Wednesday, March 24, 2010

High Fructose Corn Syrup Worse than Sugar

High fructose corn syrup makes you fatter faster.

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HCFS) is probably the most common sweetener in processed foods today, probably because it is very cost effective. In the 40 years since it became a major commercial sweetener, the obesity rate in America has more than doubled, from 15% to approximately 33%, according to the Center for Disease Control.

A Princeton research team has just demonstrated that rats given high fructose corn syrup gained much more weight and fat than rats given the same amounts of table sugar (sucrose). It also showed, still for rats, that a long term diet including high fructose corn syrup resulted in high incidence of obesity and metabolic syndrome, a dangerous medical condition.

Does the same phenomenon apply to humans? There is no proof of that yet - but we would not be surprised if, a few years from now, the FDA releases new regulations covering the use of high fructose corm syrup in processed foods.

How ubiquitous is high fructose corn syrup? We went to the supermarket today and picked up processed foods as randomly as we could (we did exclude the diet isle), looking for jars, bottles and cans, for a total of 97 different products, including sodas, juices, applesauce, yogurt, ketchup, cooked beans of multiple kinds, prepared meals, mayonnaise, salad dressing, and much more. We found sweeteners in 89 of them, that is 92%. Of these, 79 of them were using high fructose corn syrup: 89% of sweetened products showed the presence of high fructose corn syrup.

Interestingly, there has been quite some talk in health circles about the possibly nefarious effects of HCFS, and there is a bit of an HCFS-bashing meme on the net. As a result, we are starting to hear of "throwback" products, sweetened by sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup (as shown in the picture above).

Many of us already scan all ingredient lists at the store for the presence of cancer-inducing trans fats. We may now need to also scan for high fructose corn syrup, and eliminate those products which contain it from our daily diet.

Update: Check out this interesting New York Times article which discusses the dropping fortunes of high fructose corn syrup.

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