Thursday, September 25, 2014

High Fructose Corn Syrup Vs. Sugar

By Cliff Walsh

Healthy eating has had a sizable enemy for quite some time, according to a variety of news sources and public advocacy groups. It's called High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). The onslaught against it has been so great that its producers have been attempting to rebrand it, corn sugar, in an attempt to avoid the bad reputation and increase profitability. Researchers at Princeton University released a paper indicating that Americans consume about sixty pounds per year, per person, of HFCS. They also highlight the concurrent rise in usage of HFCS and the rise in obesity rates. I have studied a wide variety of research from both sides of the argument. I will attempt to answer the question, is HFCS worse than sugar?

High Fructose Corn Syrup usage is rampant. The FDA does not restrict its usage at all. HFCS's usage is typically in highly-processed junk food. Common ingredients that are often used with it are fat and salt, as well as a host of other chemicals. Sodas and other flavored/sweetened drinks often contain HFCS. It is also found in sauces, dressings, and breakfast bars and cereals.

HFCS does not differ significantly from sucrose (table sugar) from a chemical standpoint. It has about 5% more fructose and 5% less glucose. It's sweetness level is about the same as honey, while its glycemic index is a fair amount higher than table sugar (75 vs. 60). In order to make HFCS, it must undergo significant processing as all of the fructose contained within the syrup is artificially added. Fructose does not naturally occur in corn starch.

A study done a few years ago, attempted to determine the impact of HFCS relative to glucose. They gave participants 25% of their calories in liquid form: glucose, fructose, or High Fructose Corn Syrup. The results were notable. Those receiving fructose or HFCS were determined to be at greater risk of cardiovascular disease, due to an increase in bad cholesterol. The change was visible within just two weeks of the study.

Research indicates that both sucrose and HFCS are digested quickly, meaning a similar impact on blood sugar levels, despite moderate differences in GI. That being said, we digest these two ingredients in different manners. There is one less step needed to absorb HFCS because the fructose does not need to be separated from the glucose as is necessary with table sugar. This causes what is called lipogenesis, which can lead to diabetes. Research also indicates that HFCS is linked to overindulging because it does not trigger the production and release of insulin.

Overall, research seems to suggest that HFCS is worse than sugar by a sizable degree, but it is important to note that sugar is not a health food. While it is the lesser of two evils in this case, it still carries a host of risks if used in moderate to high levels. Both can be very damaging to our bodies, causing obesity, liver damage, and heart disease, among other dangerous health conditions.

It is important not to take this research and condemn all sugars. Some people avoid fruit, because sugar carries such a bad rap. Research indicates that naturally-occurring sugars are digested differently than unnaturally-added sugar. Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet. It is added sugar that needs to be avoided.

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