Many people think high-fructose corn syrup is a natural sweetener. And many think it?s healthier than regular sugar. It?s neither. In fact, this popular sweetener is a man-made sugar made from corn. And we know it can contribute to heart disease, diabetes, and a number of other health problems. But now we?re finding out that it?s even more dangerous than we thought.
High-fructose corn syrup creates highly reactive compounds that damage tissues and contribute to disease. We call these compounds carbonyls. And doctors typically find high amounts of them in the blood of diabetics. Carbonyls also can cause diabetic complications, such as foot ulcers, neuropathy, and deteriorating eyesight.
A recent study out of Rutgers University found extremely high levels of these nasty carbonyls in soft drinks sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup. Dr. Chi-Tang Ho and his colleagues at Rutgers University believe that a single can of soda sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup has five times more reactive carbonyls than a diabetic adult. And diabetics already have too many carbonyls!
I?ve talked about the dangers of high-fructose corn syrup before. So you may know that it raises cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol, increases inflammation, and contributes to immune problems. But you may not know how severe the problem is.
High-fructose corn syrup has infiltrated our food supply. It?s literally everywhere. Many so-called "fruit" drinks are little more than water, high-fructose corn syrup, and a little fruit juice for flavoring.
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Read the labels of the foods you buy and you?ll be astonished. It?s in everything from breakfast cereals to cough syrups, cottage cheese, yogurt, salad dressings, and ice cream. In fact, it?s hard to find a food sweetened with plain old sugar any more. Too bad. Cane sugar doesn?t produce carbonyls.
They make high fructose corn syrup by treating cornstarch with enzymes. At least one of these enzymes is genetically modified (GMO). This process turns some of the glucose into fructose. Cornstarch and corn syrup are 100% glucose, which doesn?t create carbonyls. But when you turn some of it to fructose, you get unstable molecules that cause problems.
Soft drinks and fruit juices obviously contain more high-fructose corn syrup - and carbonyls - than ketchup and salad dressings. But a small amount in a number of food products adds up. It?s time to read labels and choose foods without high-fructose corn syrup. Eliminating trans fats was the first step. Now take the next one.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand
Ho, CT, PhD, Food bioactives and nutraceuticals: production, chemistry, analysis and health effects, American Chemical Society 234th national meeting, August 23, 2007.