“Is high fructose corn syrup really that bad for you?” The answer, says Dr. Mark Hyman, is “yes.”
Hyman, best-selling author and chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine, is yet another expert who is sounding the alarm about the dangers of consuming high fructose corn syrup, an additive that, Hyman says, “is driving most of the epidemic of heart disease, cancers, dementia and…diabetes.”
That’s a fairly impressive list of ailments – much more so than the warnings first sounded a few years ago about HFCS, which simply linked it to obesity. But that in itself was enough to put the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) on red alert, causing the makers of this laboratory sweetener to spend enough money on disinformation and an effort to have its name officially changed to “corn sugar” to have fed a small country for several years.
The CRA campaign was orchestrated to try and make us all believe that HFCS is simply a form of sugar, a misconception helped along by both the media and politicians who have continued to refer to HFCS-sweetened beverages as “sugary drinks.”
But as many consumers know by now, there’s a world of difference between high fructose corn syrup and natural sugar. And recent research, along with opinions offered by experts such as Hyman, have been making the ‘rap sheet’ on HFCS fatter all the time.
What these authorities are specifically warning about are the higher, more damaging fructose amounts in HFCS, which, Hyman says, is “chemically altered and separated,” and “goes right into your liver turning on a factory of fat production called ‘lipogenesis’.” This leads to a “fatty liver,” which he calls the most common disease in America today, one that can result in pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes.
Another well-known M.D., pediatric endocrinologist Robert H. Lustig, an expert in obesity, metabolism and disease, stated in a recent affidavit for a current lawsuit that type 2 diabetes, now the most common form that “accounts for 90 percent of cases of diabetes,” was “unheard of in children prior to 1980; the time when high-fructose corn syrup began to be incorporated into processed foods in America.”
Currently, Lustig says, there are estimated to be 40,000 kids in the U,S. who have the disease. One of them, an unnamed teenager in Buffalo, N.Y., and her mother, recently filed a lawsuit against Cargill and five other manufacturers of HFCS for products liability, failure to warn, gross negligence, reckless conduct and injuries, stating that the HFCS the girl has consumed over her lifetime was a “substantial factor” in her having developed the disease.
Lustig’s earlier affidavit in the case, further detailing the damaging nature of HFCS, along with all the side effects caused by the extra dose of fructose it contains, was another scathing report detailing just how bad this unnatural sweetener can be for the body. Conditions he linked to its use include insulin resistance, “leaky gut syndrome,” and blocking of the “leptin signal” that can lead to overeating.
Tilting the balance of ‘more damaging’ fructose
Dr. Michael Goran, professor of preventive medicine and director of the Childhood Obesity Research Center at the Keck School of Medicine at University of Southern California, knows all too well about that extra, damaging jolt of fructose HFCS delivers.
Goran’s 2010 study, published in the journal Obesity, found fructose amounts in several HFCS-sweetened sodas, such as Coke, Pepsi and Sprite to be as high as 65 percent – almost 20 percent higher than if they actually contained the 55 percent fructose version of HFCS we’ve all been led to believe they do.
“Who would argue that fructose consumption now is higher than it was ten or twenty years ago?” Goran told Food Identity Theft, adding that he wasn’t talking about subtle variations from year to year, but rather “about a huge shift in the food supply that is increasing the amount of fructose that we’re exposed to.”
While Dr. Goran’s research should have provided the definitive “change (in) the conversation,” as the CRA likes to say, further research by Citizens for Health has turned up additional reasons why “high fructose corn syrup” is the perfect name for this laboratory-concocted additive.
Last year, Citizens for Health filed a petition with the FDA asking that the agency take action against food and beverage manufacturers using HFCS with fructose amounts above 55 percent (the highest amount the FDA allows), and also, in the interim, to provide accurate label information (you can read the petition here and sign it by clicking here). The petition asks that the FDA require the manufacturer of a product containing HFCS to state the fructose percentage in its formulation and have the label reflect that information, such as HFCS-55, or HFCS-90.
HFCS 90 is a version of the additive that is 90 percent fructose, described by one manufacturer and CRA-member company as “…the ideal choice for reduced calorie foods such as beverages, jellies and dressings.” This mega-fructose sweetener was also specifically omitted by the Food and Drug Administration from the HFCS GRAS (generally recognized as safe) regulation.
Could HFCS go the way of trans fats?
Last week, the FDA announced that partially hydrogenated oil will no longer be allowed a GRAS designation. What this means is that once given final approval, food manufacturers would eventually be required to remove most artery-clogging trans fat from the processed products Americans eat, or go through the lengthy, costly and time consuming process of submitting a food additive petition for partially hydrogenated oil.
Is it possible that HFCS could follow suit? Maybe. There are many similarities between the proliferation of HFCS and the trans fat saga, including a growing public awareness of its dangers and the decision by various food companies to jump on the NO HFCS bandwagon.
In the meantime, you need to check labels, reject foods that still contain this health-damaging additive, and to show the FDA just how concerned you are about its continued presence in the food supply be sure to sign the Citizens for Health petition.
As Dr. Hyman says, “if we took one thing out of our food supply that would make the biggest difference, it would be high fructose corn syrup.”