Healthy Living: HFCS; The Controversy and Common Sense

Updated 4 years ago

Corrections regarding statements about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS): The controversy and common sense.By- Dr. Joan Marie PellegriniLast month I discussed HFCS in this segment. I have been doing this segment since 2000 and have never received any mail commenting on my segment. However, this segment generated two well-written letters from experts in Massachusetts and New Jersey. They wanted to point out a few wrong statements that I made and also wanted to point out that HFCS is safe and no different than any other sugar. It also seems there was some confusion that I may have implied that HFCS is there reason we are having such an obesity epidemic. I agree with the experts on most points. I stated that HFCS is sweeter than table sugar and this is wrong. I also stated that that HFCS has only been around since the 1990’s and this is also wrong. It became much more popular then but it has been around since the 1960’s.It is quite interesting to me how much controversy this segment generated. I was unaware of the controversy surrounding HFCS until friends of mine pointed out to me there are TV commercials that try to convince the consumer that HFCS is the same as any other sugar. A quick search of the medical literature with the term “fructose” reveals that there is some scientific excitement regarding this molecule. One of the main problems with studying nutrition is that there is little funding available. Pharmaceutical companies only pay for research that will generate a new drug and therefore have a potential for profit. The NIH and USDA have limited funds for nutrition research (probably less than 5% of that spent on cancer and heart disease. I have no study to quote here except a quick Google search.). Much of the “nutrition” research that is being funded is looking at supplements and vitamins, not at true nutrition. Another problem with many of the studies is that the study participants are given an unrealistic diet and therefore the conclusions are not translatable to the real world.There are plenty of studies to show that HFCS is no different than any other sugar. However, there are also several studies showing the opposite. Why did the study that I mentioned come to the conclusion that HFCS is worse for you? One of the main problems with that study is that the participants were fed an unrealistic diet of pure fructose. This is quite different than HFCS. Because of the differences in study design, percentage and form of fructose, etc, it is quite difficult to make any certain conclusions from the available literature.Here are some points that are not controversial:1) Americans consume too much simple carbohydrates (sugars).2) Sugared drinks are a major problem .3) Many foods that you buy in the grocery store have sugar, honey, HFCS, or other sugars hidden in them.4) Fructose is absorbed and metabolized differently than glucose.5) A quick look at food labels will reveal the ubiquity of hidden sugars.6) The obesity epidemic is very complex. There is no one issue to blame and there is no one simple solution.When I chose to cover HFCS, I chose this topic as one of several that I’ve done over the years focusing on various aspects of our diet and goals towards healthy living. Although I made some minor incorrect statements, I stand by my original conclusions: HFCS is controversial and it may or may not be different than other sugars. However, limiting sugars and HFCS is just one small part of the overall program of healthy living. By no means should HFCS shoulder all the blame for America’s obesity epidemic.


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