80 percent of the “food” in US supermarkets is spiked with added sugar, including the highly addictive High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) that is often described as “the crack cocaine of sugars”. Here in the UK you will probably never see high fructose corn syrup on a food label, but only because it is hiding behind a different name.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), typically called glucose-fructose syrup in the UK, is believed to be one of the main culprits in the global obesity epidemic. Other names for HFCS include isoglucose and maize syrup. The highly processed sugar that has also been linked to multiple diseases including diabetes and liver disease.
For example, the countries using the largest amounts of glucose-fructose syrup (HFCS) have 20 per cent higher rates of diabetes compared to low consuming countries.
Professor Stanley Ulijaszek, from Oxford University, said his team’s research “suggests that HFCS can increase the risk of type-2 diabetes, which is one of the most common causes of death in the world today.”
Now for the really scary part…
The EU has ruled that food and drink manufacturers can claim products sweetened with HFCS are HEALTHIER!
The EU ruling allows food and drink manufacturers to claim their sweetened products are healthier if they replace more than 30% of the glucose and sucrose they contain with fructose (which includes HFCS).
Many believe the use of high-fructose corn syrup caused obesity to rise faster in the US than elsewhere in the world. Europe has largely used cane and beet sugar instead, but this is changing with many products updating their ingredients.
In the UK, glucose-fructose syrup is rapidly replacing beet and cane sugar, because it’s cheap and keeps foods moist, boosting shelf life. It adds texture to food such as cereal bars and biscuits, making them chewy, and thickens ice cream and yoghurt drinks.
HFCS is used in frozen products, too, as it reduces crystallisation. Another benefit is that it turns baked products an appetising brown, so you can often find it in cakes, pastries and bread rolls, crackers and cereals.
It’s easy to see why manufacturers of food and drink love high fructose corn syrup and why they are using LOTS of it.
A low-fat, fruit-flavoured yoghurt, for instance, can harbour ten teaspoons of the fructose-based sweetener in one pot. A can of soft drink can contain as much as 13 teaspoons.
“Long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup resulted in abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen”
Obesity experts say HFCS is metabolised differently from other sugars – it goes straight to the liver and unprocessed excess is stored there as fat, building up deposits that can cause life-threatening disease.
Laboratory research by Princeton University concluded that “long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup resulted in abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen”. Such abdominal fat may raise your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Professor Bart Hoebel, who led the study, says: ‘Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different to other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn’t true.”
In a separate American study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, researchers found that adults who consumed high fructose corn syrup in fizzy drinks for two weeks as 25 per cent of their daily calorie requirement had increased blood levels of cholesterol and fats called triglycerides, which are linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
As Addictive as Crack Cocaine
Canadian researchers have found that high-fructose corn syrup can cause behavioral reactions in rats “similar to those produced by drugs of abuse, such as cocaine”.
Professor Francesco Leri of the University of Guelph, who carried out the research, said it suggested there was an addictive quality to foods that contain high levels of high-fructose corn syrup which could explain, at least partly, the current global obesity epidemic.
During the experiment, rats were fed foods containing varying levels of high-fructose corn syrup. They were then given access to a lever which controlled how much syrup they received. The more concentrated the syrup, the harder the rats worked to obtain it.
In other research, Princeton University found that rats fed on a sugary diet became nervous and anxious when the sugar was removed. They were thrown into a state of anxiety similar to the kind of stress that people feel during withdrawal from drugs like nicotine and even morphine.
British health authorities seem unworried about HFCS, and are unwilling to accept responsibility.
The Food Standards Agency says: ‘The syrup is not classed as an additive. It’s just thick sugar. It’s not even classed as a novel food, so it is an issue about nutrition rather than food safety.’
The agency says any food-safety concerns should be the Department of Health’s responsibility. But the latter says the former should be regulating it.
Helen Bond, of the British Dietetic Association, says: ‘There are a lot of frightening trials out there about the potential effects of high fructose corn syrup. What we need, though, is more scientific work.’
My advice in the meantime would be to minimise your consumption of HFCS as much as possible, or better still avoid it completely!
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