Home | Safety | Chemical | This Common Food Ingredient Can Really Mess Up Your Metabolism (II)

This Common Food Ingredient Can Really Mess Up Your Metabolism (II)

Font size: Decrease font Enlarge font

Big Fat Lies From the Corn Industry

Now that scientific studies have shown the metabolic similarity between HFCS and sucrose, the Corn Refiners Association has embarked on a vociferous campaign to convince the public that their product is equal to table sugar, that it is “natural” and safe.

Of course, many things are “natural” -- cocaine is natural, but you wouldn’t want to use 141 pounds of it each year.

The food and beverage industry doesn’t want you to realize how truly pervasive HFCS is in your diet -- not just from soft drinks and juices, but also in salad dressings and condiments and virtually every processed food. The introduction of HFCS into the Western diet in 1975 has been a multi-billion dollar boon for the corn industry.

Now the corn industry has come up with another product it’s using in beverages called “crystalline fructose.” This is produced by allowing the fructose to crystallize from a fructose-enriched corn syrup, resulting in a product that is 99.5 percent pure fructose -- a fructose level twice as high as regular HFCS!

Clearly, all the health problems associated with HFCS could become even more pronounced with this product.

Making matters worse, crystalline fructose may also contain arsenic, lead, chloride and heavy metals -- a virtual laundry list of toxic agents you should clearly avoid. In fact, more than one study has detected unsafe mercury levels in HFCS[xvi]. If you have children, all of these contaminants can impact your child’s development and long-term health.

Why doesn’t the FDA regulate fructose since it poses the same health risks as ethanol -- and it regulates ethanol?

The FDA doesn’t touch chronic toxins. They regulate only acute toxins, and ethanol falls into that category because it produces immediately toxic neurological effects. Fructose doesn’t get metabolized in the brain, so it’s effects, although damaging, are cumulative and magnify over time.

Also realize that nearly all HFCS is made from genetically modified corn, which comes with its own set of risks.

The FDA classifies fructose as GRAS: Generally Regarded As Safe. Which pretty much means nothing and is based on nothing.

It is interesting to note that soda taxes[xvii] have recently been proposed both in New York and California, and legislation for the removal of soft drinks from schools has been enacted in several states.

What’s a Sugarholic to Do?

Ideally, I recommend that you avoid as much sugar as possible. This is especially important if you are overweight or have diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure.

In fact, I believe that the positive health impacts of breaking the country’s sugar addiction would be even greater than if everyone stopped smoking, because elevated insulin levels are the foundation of nearly every chronic disease known to man, from cancer and arthritis to cardiovascular disease.

I also realize you don’t live in a perfect world, and following rigid dietary guidelines is not always practical or even possible.

If you want to use a sweetener occasionally, this is what I recommend:

  1. Use the herb stevia

  2. Use organic cane sugar in moderation

  3. Use organic raw honey in moderation

Avoid ALL artificial sweeteners, which can damage your health even more quickly than HFCS.

And I don’t recommend agave syrup since it is a highly processed sap that is almost all fructose. Your blood sugar will spike just as it would if you were consuming regular sugar or HFCS. Agave has gained meteoric popularity due to a great marketing campaign, but any health benefits present in the original agave plant are processed away.

Be sure to eat your sugar with fiber ... as in a piece of fruit. As Dr. Lustig says, “When God made the poison, he packaged it with the antidote: fiber.”

Wait 20 minutes before second portions at meals, giving your brain a chance to receive satiety signals.

And exercise regularly. Dr. Ludwig recommends you “buy your screen time with physical activity.”

Exercise is important for several reasons, some of which might surprise you:

  • Exercise improves skeletal muscle insulin sensitivity (insulin works best in your muscles)

  • Exercise reduces stress and lowers cortisol, which decreases appetite

  • Exercise suppresses ghrelin, thereby decreasing appetite

  • Exercise speeds up metabolic cycles, reducing citrate levels, thus reducing fat production

  • Exercise can make you sharper, reduce arthritis, lift your mood, strengthen your bones, and even slow down aging

Avoid so-called energy drinks and sports drinks because they are loaded with sugar, sodium and chemical additives.

Rehydrating with pure, fresh water is a better choice.

If you or your child is involved in athletics, I recommend you read my article Energy Rules for some great tips on how to optimize your child’s energy levels and physical performance through good nutrition.

A Word of Warning About Infant Formula

And finally, be extremely careful about the infant formula you are feeding your baby. Nearly all infant formulas have as much or more high fructose corn syrup than a can of soda -- in addition to many other things that are extremely detrimental to your baby’s health and development.

You have learned that, metabolically, there is very little difference between ethanol and sugar, so by giving your infant formula, you might as well be giving him a bottle of beer or soda!

And studies have shown that the earlier you expose kids to sweets, the more they crave them later.

It is important for pregnant women to keep their blood sugars well managed not only for their own health, but also for the long-term health of their children.

Researchers have found that children born to mothers with gestational diabetes (high blood sugar during pregnancy) had an 82 percent chance of becoming obese between the ages of 5 and 7 through a phenomenon called “metabolic imprinting.” Even mothers with elevated blood sugar, short of gestational diabetes, had children with a significantly increased risk for obesity.[xviii]

I advocate breastfeeding if at all possible -- it is by far the healthiest option.

One of the most clear-cut, non-debatable topics in health care is that breast milk is the best source of nutrition for newborns. The benefits to the baby and the new mom are enormous. Breastfed infants have shown lower obesity rates in later childhood[xix].


I would like to thank Dr. Robert H. Lustig, Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at University of California, San Francisco, for sharing his incredibly important insights, without which this article would not have been possible. Much of the above information came directly from Dr. Lustig’s work related to central regulation of energy balance, and I am very grateful for his willingness to share it with me so that I can pass it along to you.

[i] Wells H.F. and Buzby J. c. “Dietary assessment of major trends in U.S. food consumption, 1970-2005. USDA Economic Research Service, Economic Information Bulletin Number 33, March 2008. 

[ii] Ancel Keys—villain or hero?” Stop Trans Fats. 

[iii] American Beverage Association, News Release, March 25, 2004 

[iv] Ludwig D.S., Peterson, K.E. and Gortmaker, S.L. “Relation between consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and childhood obesity: a prospective, observational analysis The Lancet Feb 17, 2001 Volume 357, Issue 9255, pp 505-508 

[v] Vartanian L.R., Schwartz M.B. and Brownell K.D. “Effects of soft drink consumption on nutrition and health: A systematic review and meta-analysis” AJPH April 2007, vol 97, No. 41, pp 667-675.

[vi] Esterbrook J. “Schools that can soda cut obesity,” CBS News Health April 23, 2004 

[vii] Apovian C.M. “Sugar-sweetened soft drinks, obesity, and type 2 diabetes JAMA 2004;292:978-979 

[viii] Palmer J.R., Boggs D.A., Krishnan S., Hu F.B., Singer M., and Rosenberg L. “Sugar-sweetened beverages and incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus in African American women Arch Intern Med. 2008;168(14):1487-1492. 

[ix] Stanhope K.L., et al. “Consuming fructose-sweetened, not glucose-sweetened, beverages increases visceral adiposity and lipids and decreases insulin sensitivity in overweight/obese humans J Clin Invest. 2009 May 1;119(5):1322-1334 

[x] Faith M.S., Dennison B.A., Edmunds L.S., Stratton H.H. “Fruit juice intake increased adiposity gain in children from low-income families: weight status by environment interaction” Pediatrics 118:2066-2075.

[xi] Taubs G. Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease, 2007, Knopf; and Medical Grand Rounds presentation, Datmouth-Hitchcock, 

[xii] Robert H. Lustig, MD: UCSF faculty bio page, and YouTube presentation “Sugar: The bitter truth” ; and “The fructose epidemic” The Bariatrician, 2009, Volume 24, No. 1, page 10)

[xiii] Lim J.S., Mietus-Snyder M.L., Valente A., Schwartz J.M., and Lustig R.H. “Fructose, NAFLD, and metabolic syndrome,” Dept. of Pediatrics and Medicine, University of California, San Francisco 2009

[xiv] Ouyang X., Cirillo P., Sautin Y., McCall S., Bruchette J.L., Diehl A.M. Johnson R.J., Abdelmalek M.F. “Fructose consumption as a risk factor for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease J. Hepatol. 2008 Jun;48(6):993-9 

[xv] Le K.A., Ilth M., Kreis R., Faeh D., Bortolotti M., Tran C., Boesch C., and Tappy L. “Fructose overconsumption causes dyslipidemia and ectopic lipid deposition in healthy subjects with and without a family history of type 2 diabetes Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jun;89(6):1760-5 

[xvi] Why is the FDA unwilling to study evidence of mercury in high-fructose corn syrup?” 20 Feb 2009, Grist 

[xvii] Brownstein J. “Public health leaders propose soda tax” ABCNews/Health, September 17, 2009 

[xviii] Hillier T.A., Pedula K.L., Schmidt B.A., Mullen J.A., Charles M., Pettitt D.J. “Childhood obesity and metabolic imprinting: The ongoing effects of maternal hyperglycemia Diabetes Care September 2007 vol. 30 no. 9 pages 2287-2292 

[xix] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center (ECLKC) “Prevention of overweight and obesity in infants and toddlers

To read part (1), click here


(Send your news to [email protected], Foodconsumer.org is part of the Infoplus.com ™ news and information network)

  • email Email to a friend
  • print Print version
Rate this article