5 Health Risks of High-Fructose Corn Syrup

High fructose corn syrup is a common sweetener in processed foods and sodas. HFCS is made by milling corn into cornstarch, and then converting the glucose into fructose using an enzyme reaction. Since its introduction in 1970, American consumption of HCFS has increased over 1000 percent, about 12 teaspoons per day in the average adult. Some research has shown that a high consumption of high-fructose corn syrup can lead to adverse health conditions.

1. Obesity

Gram for gram, high fructose corn syrup contains the same amount of calories as regular table sugar. Consuming products high in any type of sugar increases the amount of calories consumed and leads to an accumulation of body fat, or obesity. In addition to a high caloric intake, HCFS can contribute to obesity by inhibiting the release of leptin, a hormone that is produced to tell the brain that the stomach is full. This can lead to overeating as a result of reduced satiety.

2. Diabetes

High fructose consumption has been linked to insulin resistance in some animal studies. When insulin cannot effectively deliver glucose to the body cells for fuel, it circulates in the blood leading to diabetes. Diabetes and insulin resistance can also result from obesity related to excess sugar intake. In addition, a study by the American Chemical Association in 2007 found that soft drinks sweetened with HFCS are up to 10 times richer in carbonyl compounds, which has been implicated in increasing the incidence of diabetic complications, such as food ulcers and nerve damage.

3. Increased Levels of Circulating Fats

Fructose is a source of acetyl CoA, which is the starting material for fatty acid synthesis in the body, particularly triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. A study published in the Diabetes Care journal found that healthy non-diabetic volunteers who consumed a high-fructose diet had an increase in cholesterol levels of 9%. In diabetics who consume HCFS, LDL cholesterol was shown to increase 11%. An increase in blood fat can lead to cardiovascular disease and a condition known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD

4. Copper Deficiency

High fructose corn syrup interferes with the absorption and metabolism of copper. Copper is an essential mineral that is used in many metabolic functions. A deficiency in copper can result in anemia, bone abnormalities, impaired growth in children, frequent infections and general fatigue. It has also been shown to reduce the amount of collagen and elastin formed, which can lead to hypertrophy, or enlargement, of vital organs. An enlarged heart, for example, cannot pump blood throughout the body effectively, leading to circulation problems.

5. Mercury Toxicity

A study published in the 2005 journal Environmental Health found that nine out of twenty samples of the high-fructose corn syrup manufactured in the US contained trace amounts of mercury. It was found most prevalent in HCFS-containing dairy products and dressings and condiments. Mercury is a neurotoxin, and is suspected as a cause of neurologic disorders such as autism and attention deficit disorder. Symptoms of mercury toxicity include peripheral neuropathy (burning or pain in the hands and feet), skin discoloration, edema (swelling), tachycardia (rapid heartbeat) and muscle weakness.


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