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High Fructose Corn Syrup: The Debate Over the Dangers

Wahner Chiropractic
Winter 2011

The Debate Over the Dangers

Obesity rates for adults and children remain a growing concern. Obesity rates for adults are reported to have doubled in the past 30 years with the rate among children tripling over the same amount of time. These are staggering statistics. Research shows the actual manufacturing and production of some food items could be a primary factor for the rising rates of obesity in our society.

A Little History
High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) was developed in 1957 by researchers who developed an enzyme that re-arranges the molecular composition of glucose and converts it into fructose. When the natural glucose in corn syrup is converted to fructose, the syrup becomes sweeter. “High-fructose” simply means the percentage of fructose is higher. HFCS is a more cost-effective alternative sweetener. In 1977 new tariffs and sugar quotas made the cost of importing sugar more burdensome. Manufacturers of new dietary staples began using HFCS and production grew from 3 million tons in 1980 to 8 million tons in 1995.

Redefining the “Sweetness Scale”
Refined or table sugar, sucrose, was always considered highest on the “sweetness scale” and thus measured 100. Regular, unaltered corn syrup is glucose, which measures 70-80 on the sweetness scale. HFCS measures 120-140 on this same scale. HFCS is less expensive to make and so over the past three decades it began to replace sugar in the manufacturing of many foods and drinks.

The Primary Issue (this is the most important paragraph!)
HFCS should be a concern if for no other reason than because it is made by genetically altering the basic chemical makeup of another product – corn syrup. This means it is not a natural food item and our bodies don’t react to it like a natural food item. Most carbohydrates containing sucrose, glucose and or unaltered fructose cause our pancreas to create insulin. This in turn allows these sugars to be broken down into energy and then triggers our brain that we are full. HFCS on the other hand, does not cause the pancreas to produce insulin. Additionally, while natural carbohydrates are digested normally, HFCS goes straight to the liver, where it is then treated like a chemical and turned to fat!

What Does It All Mean?
While there may not be a proven connection (yet) between either HFCS or table sugar and the growing rate of obesity, the fact is that since 1977, more food items contain sugar. As the use of sweeteners has increased, so have the rates of obesity. Some of the food items that contain HFCS include most sugary cereals, toaster pastries, soft drinks, juice pouches and boxes, jams and jellies, salad dressings, canned fruit, cookies and crackers. Some unexpected products that may contain HFCS include canned ravioli and pasta meals, canned soups, peanut butter, bread, breakfast/snack bars, vegetable drinks and energy drinks.

We still believe moderation is the best policy where our diets are concerned. While HFCS is not the poison some would have you believe, we still believe it is best to return to the basics. Eat healthy, natural foods such as fresh vegetables and fruits, lean meats and grains. Read your food labels carefully!

**Thank you to Claudia Anrig, DC, and her article in Dynamic Chiropractic from which most of the information in this piece was directly borrowed**

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