Thursday, July 16, 2009

4. High Fructose Corn Syrup: Top 5 Foods to Avoid

It would be a great mistake on my part to write about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) without first addressing the problem of Type 2 Diabetes. As you will see, this condition and HFCS are deeply related.

Type 2 Diabetes aka Adult Onset Diabetes aka Non Insulin Dependent Diabetes effects 23.6 million Americans(1). New Diabetes cases have doubled in the last decade, and many scientists are calling it an epidemic (2). Type 2 Diabetes is brought on by poor lifestyle choices. Too much sugary, processed foods and a sedentary lifestyle are huge risk factors. It should be noted that Type 2 Diabetes is both preventable and manageable WITHOUT medication or insulin injections.

In order for glucose to enter our cells it must have insulin, which acts as a key it to open the cell door. However, after years of a diet high in sugar and processed foods, the cells become more and more unresponsive to insulin. Insulin knocks on the cell’s door so frequently, the cell decides that insulin is essentially “crying wolf”. Since the sugar cannot get into the cell, it continues to float around in the bloodstream, causing damage to the small capillaries in the eyes, kidneys, heart, and brain.

If you breakdown the names listed above, the reason this form of Diabetes is a called Adult Onset is because it was previously thought that this condition could only develop in adults. However, frightening statistics have been emerging regarding Type 2 cases in younger and younger adults. According to National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, 200,000 young people under the age of 20 have Type 2 Diabetes. This is not surprising when obesity is the number one risk factor for diabetes and 1 in 5 teens between the agea of 13 and 19 are obese(3).

Now, how does HFCS fit into this Diabetes mess? In the early 1970’s food manufactures discovered that HFCS was both cheaper and sweeter than regular old table sugar. In a way, the U.S. government supports the use of HFCS because of massive corn subsidies. Cheap corn is primarily used to make HFCS and to feed American cattle. So, the food industry started putting it in massive amounts of products.

HFCS contains substances called reactive carbonyls, which have been proven to damage tissues and accelerate the process of insulin resistance(4). HFCS does not stimulate insulin secretion, which at first may seem like a good thing for diabetics. However, insulin stimulates other hormones like leptin to tell the brain you are full after a meal. If this hormone is not released, the “I’m Full” message never gets to your brain. Ever wonder why you can eat a whole bag of chips or a package of cookies?

High fructose corn syrup converts to fat more rapidly than any other sugar molecule (4). Other sugars like glucose go through a longer process before turning into fat, whereas HFCS bypasses these steps and goes straight into fat storage. With this direct fat storage phenomenon, it is only prudent to conclude that HFCS is a huge contributor to the obesity epidemic. Let’s keep in mind that obesity is strongly linked with diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

To conclude, I would like to illustrate my point here with a case study. The Native American Indians have the highest prevalence of diabetes of any ethnic group in America. Among adult Pima Indians, half of them have Type 2 Diabetes. This is largely due to the fact that for generations they relied on hunting, fishing, gathering, and farming for food. They ate a pure diet from the earth and thrived from it. Then as times changed they began living on fast food, vending machine products, and convenience store goods. These establishments are located all over the reservations. These cheap foods contain HFCS and are largely empty calories, which the Pimas simply cannot live on. Their genes were designed to resist famine, so when food was plentiful, their bodies stored it in anticipation for the next famine. Now, calories are more than plentiful, and many Native Americans are suffering from their new Western diet.

The largest source of HFCS is from soft drinks. In fact, soft drinks provide the most calories to Americans than any other one food. Other sources of HFCS include

·yogurts (certain brands)


·fruit juices

·canned fruits

·baked goods




1. National Diabetes Statistics 2007. National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse.

2. Reinberg, Steven. Rate of Diabetes Cases Doubles in 10 Years: CDC. U.S. News and

World Report. October, 2008

3. Childhood Overweight and Obesity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Atlanta, GA.

4. Mercola, Joseph and Droege, Rachael. Six Reasons Why Corn Syrup is Making You