By John Mericle M.D.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Before we get to high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), we will take a look at two other frequently used sweeteners, dextrose and maltodextrin.
Dextrose is more or less an industry term for glucose. Glucose isthe most prevalent sugar in the human and the only molecule that the brain can metabolize. Dextrose is refined from corn starch. It has a very high glycemic index (no surprise since it is glucose) and while it contains no fructose, it is still a simple sugar that is very readily absorbed. It is not as dangerous as sucrose but it still is a highly processed product that should be avoided.
Maltodextrin is also a refined product usually made from either corn or potatoes. It is multiple glucose units somewhat loosely hooked together (a polymer). Because the bonds between the glucose units are very weak, it is also very readily absorbed and has a very high glycemic index. Like dextrose it should be avoided as much as possible. It has been called a "sugar substitute"but that is based on a rather strict definition of sugar as "sucrose." It is a very common additive and I have found it in many packaged foods, including potato chips.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
High fructose corn syrup is made by treating corn (which is usually genetically modified corn) with a variety of enzymes, some of which are also genetically modified, to first extract the sugar glucose and then convert some of it into fructose, since fructose tastes sweeter than glucose. The end result is a mixture of 55% fructose and 45% glucose, that is called "high fructose corn syrup." Improvements in production occurred in the 1980's making it cheaper than most other sweeteners. I remember in the 1980's when the price of Pepsi dropped from about $3 for a sixpack to about $1.50. In 1966 refined sugar such as sucrose was the was the leading sweetener / additive. In 2001 corn sweeteners accounted for 55% of the sweetener market. Consumption of high fructose corn syrup went from zero in 1966 to 62.6 pounds per person in 2001. A 12 ounce soda can contain as much as 13 teaspoons of sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup.
Once again, the dangerous combination: fructose and glucose.
When high fructose corn syrup breaks down in the intestine, we once again find near equal amounts of glucose and fructose entering the bloodstream. As covered in recent newsletters, the fructose short-circuits the glycolytic pathway for glucose. This leads to all the problems associated with sucrose. In addition, HFCS seems to be generating a few of its own problems, epidemic obesity being one of them. Fructose does not stimulate insulin production and also fails to increase "leptin" production, a hormone produced by the body's fat cells. Both of these act to turn off the appetite and control body weight. Also, fructose does not suppress ghrelin, a hormone that works to increase hunger. This interesting work is being done by Peter Havel at UC Davis.
Some of the problems associated with high fructose corn syrup:
Increased LDL's (the bad lipoprotein) leading to increased risk of heart disease.
Altered Magnesium balance leading to increased osteoporosis.
Increased risk of Adult Onset Diabetes Mellitus.
Fructose has no enzymes or vitamins thus robbing the body of precious micro-nutrients.
Fructose interacts with birth control pills and can elevate insulin levels in women on the pill.
Fructose inhibits copper metabolism leading to a deficiency of copper, which can cause increased bone fragility, anemia, ischemic heart disease and defective connective tissue formation among others.
The list below is from The San Francisco Chronicle February 18, 2004
"How much is too much?
The list below shows how much sugar, mostly in the form of high fructose corn syrup, is in each of these single servings.
Sunkist soda: 10 1/2 teaspoons of sugar
Berkeley Farms low-fat yogurt with fruit: 10 teaspoons of sugar
Mott's applesauce: 5 teaspoons of sugar
Slim-Fast chocolate cookie dough meal bar: 5 teaspoons of sugar
1 tablespoon ketchup: 1 teaspoon of sugar
Hansen's Super Vita orange-carrot Smoothie: 10 teaspoons of sugar"
Today's health tip:
Cut down or stop any food or drink with high fructose corn syrup.
High fructose corn syrup is made from genetically modified corn treated with genetically modified enzymes.
Stop or limit all foods with either dextrose or maltodextrin.
Once again, read all your food labels carefully.
Consumption of the limited amounts of fructose that occur in fresh whole organic fruit is not a problem.