What is it?
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is a type of additive/sweetener that is used in foods, beverages, condiments and desserts. It is made from corn, and enzymes are added to the corn to break down the starch. Corn is a starch and once a starch is processed it becomes glucose. Scientists then add enzymes that convert glucose into fructose. The first syrup made was 90% fructose – that is extremely high and dangerous to the body. With refining and improvements in technology, they have managed to drop that ratio down to a more balanced percentage, although this is rarely 50/50 – it is more 40% glucose and 60% fructose.
Where is it found?
HFCS is almost everywhere. Many of your favourite snacks and meals contain HFCS, even those that you would not suspect such as weight loss ‘healthy’ meals.
List of products that contain HFCS
Sodas (Many sodas contain HFCS)
- Various cereal brands ( especially sweet cereals)
- Oreo Cookies
- Sauces and salad dressings
- Breads ( especially if it is not fresh from a local bakery and is distributed nation-wide)
- Canned Fruits
- Some breakfast cereal bars
- Instant meals & desserts
What does it do?
HFCS is a substitute for cane sugar as it is much cheaper to manufacture and can be produced in larger quantities. This is a win-win situation for most companies, as it increases their profits. HFCS is added to preserve products and make them sweet and tasty.
Why should you avoid it?
Most people will say that fructose is found in nature (yes it is), and that it has a similar molecular structure as sugar from cane therefore HFCS should be healthy for you and me. Lets get a little science-y. Sugar is made of two simple sugar molecules, glucose and fructose bound together in equal amounts. When these reach the digestive tract in the body, enzymes work to break them down into glucose and fructose prior to their absorption into the body, and this slows down the rate at which fructose reaches the liver.
High fructose corn syrup on the other hand of is made up of an imbalanced level of fructose and glucose, the fructose level is higher than the glucose level, resulting in no chemical bond. If there is no bond it means the digestive system does not have to break down these two molecules, resulting in them being absorbed extremely fast into the blood stream. The fructose reaches the liver quicker, which triggers lipogenesis (fats like triglycerides and cholesterol are produced). High levels of fructose are damaging to the liver and trigger large releases of insulin (which stores fat), resulting in excessive weight gain. Research conducted at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute came to the conclusion that fructose from HFCS requires more ATP ( phosphorus molecules) to be absorbed into the body. This depletes the body’s energy source. In the gut or intestinal lining, this helps filter or prevent certain bacteria from entering cells. Now if this energy is zapped out, all this unneeded food and bacteria enters the cell resulting in the body becoming toxic, and of course a toxic body is followed by a number of diseases.
Unnatural products usually contain high levels of of contaminants, that are not listed with the product. Since these ingredients are unknown, the harm that they cause in the body is unknown as well. However, the one contaminant that is known and found in HFCS is mercury. Mercury is poisonous to the body and in extreme levels it can literally ‘shut down’ the system.
If the above information hasnnot convinced yet, lets look at this from a logical perspective.
High Fructose Corn Syrup is a syrup, therefore a teaspoon of HFCS is sweeter than a teaspoon of sugar. We all know that high levels of sugar result in diabetes and obesity, and even worse if this it is an unnatural sweetener. On top of this is the issue of where all this corn comes from? I am 99.99% certain that corn used for HFCS is not from your organic farmer.
Government is pumping millions of dollars into GMO seed and crop, which is farmed in the commercial sector and produces large quantities of of maize and a percentage of this if used to produce HFCS.
When making HFCS, it is thoroughly processed, and this highly processed product is added with a bunch of other ingredients to make further processed food for consumption. Highly processed foods and health do not go hand in hand.
- Cook your own food, this allows you to have control over what you eat and control over which ingredients you use.
- Substitute with healthier snacks, these can be fruits and nuts instead of chips, biscuits and chocolate.
- Clean, fresh water has way more benefits than any concentrate juice or soda drink could ever have.
- Use honey, (raw honey) as a natural sweetener. It has many healing properties for the body, making it the best sweetener on the market.
With HFCS, children get the worst end of the deal. Think about it, a child who starts at the early age such as depicted in the image is pre-disposed to illnesses and liver damage. Even worse HFCS ( not mentioning other additives) is found in almost everything that children eat, cool drinks, biscuits, chips etc. These are products given to children to ‘tame’ them, but what are these products really doing to them?
If you are a parent, and I cannot stress this hard enough, take extra precautions as to what goes into the little one’s mouth. Children generally know what is good for them. Start from a young age and get them used to natural tastes, and they will not want or crave the taste of additives if they start out with a good foundation. Substitute cool drink for 100 % fresh juice and snacks with dried fruit (preferably homemade). Be creative and make health exciting by involving children in selecting natural foods, this will be the best gift you can give to your child.
HFCS should be avoided for a healthier you. Fortunately it is hardly used in South African products, but more and more American products that do contain HFCS are finding themselves on the shelves of our local stores. As with everything else knowledge is power – read and know, so that the decision that you make for your health is an informed one.
For more visual information on the dangers of HFCS click on the following links.