A couple of weeks ago Medpage Today published an article titled Fructose May Not Be Culprit in Weight Gain which seems to contradict the Princeton research that found considerable more weight gain from ingesting high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Even when caloric intake was the same, rats gained more weight when eating HFCS than table sugar. Diets in Review has consistently spoken out against high fructose corn syrup as an unhealthy genetically modified food. Fructose and HFCS are not exactly the same as Tanvir Hussain, physician and adjunct professor of bioethics at Pepperdine University School of Law, points out, “[the study] did not include high fructose corn syrup in their analysis, but only simple fructose. Thus it would be difficult to make conclusions about high fructose corn syrup and weight gain based on this particular study. Nonetheless, the results do call into question the hypothesis that fructose disproportionately contributes to weight gain over other carbohydrates.”
Those are exactly the questions that have been posed to me – does this mean that HFCS is not bad for you?
Ann A. Rosenstein clearly explains the difference between sugar and HFCS, saying, “HFCS is an industrial food product and far from “natural” or a naturally occurring substance. It is extracted from corn stalks through a process so secret that Archer Daniels Midland and Carghill would not allow the investigative journalist Michael Pollan to observe it for his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma. The sugars are extracted through a chemical enzymatic process resulting in a chemically and biologically novel compound called HFCS.”
“HFCS and sugar consists of glucose and fructose. Sugar is in a 50-50 ratio, but HFCS is in a 55-45 fructose to glucose ratio in an unbound form. Fructose is sweeter than glucose so HFCS desensitizes our taste for sweets. HFCS is cheaper than sugar because the government farm bill subsidies corn. Products with HFCS are not only sweeter, they are also cheaper than products made with cane sugar.”
Diets in Review would certainly agree with her assessment that “the most important reason to avoid products that contain HFCS is that they are a marker for poor-quality, nutritionally depleted, processed industrial food full of empty calories and artificial ingredients. If we find “high fructose corn syrup” on the label, we can be sure it is not a whole, real, fresh food full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants.
The research mentioned on Medpage Today was sponsored by companies that profit from the sell of products that contain HFCS including Coca-Cola, Quaker Oats, Kellogg, and many more. This certainly calls into question the neutrality of the research. Jackie Keller, Founding Director and Executive Chef of Los Angeles’ premier healthy food company, NutriFit, and author of Amazon top-100 bestseller, Body After Baby: The Simple 30-Day Plan to Lose Your Baby Weight agrees that “the data in this study is of poor quality, poorly controlled, and small. Therefore, one cannot either exonerate high-fructose corn syrup or condemn it, based on the conclusions of the study, as it is insufficient and inaccurate.”
I will still be avoiding HFCS. If there is no other lesson we can take from this, we can remind ourselves that sweeteners, even natural sweeteners, do not add to the nutritional quality of our food. While sweetness does have some psychologically positive qualities in moderation, the calories can be described as “empty” as they are not providing vitamins and nutrients that our bodies need to thrive.