HFCS in manufactured food may lead to health issues, study says


Image courtesy of Flickr

Image courtesy of Flickr

Have you ever thought about your high blood sugar being linked to daily intake of soft drinks and processed foods? A study published in Metabolism May 2012 issue shows that consumption of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a sweetener commonly used in manufactured food and beverages, may link to a variety of health issues such as diabetes and metabolic effects.

According to the research, “Effects of high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose on the pharmacokinetics of fructose and acute metabolic and hemodynamic responses in healthy subjects”, excessive fructose intake is one of the factors driving the increases in diseases like hypertension, obesity, diabetes and kidney disease.

Specifically, the increase in fructose consumption is primarily due to the increased use of HFCS in Western diet.
“HFCS is very similar to table sugar, but they are processed so they actually have a higher percentage of fructose,” said Emily Biever, dietitian at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center.

While table sugar has 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose, With the process, HFCS has 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose, Biever said.

“The most common and the most popular way that people are consuming HFCS is in soda, so the majority of soda contain the HFCS. You also see it in a lot of package food, like candy, cookie, cake. So it’s a common sweetener used in a lot of processed food,” she said.

Although researches implicated that higher fructose systemic concentrations would lead to increased fructose-induced adverse metabolic effects, Biever said that there is no evidence to link consumption of HFCS to diabetes or obesity directly.

“It might not quite fair yet to say there is a direct, positive link between HFCS and type 2 diabetes,” said Biever. “People who typically consume a lot of HFCS are also consuming a lot of food that can lead to diabetes. So it leads to something called metabolic syndrome, and that syndrome includes things like heart disease and diabetes.”

The main reason why companies prefer to use HFCS rather than table sugar is because that as a corn based product, HFCS is much cheaper to produce, Biever said.

“We recommend that kids do not consume more than 50 grams of added sugar a day. That is, we say, no more than 200 calories in from sugar a day,” Biever said. “If you look at that, one can of soda is about 50 grams. So if someone drinks a can of soda, they are done for the whole day in terms of their added sugar intake.”
Biever said that the best thing consumers could do is to start reading the nutrition fact labels on food to choose the products with smaller amount of sugar.

“All products that are packaged are required to have a nutrition fact on the product so that people know how much sugar or protein or whatever they are consuming,” she said. “What I would say is to educate people on reading the nutrition fact and becoming aware that if a certain product has 30, 50 grams of sugar, that is probably too much sugar, and we will find another product that has less sugar to replace it.”

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About Ling-Mei Wong 黃靈美

Editor of the Sampan, the only bilingual Chinese-English newspaper in New England

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  1. Walter Mackey

    So important that issues are being raised with HFCS and the risk it carries, there are many better options out there to put into our beverages.

  2. David Gillespie Big Fat Lies

    Great to see an article commenting on the ACTUAL science of sugar and not the hype of eliminating it totally, calling it a poison and then blaming it for all modern disease!

    Great to see scientists talking about the shortfalls in research and where it needs to be directed and not just overstating or cherry-picking evidence.

    Well done.

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