This is the second in a two-part article written with the aim of providing a much-needed perspective on the increasing worldwide epidemics of diabetes, liver disease and obesity.
A common ingredient in numerous foods that make up the standard American diet (SAD) is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS was invented in the 1970s when scientists discovered a way to convert corn glucose into fructose, causing it to be substantially sweeter. Interestingly around the same time, the US government began imposing tariffs on imported sugar and implementing sugar quotas on the amount of domestic sugar that could be grown. As a result, producers were able to obtain this new corn sweetener much more cheaply than they could sugar and they began to use it to sweeten their products. Currently, HFCS is actually cheaper to make than regular sugar from beets or sugar canes. It’s also very easy to transport, meaning lower costs and higher profits for food producers.
Intake of HFCS increased from 0.6 pounds per person per year in the 1970s to 73.5 pounds per person in 2007, and has continued to increase as food manufacturers have replaced the use of glucose with HFCS and have added it to more and more processed foodstuffs, even non-sweet foods, for reasons that will be explained. The introduction of HFCS coincided with a marked rise in obesity in the US.
Obesity levels are higher now than ever before. One-third of Americans are obese and another third are overweight. Due to the international reach of US food multinationals in both advertising and supply, aspects and versions of the standard American diet (SAD) are replicated around the world. Probably the best example of this is Coca Cola, which is marketed and available virtually everywhere on the planet that there are people. A direct result of this reach and influence is that more and more societies are experiencing obesity epidemics.
Fructose is not naturally present in corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup is made from corn starch, a glucose polymer. First, enzymatic starch breakdown yields corn syrup which is essentially free glucose. The glucose is then further enzymatically converted to fructose. After various purification steps, a mixture of 90% fructose and 10% glucose (HFCS-90) is obtained. HFCS-90 is mixed with appropriate amounts of corn syrup to make either HFCS-55 or HFCS-42, mixtures with 55% and 42% fructose, respectively. HFCS-55 is mainly used for soft drinks, whereas HFCS-42 is primarily used to sweeten baked goods. HFCS is found in all kinds of processed foods,even non-sweet ones. Besides being an addictive sweetener, it’s an effective preservative.
Many traditional foods do not normally have sugar (much less a chemical preservative and sweetener) added as part of the recipe in the first place. An example is bread. The basic recipe is very simple: flour, water, salt, and yeast. Compare that to many of the standard breads available in supermarkets, which typically contain a fair amount of HFCS to keep them “fresh” for days or weeks. If you eat this bread, not only are you getting the sugars that result from a breakdown in carbohydrates (which the healthy human body can handle), but you are getting an additional shot of fructose from the HFCS as a preservative delivered directly to the liver to become triglycerides. A potential side benefit (unanticipated of course) for processed food-and-drink manufacturers that use HFCS as a preservative is that humans are genetically hardwired to prefer sweet tastes, a DNA-driven tendency that can lead to sweet cravings and addictions.
Fructose in fruits and vegetables comes as part of a digestible whole food package that contains much less fructose than soft drinks and other processed foods. The fructose found in nature is bound to glucose which undergoes a breaking down process in the stomach before the fructose moves on to the liver. This process allows the liver time to efficiently handle the fructose over time instead of being flushed with fructose within a few minutes. Fructose in HFCS is unbound meaning it is not attached to any other molecule. Unbound fructose is immediately taken up by the liver for metabolising when HFCS is consumed. This initiates a metabolic nightmare. The liver is forced to work hard at metabolising the instantly present fructose. Often times the liver has to ignore or inefficiently handle other metabolic duties such as the breaking down of fatty acids.
The digestive system is not familiar with high amounts of isolated fructose such as HFCS. Our cells use glucose for energy by metabolising carbohydrates. Out of 120 calories from glucose, one calorie gets stored as fat. Cells throughout the body metabolise glucose rapidly. With glucose from cane or beet sugar, 20% is passed onto the liver to be metabolised. But the gut doesn’t know what to do with isolated high fructose. So it passes 100% of the isolated fructose into the liver. The liver’s attempt to metabolise HFCS produces uric acid. Uric acid can ramp up blood pressure, cause gout, and lead to liver damage.
If sugar is not immediately used up by the muscles via some kind of exercise it is converted into fat and stored in the body. This is another way that HFCS can contribute to obesity, heart disease and even Alzheimer’s and memory loss. This increase in fat and cholesterol slows the micro circulation of blood through the brain accelerating cell death through lack of oxygen and nutrients.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is surging throughout the Western industrial world to become the most common liver disease. In the USA alone, over 30 million are afflicted with NAFLD. It can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, and even liver failure. Fatty liver occurs when fatty lipids occupy liver cells enough to exceed five percent of the liver’s weight. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is linked to metabolic syndrome or diabetes types 1 and 2, implying NAFLD has more to do with excessive sugar intake than saturated fats. Increased triglyceride levels resulting from a sluggish and inefficient fatty liver have also been linked to increased incidence of cardiovascular disease. Fatty infiltration of the liver was correlated with amount of abdominal fat and visceral fat, which was more strongly associated with fatty liver than subcutaneous fat.
And then there are the shocking findings of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) recorded on 10,359 teenagers aged 12-18 from 1988-2008. Researchers found that one in ten had NAFLD.
Even more ominously, researchers stated that NAFLD “seems to be increasing faster than the prevalence of obesity.” Previously, the disease has been very closely associated with obesity. Now, though, it’s clear that there’s more than excess weight driving the increase in liver disease.
During a study conducted at Princeton, subjects consuming foods laced with high fructose corn syrup experienced weight gain, high increases in triglyceride levels, and fat deposits in the abdominal area. This study, however, does not stand alone in its implication of high fructose corn syrup and its health damaging effects.
HFCS creates even more metabolic damage because it has no effect on ghrelin, which stimulates appetite, and interferes with the brain’s leptin communication, which lets you know you’ve had enough to eat. This leads to overeating. Glucose suppresses ghrelin and doesn’t interfere with leptin. So hunger cravings are satisfied easily with glucose from even regular sugar.
And if all the above isn’t disturbing enough, there’s the issue of genetically modified ingredients. When HFCS and genetic modification (GM) are discussed, the tendency is to think of the corn component. After all, it may seem that corn is the only ingredient of HFCS production but there are two other ingredients to consider. Three enzymes are required to make HFCS, and two of them, alpha-amylase and glucose isomerase, have been genetically modified. Alpha-amylase is used to make shorter chains of sugar called polysaccharides. Isomerase is used to convert glucose into a glucose/fructose mix. These enzymes are genetically manipulated to withstand the high heat needed to make HFCS without them breaking down and becoming unusable.
Staring Down the Double Barrel
HFCS is now the sweetener used in sodas and soft drinks. Another wide-ranging study in California questioned the soda consumption habits of 43,000 adults and 4,000 adolescents and concluded this: drinking one or more sodas a day increases your chances of obesity by 27 percent. A whopping 62% of adults who drink at least one soda each day are overweight or obese.
The study also found that Californians are gulping down sodas at an unprecedented rate: At least one soda is consumed daily by 41 percent of children, 62 percent of adolescents and 24 percent of adults. Through the study, another shocking statistic was revealed: The average California teen consumes 39 pounds of liquid sugar a year solely from soda consumption.
One of the most important factors to be considered between children and teenagers is the consumption of sugary sodas. Sodas provide the most popular vehicle for BPA consumption – from soda cans to plastic bottles of cola and other drinks.
The findings of this combination of research is what you might call a double-whammy: A sugary HFCS soda in a container made with BPA that disrupts hormones and stimulates fat cell growth. This double-whammy is what children are being fed on. It is also what many young adults are hooked on, a sugary sweet HFCS caffeine buzz in contaminated containers compounded by overeating and less activity. This combination is quickly creating nations of overweight and diseased people.
The most immediate thing anyone can do to protect themselves and their families is to reduce the amount of processed foods consumed.
HFCS can be found in soft drinks/sodas, sports drinks, flavored waters, and even so called health beverages, French fries, cottage cheese, bottled sauces , canned soup, cough syrup, breakfast cereal, yogurt, bread, pastries, jelly and jam (by no means a complete list, but gives an idea on the range of products).
Manufacturers have cleverly replaced the name “HFCS” with the names Inulin, Glucose-Fructose Syrup, Iso Glucose, Chicory, Fruit Fructose, Corn Sugar and Corn Syrup, so it’s necessary to check labels, but a sensible rule-of-thumb would be to avoid processed and fast food wherever possible.
Considering what you’ve just read, one might be inclined to view going ‘sugar-free’ and eating ‘diet’ products as a good idea. As it is though the opposite is true. Doing so would be, in fact, stepping out of the frying pan and into the fire, as revealed in Artificial Sweeteners – A Sweet and Deadly Deception.
Do your own research, taking care to check financial ties and corporate/ideological allegiances of your sources, especially those who maintain that HFCS is benign or even good for health.
I would suggest that those already affected by HFCS poisoning concentrate on restoring the liver. Below are a few methods, but again, do your own homework. Self-education on health is key to long-term health.
A fermented brew made using a specific culture, called by some a mushroom that is in fact a combination of fungus, yeast and algae. Detoxification agent par excellence. Also supports healthy liver functioning through the provision of gluconic and glucuronic acids and folic acid. Has applications in numerous conditions (see link below)
The agent that gives turmeric its bright yellow color contains a powerful phytochemical component known as curcumin. Curcumin stimulates production of bile by the gallbladder. The liver uses bile to eliminate toxins; bile also rejuvenates liver cells that breakdown harmful compounds and metabolise fat. It is anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant.
Milk thistle is now regularly employed in cases related to alcoholic hepatitis, alcoholic fatty liver, cirrhosis, liver poisoning or viral hepatitis. The active ingredient, silymarin, helps repair liver cell damage from alcohol, or any other toxins for that matter, by increasing protein synthesis. In at least five of the studies reported by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, tests showed it was possible to greatly improve liver functions in patients suffering from milder forms of alcoholic liver diseases.
A study concluded that a controlled aerobic exercise program, without weight loss, reduced hepatic and visceral fat accumulation, and decreased insulin resistance in obese adolescents.
Recent research suggests that Chlorella extract might be a promising hepatoprotective supplement for patients with NAFLD.
In tests Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus improved liver aminotransferases levels in patients with NAFLD.
An olive oil-rich diet decreases accumulation of triglyceride in the liver.
Patients infected with hepatitis C virus treated with Spirulina and Silimarin both showed reduced levels of liver enzymes (an indicator of liver dysfunction). Liver enzymes – particularly AST – were significantly lower in the Spirulina group. The Spirulina group also had other HCV symptom improvement.
Reference sources can be found through accessing volumes of data at Greenmedinfo.com and NaturalNews, two of the best public-access databases of research studies on medical conditions and alternative/complimentary, holistic, non-toxic medicines