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High Fructose Corn Syrup

May 18, 2012 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

New research from UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine reveals that daily consumption of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) impairs learning and memory in rats. This finding has lead to a slew of headlines this past week with titles such as, “Sugar Makes You Stupid”. If accurate, this may come as a surprise to anyone who’s encountered one or more of the television commercials financed by the Corn Refiner’s Association. In the slickly produced ads, the prevailing sentiment is that HFCS affects the body in the same way as any other sugar source. In fact, there’s currently a push to rename HFCS to “corn sugar”.

The debate about HFCS frequently gets quite heated, but I just wish to point out the facts as I see them. The most damning evidence against HFCS can be found in reviewing trials conducted in both animals and humans. A case in point is how HFCS affects cardiometabolic risk factors. Studies carried out in rats indicate that HFCS consumption increases blood pressure and sugar, body fat, insulin and triglycerides. There have been comparable results in trials involving healthy human volunteers. The similarities in the conclusions are striking. The implications of this collective research is that regular HFCS intake most likely elevates the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease in adults and children.

Currently, there isn’t as much evidence to support a shared link between HFCS and cognitive performance in animals and humans. However, we do know that animals fed an HFCS-rich diet are prone to insulin resistance and impairments in cognition (hippocampal synaptic plasticity). In addition, the November 2011 issue of the British Journal of Nutrition linked habitual fructose intake to learning and memory deficits in older adults without diabetes. While preliminary, this data is enough to encourage anyone to avoid HFCS wherever possible – a good start is to limit your use of packaged and refined foods. HFCS may or may not make you stupid, but taking a chance on it just doesn’t seem like the smartest thing to do.

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – This Is Your Brain on Sugar: UCLA Study Shows High-Fructose Diet(link)

Study 2 – High-Fructose Corn Syrup Causes Vascular Dysfunction Associated (link)

Study 3 – Metabolic and Behavioural Effects of Sucrose and Fructose/Glucose (link)

Study 4 – Effects of High-Fructose Corn Syrup and Sucrose on the (link)

Study 5 – Consumption of Fructose and High Fructose Corn Syrup Increase(link)

Study 6 – Diet-Induced Insulin Resistance Impairs Hippocampal Synaptic (link)

Study 7 – Habitual Sugar Intake and Cognitive Function Among Middle-Aged (link)

The Fructose Content of Popular Drinks

Source: Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011 Apr;19(4):868-74. (link)

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Posted in Diabetes, Diet and Weight Loss, Food and Drink

4 Comments & Updates to “High Fructose Corn Syrup”

  1. Robin Thomas Says:

    I’m not saying that we should be eating a lot of HFCS, but the rest of the research suggested a protective effect of fish oil. Occasionally HFCS in SMALL amounts has a purpose for avoiding worse chemical preservatives. That being said, I do advocate eating whole, unprocessed foods instead of processed foods. They taste so much better, too!

  2. JP Says:

    Hi Robin,

    Thank you for your comments. It’s true that omega-3 fatty acids (and select antioxidants) tend to mitigate the negative effects of HFCS. However, I think the best approach is to limit dietary components that are harmful (HFCS, hydrogenated fats, etc.) and allow healthful ingredients and foods afford protection from all the unavoidable irritants and toxins we encounter on a daily basis. It’s always a balancing act. Avoiding HFCS is but one step to tip the balance ever so slightly in our favor.


    Be well!


  3. Rob Says:

    So true about avoiding as much as un natural ingredients to keep your body in balance, and avoiding HFCS is one way

  4. stephanie Says:

    Ginger ale should be included. Most think it is healthy, but many brands have HFCS and no real ginger.

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