Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Does HFCS make you fat?

Most of us are aware of the controversy surrounding high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) being used in so many of our foods. There's a Wikipedia page with lots of information about it, but this article from Princeton University was just released on Monday, with some alarming information about HFCS. At least, I found it to be so, because I was of a mind that all sugars are equal in making us gain weight. But if these results are correct, it's just not so.

To summarize, studies showed that rats with access to HFCS gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same, and that weight was mostly around the abdomen. From the article:
"Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn't true, at least under the conditions of our tests," said psychology professor Bart Hoebel, who specializes in the neuroscience of appetite, weight and sugar addiction. "When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they're becoming obese -- every single one, across the board. Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don't see this; they don't all gain extra weight."
The researchers published their results, which were replicated, in the March 18 edition of the journal Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior. The reason behind this effect of HFCS is not yet understood, but they speculate that the difference "may relate to the fact that excess fructose is being metabolized to produce fat, while glucose is largely being processed for energy or stored as a carbohydrate, called glycogen, in the liver and muscles."

I snagged this graphic from the Wikipedia page. The green line is HFCS consumption. Even if you were to work hard to keep HFCS out of your diet, it's really difficult if you eat much processed food, because it's a cheap sweetener used in sodas, cereals, fruit juice, bread, yogurt, ketchup and mayonnaise. The article says that today Americans, on average, consume 60 pounds of it per person every year! And we didn't start using it until it was developed in the mid-1970s.

Read the article and see what you think. Or, if you want to delve deeper, the Wikipedia link addresses many of the other controversies surrounding HFCS, like the fact that it contains mercury, which appears to come from the manufacturing process itself. Or that it became a sucrose replacement to feed honeybees in the United States, which might have something to do with bee colony collapse that started a while ago (that's just my conjecture).

Anyway, in my mind I think it would be wise to try to reduce one's consumption of it until more is known, especially if you want to lose weight. I found it in some of the foods in my pantry when I went looking after reading this article. I always want to know whether what I am paying good money for is actually good for me or not!


  1. Oh yes, I totally believe it, having seen some other articles in the past. I no longer drink sodas, but you're right, the stuff crops up everywhere. A boycott would be a wonderful thing.

    Also, I didn't know they were feeding it to bees, but hello, you are right to wonder about a connection to bee colony collapse.

  2. I have been following this controversy also.
    I am truly convinced that the majority of our foods are saturated with this stuff.
    I began to follow the blog of an English lady whose children had become allergic to common cereals they had been already accutomed to eating in England. The tests brought to light the use of HFCS in the American cereals, and just how commonly they are used in our foods.
    Off to read the article now, thanks for sharing.

  3. Ok. So now I am depressed.
    But it is very interesting.

  4. My homeopathic nutritionist had me stop eating anything with HFCS, and white flour back some years ago...and I lost so much weight so quickly my family thought I was sick or something. And I felt so much better.
    Awesome post!!!

  5. And be careful...there are many other ways they are putting HFCS in food simply by using different names for it.

  6. Thanks for the info; I will be checking those items.

    We eat mostly fresh fruit and veggies and generally whole grain breads and cereal, but something is making me slowly gain weight, much to my distress. I drink maybe 3-4 sodas a year, if that much, but use catsup in some recipes and eat yogurt.

  7. Well, I don't want to give up my daily carton of light yogurt, but I don't eat any other processed foods regularly. I'll have to check some labels.

  8. We've been eliminating it for some time. It's in everything! Insidious. We even found it in agave syrup. Truvia is the only sweetener shown not to be a problem. So far...

  9. I had surgery in 1996 and was not able to do much except walk to the bathroom for a long time. And I could make it to the kitchen. I gained 40 pounds and still got it.

    I think I learned one thing from the Japanese. Eat smaller portions. Their lunch meal was packed in a flat tin can about the size of a modern can of sardines. It usually had cooked rice, a tiny piece of meat (usually fish) and a sprig or two of something green. That was it. In those days you never saw a fat Jap or Japanese man or woman. Now, these many years after our occupation, they have a fat problem just like we do.

  10. Thanks for holding the torch high, DJAN! You are speaking the truth and revealing the dangers of HFCS to protect those you care about!

  11. It is a hidden danger and it needs to be banned. Thankfully we are becoming more aware.

  12. It really boils down to: if you want sweet, you're almost better off to just use a bit of sugar. It still seems the lesser of all evils? No artificial sweeteners, no 'new' age sweeteners. I also like to follow the guys who believe that anything we ate pre WWII is better for you and anything invented after WWII is bad.

  13. Like Rae said, it is a hidden danger and should be banned or at the very least more clearly labeled.

    I am notorious for reading labels and HFCS is one of the things I look for when considering a product. I don't drink sodas, except on rare occasions and then it is Sprite Zero.

  14. Sometimes it feels like with each new thing to look for on labels everything is being slowly eliminated as okay. Do you look at the label and decide that if the item is low on the list (indicating it is a smaller quantity) you can eat the item or do you try to eliminate it from your diet altogether? Decisions, decisions...

  15. This is great info! Thanks!!

  16. I was aware of this, very much so. I won't eat corn syrup in any form whatsoever. In England it is almost unheard of. We never have it in our food. The reason you have it in such abundance over there is because you eat so much corn and corn products. Over here we eat mostly wheat. When I am in America I eat only what I cook myself and I avoid anything with corn syrup on the packet or can. I'm sure it makes sense.
    Blessings, Star


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