Too Much Sweetness Is…Toxic?


Ed: I started this post back in October 2011.  It’s been lounging around unfinished since then. I saw a 60 Minutes story this past Sunday examining the toxicity of fructose and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  Sooooo, I’ve dusted it off for publication.

CBS seems to have been “all over” this issue for some time.  In February 2010, Katie Couric interviewed Dr. David Kessler  and author Eric Schlosser about the issue.

And then in March 2010, CBS News carried a report ,”Is High-Fructose Corn Syrup Really So Bad?,”  which cites a UC Davis study to investigate conflicting claims about the use of HFCS and sugar. (This is the same study that informed the 60 Minutes report.)  The free Abstract of the study is here (subscription is needed for the full text).    But the main findings of the study are that consumption of fructose and HFCS differs significantly from consumption of glucose in raising blood-sugar levels in the test group.  This news report explains the study and its findings.

…study participants consuming fructose or high fructose corn syrup exhibited increased bloodstream concentrations of three known risk factors for heart disease: LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and a protein known as apolipoprotein-B, which can lead to plaque buildup in arteries.

Which brings me back to the latest CBS look at the sugar/HFCS issue: Sunday’s 60 Minutes report.

Another interesting site is “High Fructose Corn Syrup vs. Pure Sugar — Is One Worse Than The Other?

Some reports claim that ingesting HFCS suppresses the levels of the protein hormone leptin in the blood which in turn affects the appetite and hunger, causing overeating.  But the pro-HFCS side begs to differ.  [Note: The site linked, “SweetSurprise.com is run by the Corn Refiners Association.] One of the studies they cite was conducted on lean women over 2 days [my emphasis].  That surely doesn’t seem realistic for a snapshot of the general population; and 2 days cannot provide the basis from which to extrapolate for long-term consumption of any substance.  In fairness, they did call for studies of obese individuals.   I’m still looking for these studies, as well as for studies over a longer period of time.

Disappointingly, the Mayo Clinic provides a somewhat non-answer to the question “What are the health concerns about high-fructose corn syrup?”  with this response.

So, sugar can be toxic. I don’t consume much sugar, and as little HFCS as I can manage (i.e., NO diet drinks). I always check the labels and pick the product that does NOT have HFCS.

My artificial sweetener of choice, if only for cold foods such as iced tea or cereal, is Splenda ™.  And yes, sucralose has also been studied for possible negative effects.  After reading this report  I think I’m going to start sweetening my cold drinks and cereal with a simple sugar syrup. Just need to watch the amounts!

Here’s to more-healthful eating!

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