to obesity as soda pop sweetened with high fructose corn syrup,” Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told the AP.
The real problem is getting sugar — of all kinds — out of our diet. Because high fructose corn syrup has a long shelf life and is cheaper to produce than cane sugar, it’s a popular ingredient in wide variety of processed and packaged foods. The U.S. Department of Agriculture calculated that the average American consumes 35.7 pounds of high fructose corn syrup per year.
For more, see the Mayo Clinic’s advice on high fructose corn syrup consumption.
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