There’s little doubt in most people’s minds that high fructose corn syrup isn’t especially good stuff to eat a lot of. And unfortunately, if you eat pretty much anything you don’t prepare from raw ingredients yourself, you’re eating a lot of it. It’s in just about everything from bread to juice to condiments.
A study from the University of California, the first one on human subjects, found some troubling effects from the substance. 16 volunteers were fed a strictly controlled diet with high levels of fructose. After 10 weeks, the subjects had formed new fat cells around their heart, liver, and digestive organs. They also showed metabolic changes that are linked to diabetes and heart disease. Volunteers on a similar diet but with glucose sugar instead of fructose gained a similar amount of weight, but didn’t have the same increase in fat cells around the organs or the same metabolic changes.
Unlike other sugars which are broken down during the digestive process, fructose arrives intact in the liver where it disrupts mechanisms that instruct the body whether to burn or store fat, among other problems.
“This is the first evidence we have that fructose increases diabetes and heart disease independently from causing simple weight gain,” Kimber Stanhope, a molecular biologist who led the study, was quoted as saying in The Times of London. “We didn’t see any of these changes in the people eating glucose.”
Fructose does occur naturally in fruit, yes. But only five to 10 percent of the weight of any fruit is fructose, while HFCS is 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose. It’s used so pervasively because it’s six times sweeter than sugar and much cheaper.
Scary stuff, no?