A Sweet Death: The Truth About High Fructose Corn Syrup
A popular sweetener – one you eat and drink every day – could be deadly.
The problem dates back to the 1970s. That’s when it replaced sugar in many products. The reason? It’s cheaper, of course.
In 1977, a new system of sugar tariffs and quotas was imposed. Simultaneously, the price of corn was kept low through government subsidies.
U.S. food manufacturers didn’t want to pay the higher sugar costs. So, they switched from sugar to a corn-based alternative. It saved them billions.
The health of the public was never considered.
Just like that, the era of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) had begun. From 1970 to 1990, HFCS consumption increased by 1,000%. Now, consumers have to make an effort to avoid it.
Past studies connected HFCS to obesity and diabetes. But new research links it to something worse – a lethal form of cancer.
How can the FDA let this continue? Why are they supporting Big Corn instead of the public? Read on for the real truth.
Why HFCS Is Bad
Dr. Anthony Heaney has just published a study with revealing new information about HFCS. He’s an Associate Professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He’s written many articles for peer-reviewed publications, including the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Nature Medicine, Clinical Endocrinology, and Pituitary.
He also serves as a reviewer for the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Cancer Research, and the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
His new study, published in Cancer Research, focused on pancreatic cancer.
HFCS is a combination of fructose and glucose. These two sugars have long been considered interchangeable… but that may not be the case. Dr. Heaney found that pancreatic cancer cells metabolized them differently. The cells used fructose to generate nucleic acids – building blocks of RNA and DNA – which cancer cells need to divide and flourish.
Dr. Heaney believes his findings “have major significance for cancer patients, given dietary refined fructose consumption.”
In fact, he feels so strongly about the need to reduce fructose intake that he believes the federal government should step in.
Dr. Andrew Weil agrees that “HFCS is definitely bad for you.” He holds degrees in biology and medicine from Harvard University. He has an international reputation as an expert on alternative medicine, mind-body interactions, and medical botany.
“Eliminating HFCS from your diet can have many health benefits,” says Dr. Weil. “[Dr. Heaney’s] UCLA study suggests that prevention of pancreatic cancer – and possibly other malignancies – may be one of them.”
Meanwhile, the FDA has done nothing to protect you. Just the opposite, in fact…
Dear Big Corn…
Big Corn’s position is that HFCS is “natural.” In the words of Audrae Erickson, president of the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), “HFCS, like table sugar and honey, is natural. It is made from corn, a natural grain product.”
In a letter to the CRA, the FDA gave Big Corn the go-ahead to label HFCS “natural.” This despite the fact that it contains a synthetic mixing agent.
Does that sound natural to you?
But according to the FDA, it’s natural as long as the synthetic agent doesn’t touch the corn starch. Talk about stretching the truth.
Geraldine June is the supervisor of product evaluation and labeling at the FDA’s Office of Nutrition, Labeling, and Dietary Supplements. Responding to an inquiry about the decision, she said:
“However, we would object to the use of the term ‘natural’ on a product containing HFCS that has a synthetic substance such as a synthetic fixing agent included in or added to it.”
Needless to say, Big Corn was thrilled with the decision.
Now, here’s the domino effect…
That decision led other companies to stretch the definition of “all natural.” Cadbury Schweppes (whose U.S. beverage unit is now Dr Pepper Snapple Group) and Kraft made the claim on their 7Up and Capri Sun labels.
How did they get away with it? Both drinks have HFCS as an ingredient, which the companies decided makes the drinks natural.
They didn’t get away with it for long. Both faced lawsuits. They avoided legal action by quickly changing their labels.
A Rose by Any Other Name…
Meanwhile, the FDA’s decision started to get a lot of bad press.
Fighting back, the CRA launched a series of television ads. The ads presented HFCS as being natural, nutritionally the same as sugar, and with the same number of calories.
But consumers were growing skeptical. The CRA had to scramble for a solution.
So on September 14, 2010, they applied for a name change. They wanted to call high fructose corn syrup “corn sugar” on U.S. food labels.
What was the reason they gave for doing it?
“Consumers need to know what is in their foods and where their foods come from and we want to be clear with them,” said the CRA’s Audrae Erickson.
Well, that’s one explanation. More likely is that the HFCS backlash had become so significant that they were trying to unload the name.
High Fructose Killing Syrup
You see, Dr. Heaney’s findings aren’t the first bad news about HFCS…
Studies have also linked it to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. One of those studies is from Princeton University. Researchers found that HFCS prompts considerable weight gain.
Bart Hoebel was on the research team. He’s a psychology professor who specializes in the neuroscience of appetite, weight, and sugar addiction.
“Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn’t true, at least under the conditions of our tests,” says Hoebel.
HFCS consumption is out of control in this country. The government even targeted HFCS to help foot the bill.
Remember when President Obama was trying to pass that $950 billion health care plan? It needed some serious funding. The government considered imposing federal taxes on sugary drinks.
A tax of three cents per 12-ounce serving would generate $24 billion over four years. That’s how much of this stuff Americans drink.
The FDA is at the heart of the problem. The same agency that promises to protect consumers is doing the opposite. Their decision on HFCS only supports obesity, diabetes, and pancreatic cancer.
How to Avoid HFCS
The average American consumes 41.5 pounds of high fructose corn syrup per year. Most people don’t even know they’re doing it.
You may be surprised to discover that HFCS can be found in the following products:
- Baked goods
- Tomato sauces
- Soft drinks
- Fruit drinks
- Processed foods
- Salad dressings
- Cough syrups
And that’s just the beginning.
If a dangerous compound like HFCS is so ubiquitous, how can you safeguard your own health? How can you decrease your chances of getting the types of cancer that result from HFCS intake? Here is a quick guide to help you:
Read the label – You expect to find HFCS in sweets. But lots of other foods contain HFCS too, including bread and processed meats.
“Natural” doesn’t always mean natural – Look for foods labeled “organic.” That assures you they’re free of HFCS.
Avoid fast food – It often contains HFCS (not to mention hosts of other health-harming ingredients).
Careful with cans and bottles – Almost every sweet drink contains HFCS. So always check beverage labels for HFCS or hidden sugars.
Buy fresh ingredients and cook – That way, you know exactly what you’re eating.
The movement has begun. Big Corn is feeling the pain. The FDA is starting to feel exposed. Consumers are taking back control of their food and their health. And that’s how it should be.
To your best health,
Managing Editor, NHD “Health Watch”