Wednesday, November 19, 2008

High Fructose "Corn" Syrup

It is likely that you have all seen the latest commercial that promotes high fructose corn syrup. It is sponsored by the Corn Refiners Association. Because Americans consume so many products that contain this processed sugar, the food industry has created its own marketing plan to counter the bad press it is presently receiving. Take a look:


(I am having a really hard time with this portrayal. One mother is aware enough to know that some bad things have been said about HFCS, but can't articulate it because she didn't research the facts for herself. She is easily defeated by the almost rehearsed response of the sister who is pouring some red punch from a jug that we know is worse than Kool-Aid. Sans the stereotypes, they represent the average American consumers: the uninformed and the ill-informed.)

So, What is High Fructose Corn Syrup?

Brandie Trigger, LMT, Nutritionist of writes the following response:

"Its made from corn"- True. High Fructose Corn Syrup is made from corn syrup that has been highly processed to increase its fructose content then mixed with pure corn syrup, which is 100% glucose. The result is a cheap, widely available and utilized sweetener, so highly refined that saying it is 'made from corn' (in support of its safety) is like saying cocaine is made from a plant so its safe to snort up your nose.

"Doesn't have artificial ingredients"- True. HFCS doesn't have artificial ingredients, however, unless you're buying HFCS off the shelf in its 'raw' form, the products that contain it, most likely DO have artificial ingredients. This is just another attempt to use the emerging interest in 'natural' foods as a ploy to push harmful foods to increase profits. Just because actual HFCS doesn't have 'artificial' ingredients doesn't negate the fact that it is HIGHLY REFINED.

"Like sugar, its fine in moderation"- Questionable.
To say that HFCS is like sugar is hardly accurate- at least in the way we metabolize it. The term 'sugar' is used widely to refer to many varied forms of sugar cane, which is sucrose, a disaccharide made up of glucose and fructose (the same components of HFCS). Our bodies have an innate mechanism that regulates the release of insulin to uptake the glucose and fructose from the bloodstream as enzymes break them down. However, in HFCS, these molecules are already 'broken down' (they're two separate 'monosaccharides' or single sugars), so our body's natural regulation mechanism is not triggered. Rather than absorbing and utilizing the excess fructose, our liver is forced to convert those molecules to fat and store them as such. This places a tremendous burden on the liver, our already overworked and often underpaid amazing organ working to detoxify our body every moment of our lives. Because HFCS is so sweet, the body registers that it has eaten, however, little of the actual 'fuel' the glucose and fructose is actually used at the cellular level, stimulating cravings for guess what.....more sugar!!

Organizations like the Corn Refiners Association is citing studies that were done on lean women only. What about its effect on a developing body and liver, such as in your child?"

Is It Really Worse Than Sugar?

Dr. Mercola ( offers the following:

"By now you’re probably familiar with the advertisements claiming that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is “no worse for you than sugar.” What gets me about this campaign, run by the Corn Refiners Association, is this: What decent food product has ever needed to spend up to $30 million to convince consumers it’s inherently safe to eat?"

"If you need to lose weight, or if you want to avoid diabetes and heart disease, fructose is one type of sugar you’ll want to avoid, particularly in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. Part of what makes HFCS such an unhealthy product is that it is metabolized to fat in your body far more rapidly than any other sugar.

According to Dr. Elizabeth Parks, associate professor of clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern Medical Center, and lead author of a recent study on fructose in the Journal of Nutrition:

"Our study shows for the first time the surprising speed with which humans make body fat from fructose. Once you start the process of fat synthesis from fructose, it's hard to slow it down. The bottom line of this study is that fructose very quickly gets made into fat in the body."

How does this happen?

Well, most fats are formed in your liver, and when sugar enters your liver, it decides whether to store it, burn it or turn it into fat. Fructose, however, bypasses this process and turns full speed ahead into fat.

"It's basically sneaking into the rock concert through the fence," Dr. Parks said in a previous interview with Science Daily. "It's a less-controlled movement of fructose through these pathways that causes it to contribute to greater triglyceride [i.e. fat] synthesis.”

Ironically, the very products that most people rely on to lose weight -- low-fat diet foods -- are often those that contain the most fructose! Even “natural” diet foods often contain fructose as a sweetener."

So, What Can We Do?

1) Educate yourself. Don't be the person who walks around quoting "what they say" about anything. Be informed and make better decisions for the good of your and your family's health.

2) Read the ingredients before you buy a product. Ingredients are listed in the order of highest to lowest percent content. If sugar is in the top 5, put it back on the shelf.

3) Consume more foods that don't have labels like organic fruits and vegetables. (The ingredient list for an apple would say "apple".)

4) Don't drink soda! The average can of soda contains about 40 grams of sugar (8 teaspoons) per serving. The American Medical Association recommends that we limit our daily sugar intake to less than 32 grams per day which is still 25.5 pounds per year!

5) Cook. If you prepare your own food, you will have a better idea of what is in it, right?

6) Use Natural Sweeteners. If it is in a bag or in a packet, leave it alone. Some better options include stevia, agave nectar, and locally-grown honey. Use them in moderation.

More next time...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Diet, Exercise, and Health: Putting It All Together

There is a ton of information floating around about how to get healthy and stay in shape. As a society, we are often pushed into following the next big fitness craze or trying the latest diet pill or plan because we want instant results. I would like to offer the following advice to those who are looking for the best way to get and stay healthy and fit: Find a methodology that works for you.

First, make a list of all ailments, injuries, and imbalances in your body and be specific: tight hamstrings, lower back pain, elevated blood pressure, excess fat, scaly complexion, fatigue, etc. Seeing these things on paper should help you set real goals and identify your reasons for making lifestyle changes.

Secondly, see your doctor/health practitioner for a full evaluation: Give him/her your list and attempt to ascertain the root causes of these conditions. Many of them you already know of, so be honest with yourself.Ask if there are any restrictions before you start or modify your exercise program.

Thirdly, follow your doctor's orders: If your doctor tells you to eliminate certain foods from your diet, then do it. If you are working out with a personal trainer, give them a copy of your doctor's recommendations. Give honest feedback to your doctor, trainer, and others supporting you on this journey. Talk about your fears and your triumphs and seek good advice only from those that you trust.

Customize your ideal plan: Be realistic about your lifestyle and schedule when taking this step. Are you a morning person? Do you travel/commute often for work? Are you a student, parent, spouse with obligations that you juggle? Are you sleeping enough at night? Do you eat prepared meals at home or do you eat dinner out 3+ days per week? What are your dietary vices? What kinds of physical activity do you enjoy? Do you have the discipline to maintain a food journal? Do you need help with time management? Do you eat junk food or larger portions of food when you are stressed, emotional, or in social environments? Do you believe that you will be successful at making changes in your life? Answering these questions honestly after some careful consideration will help you to see exactly what you are up against.

Allow room for error: Engage in some positive self-talk. I read once that for every negative thought you have, you must counter it with 7 positive thoughts in order to neutralize the effects of it. Whatever habits that you have, good or bad, you took time to develop them . So, be patient with yourself and stay the course. If you stumble and fall, then get up and keep moving. This is an internal struggle and you have to listen your instincts.

Start the journey today!
More next time...