It seems to appear everywhere in just about any item that you might buy from the supermarket. But, if there is one ingredient that you really must stay away from, it is High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). Steering clear of HFCS at all costs will not only help you to look and feel healthier, it will also prevent you from acquiring many other serious health issues which are linked to this artificial yet prolific ingredient. Let’s look more closely at why you need to stay away from high fructose corn syrup for optimal health.
What is High Fructose Corn Syrup
Before I go on to explain why HFCS is so bad and the high fructose corn syrup health risks, I need to explain exactly what this sinister ingredient is. High fructose corn syrup is a cheaply produced sweetener and preservative made from corn (maize), which is usually genetically modified. To produce HFCS from corn, it is first milled to produce corn starch which is then further processed to create corn syrup, a substance that consists mostly of glucose. To make it sweeter and more similar in taste to regular sugar (sucrose), some of that glucose is converted to fructose, using enzymes, and the resulting product is high fructose corn syrup.
High fructose corn syrup is found in many of the processed foods we eat. These high fructose corn syrup foods are often high in calories but low in nutritional value. Think snack foods, fruit-flavoured items, condiments and soda- these are high fructose corn syrup foods which are sweetened using this artificial ingredient. HFCS is so widely found in the food we eat because it is cheap and efficient for food producers to use, and because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has listed HFCS as “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS), meaning manufacturers can include it in their products (even though the high fructose corn syrup dangers are huge when it comes to our health!).
High Fructose Corn Syrup Facts
Looking a bit more scientifically, high-fructose corn syrup contains 45% glucose and 55% fructose, which is a natural simple sugar found in honey, fruits, and vegetables. However, unlike the fructose found in fruits and vegetables which also contain vitamins, nutrients, antioxidants and fibre which slow down the absorption of fructose by the body, the fructose in HFCS actually requires extra effort to digest and the body must deplete its own store of minerals and enzymes to absorb the fructose properly. Therefore, instead of providing the body with nutrition, HFCS creates deficiencies.
By consuming HFCS through the packaged and processed food you eat, it is adding unnatural amounts of fructose to your diet, which the human body has not evolved to handle properly, meaning that health issues will arise when HFS is consumed excessively.
Like other added sugars, high fructose corn syrup is “empty” calories, that is, it is only calories but no essential nutrients which you get from eating nutrient dense foods that are low in calories but high in things your body can use to function healthily.
When we compare high fructose corn syrup vs sugar (the regular granulated kind) there are only tiny differences between the most common type of high fructose corn syrup and regular sugar, which means many of the harmful side effects of HFCS also apply to table sugar.
High Fructose Corn Syrup Health Risks
Some experts believe our high consumption of HFCS is contributing to our obesity problem, and increased rates of diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. It is also to blame for a lot of other negative health impacts: it can suppress the immune system, weakens eyesight, cause hypoglycemia, exacerbates arthritis, contributes to the development of osteoporosis, increases cholesterol, leads to prostate and ovarian cancer, speeds up skin aging, increases fluid retention, causes poor concentration, and leads to mood swings and depression.
The Biggest High Fructose Corn Syrup Side Effect
One of the major side effects of consuming HFCS is that is causes weight gain. It does this in a number of ways. Firstly, it is due to the way our body processes insulin. Insulin is a major hormone in the body, and is released in high levels any time you ingest what would be considered a simple carbohydrate (sugar, sugary foods and HFCS). Two things happen in our body when insulin levels are spiked. First, the fat burning process is shut down, so that the sugar that has just been eaten can be immediately used for energy. Then, insulin takes all that sugar and puts it into your muscles. As soon as the muscles’ energy stores are full, the excess sugars are converted to fat and stored in our bodies.
Consistently eating foods that contain sugar and HCFC causes continued raised levels of insulin in the body, which leads to insulin resistance and that in turn increases the deposits of fat in the fat cells.
Another factor is that fructose causes resistance to a hormone called leptin, which hides existing fat in the body’s cells from the brain. So the brain doesn’t send the correct messages to the rest of our body, which leads us to increase our food intake unnecessarily, and also causes decreased fat burning.
The next problem with HFCS is that it does not make you feel satiated after meals. It is essentially void of any nutrition whatsoever. It does not lower levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and it doesn’t reduce blood flow in the centres of the brain that control appetite, which again causes us to eat more than we should. Of course the more we eat that we don’t metabolise, the more fat that gets stored on our body.
Lastly, there are cravings. Sugar can cause addiction in many people and this causes us to seek out more (sugary) foods to eat to indulge the cravings that we have. The problem is, the more sugar that is consumed the bigger the problem that eating sugar becomes. Insulin and leptin resistance increases over time and the addiction becomes stronger.
All of this means that HFCS consumption causes people to over-eat, leads to imbalances in energy levels which can also lead to eating more than is needed, and causes excess fat to be stored in the body, leading to obesity.
At the end of the day, cutting out high-fructose corn syrup from your diet may be one of the easiest and most effective ways for you to lose weight, improve your health and lower your risk of disease. Also avoid artificial sweeteners, and instead opt for ingredients such as xylitol, stevia and honey which are natural sweeteners without the harmful side effects that come with consuming high fructose corn syrup.
This might also mean changing your dietary habits and preparing foods at home so you avoid packaged goods which invariably will contain HFCS. If you join us at Bootcamp, you will get to enjoy delicious, fresh food totally free from HFCS. You will be able to see for yourself that it is possible to stay away from high fructose corn syrup, eat clean and whole foods without artificial ingredients that make your unhealthy, and you will start to see how good you feel without excess sugar and high fructose corn syrup in your diet.