High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is widely used, relatively cheaper to produce, and backed by a whole army of corn refiners. It seems to have already ousted simple table sugar from the top, eating up major percentages of the sweetener market. But there is a message of distress hidden somewhere, and the dangers are as pronounced as the convincing sweetness HFCS brings.I’ve always stressed the many, varied dangers of sugar, even saying that regular consumption of sugar is more dangerous than cigarettes. But an “alternative” called high-fructose corn syrup isn’t safe as well, even while it has already found its way in more and more of the foods we consume.
When University of Utah biologists fed mice sugar in doses proportional to what many people eat, the fructose-glucose mixture found in high-fructose corn syrup was more toxic than sucrose or table sugar, reducing both the reproduction and lifespan of female rodents.
This is the most robust study showing there is a difference between high-fructose corn syrup and table sugar at human-relevant doses, says biology professor Wayne Potts, senior author of a new study scheduled for publication in the March 2015 issue of The Journal of Nutrition.
Both high-fructose corn syrup found in many processed foods and table sugar found in baked goods contain roughly equal amounts of fructose and glucose. But in corn syrup, they are separate molecules, called monosaccharides. In contrast, sucrose or table sugar is a disaccharide compound formed when fructose and glucose bond chemically.
Potts says the debate over the relative dangers of fructose and sucrose is important because when …
High dietary intake of fructose is problematic because fructose is metabolized differently from glucose. Like fructose, glucose is a simple sugar. Derived from the breakdown of carbohydrates, glucose is a primary source of ready energy. Sucrose (table sugar) comprises one molecule of glucose and one molecule of fructose. Thus, excessive sucrose intake also contributes to the rise in overall daily fructose consumption. Glucose can be metabolized and converted to ATP, which is readily “burned” for energy by the cells’ mitochondria. Alternatively, glucose can be stored in the liver as a carbohydrate for later conversion to energy. Fructose, on the other hand, is more rapidly metabolized in the liver, flooding metabolic pathways and leading to increased triglyceride synthesis and fat storage in the liver. This can cause a rise in serum triglycerides, promoting an atherogenic lipid profile and elevating cardiovascular risk. Increased fat storage in the liver may lead to an increased incidence in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and this is one of several links between HFCS consumption and obesity as well as the metabolic syndrome.
Fructose may have less impact on appetite than glucose, so processed foods rich in fructose can contribute to weight gain, obesity, and its related consequences by failing to manage appetite. Additionally, loading of the liver with large amounts of fructose leads to increased uric acid formation, which may contribute to gout in susceptible individuals.
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