High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) has been the subject of conversation lately, with many people believing it leads to obesity. HFCS is a mixture of glucose and an increased amount of fructose, hence the name “high fructose.” In contrast, table sugar can be broken down into equal amounts of glucose and fructose. Because it’s inexpensive and readily available, HFCS is added to 40 percent of all processed, canned or baked foods in place of table sugar. In addition to taking the role of sweetener, HFCS helps extend shelf life and provides a softer texture.
Some studies have shown that fructose increases ghrelin, a hormone that signals hunger and appetite. Because of this, foods high in fructose may encourage overeating. The World Health Organization says that HFCS should only make up 10 percent of the total amount of sugar consumed daily. “The recommended daily limit of sugar is ten teaspoons [or 40 grams],” says Vanessa Provins, RDCD, of Porter Health System in Valparaiso. “And that’s what’s in one can of soda.”
Although it’s true that fruits and vegetables have a natural form of fructose, the amount is low; plus they are packed with healthy fiber, micronutrients and antioxidants.
Because of HFCS’s high levels of fructose, some people, such as those with irritable bowel syndrome, can have digestive difficulties with the sweetener, which may cause intestinal discomfort. There are some studies that show HFCS negatively affects triglyceride (the fat in your blood) levels, but Provins says this is true with most sugars.
While studies are still ongoing, most dieticians recommend treating all sugars the same, whether they are HFCS, honey or table sugar.
“You can’t tag obesity to one thing. And all sugars are linked to an increase in diabetes, heart disease and dental problems. So people should moderate their intake of sugar beverages and sweets,” Provins says.
“Give yourself one blowout item a day: a can of pop, a cookie or a doughnut. It’s not the teaspoons of sugar or HFCS that get you into trouble, it’s the overeating.”