The Basics We’ve got some explaining to do

Nov 28, 2012 by

Grist

 

WTF is the deal with high-fructose corn syrup?

By Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan  28 Nov 2012 6:51 AM

So what’s the deal with high-fructose corn syrup? Um, what?
K, sorry. Is high-fructose corn syrup bad for you? I heard it was bad for you.
Do you even know what HFCS is? Wait are you at Costco? No. Yes. Drop the 10-gallon bucket of Coke for a sec, k? HFCS is a processed sweetener made from corn, and there are some things u should know about it. WTF is corn doing in my Coke? 1 word: cheap. Way cheaper than sugar (thanks, corn subsidies and sugar tariffs!). And b/c it's liquid, it's way easier to blend into foods than sugar.
Yeah. On average, we each guzzle 60 pounds of HFCS every year.
Eeeew. Is that, um, bad for you?
Oy. It's complicated. HFCS is a little different that regular old table sugar, see. They're both mixtures of fructose and glucose, but table sugar (sucrose) is what you call a disaccharide, meaning the fructose and glucose are chemically bonded. HFCS isn't bonded, and generally contains a bit more fructose than table sugar does.
Well, the bond gets broken down quickly in the body, making HFCS and sugar pretty much the same thing once you eat them. OK then I'm buying this tub of gummy bears.
There is some evidence that fructose by itself can encourage fat buildup.
So HFCS makes you fat?
Well, in 2004, a study linked rising obesity rates in the U.S. to all the HFCS we started eating in the '70s. Critics said there was no clear cause and effect, but a 2010 Princeton study found that rats that were fed lots of HFCS gained more weight -- abdominal fat, in particular -- than sugar-fed rats and also posted gains in triglycerides (circulating blood fats).
I think I read about that. Didn’t they debunk that study?
Lots of scientists attacked the Princeton study. The Princeton researchers defended their work, but another recent study from Tufts found that overweight adults lost about the same amount of weight, whether their diets included HFCS or sucrose. (Course, that one was funded by the Corn Refiners Association.)
So...HCFS doesn't make you fat. Well, in the real world, we don't eat huge amounts of pure fructose, but still... So how 'bout I just get Mexican Coke, to be safe? The kind made with sugar? Sorry. Bad news.
Pretty much the only thing researchers agree on is that we need to limit consumption of ALL sweeteners. A full 16% of the calories in our diets come from sugars now -- a 50% increase from the '70s.

Corn has a big, nasty eco-footprint. It's grown in monoculture, which saps the soil & creates the need for more fertilizer and pesticides, which in turn lead to things like the gigantic dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.
Crap.
And don't forget that most corn in the U.S. is a GMO, if that matters to you.
Should it? I am SO not getting into that. OK...you haven’t actually answered my question. Should you eat HFCS? Yeah.
It's not healthy, that's for sure. But neither is table sugar. And it's not like sugar beets and sugar cane are totally eco-innocent either.
Bottom line: There's no overwhelming scientific consensus that one sweetener is worse than the other. There is, however, consensus that the excess sugars contribute to obesity and plenty of serious health issues. Best bet is to cut back on sweeteners across the board. So no Coke then? .........

some evidence encourage fat buildup a study Princeton study attacked the Princeton study defended their work another recent study limit consumption of ALL sweeteners 50% increase from the '70s
Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan is Grist’s “Greenie Pig” — weathering all manner of inconvenience and insult in the name of forging a more eco-friendly life. She is a freelance writer and former editor at Backpacker magazine. Her writing has also appeared in 5280 (Denver’s city magazine), Women’s Adventure, and Spry.

 

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