How Sweet it is

Posted by on November 19, 2012 in Health, Nutrition | Comments Off on How Sweet it is

How Sweet it is

How sweet it is – or is it really?  Is it sweet that the average adolescent consumes 72.8 grams of sugar everyday? Did you know that if you consume one can of soda every day you will gain 15.5 pounds by the end of the year?  What about the infamous 44oz Big Gulp?  Get ready to put on a whopping 57 pounds by the end of the year by drinking one of these each day. How sweet is that?

Consequently, Americans weigh 25 more pounds today than we weighed 25 years ago and it’s mainly due to the amount of sugar we consume – mostly in the form of high fructose corn syrup.  It is in everything from ketchup, barbeque sauce, pretzels, salad dressing and even bread.   It is added to every processed and packaged food so it’s hard to avoid in your daily diet if you are not eating whole foods.

But is high fructose corn syrup bad for you? According to the Corn Refiners Association it is okay to consume HFCS in moderation and it is metabolized in the body similar to regular sugar.  To other health experts HFCS is the direct cause of diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome and even though it is metabolized the same, some studies have shown that it has a profound effect on two hormones that regulate hunger – insulin and leptin.

So the debate rages on and both sides do agree that more studies are needed.  In the meantime, HFCS is here to stay and to enhance the longevity and put a positive spin on HFCS, the Corn Refiners Association has proposed a new name for HFCS to clear up any confusion.

Source: “It is important that consumers recognize added sugars in the diet. Despite its confusing name, high fructose corn syrup is simply corn sugar – or an added sugar in the diet. It is not high in fructose as its name would suggest. High fructose corn syrup is composed of the same two simple sugars (fructose and glucose) as table sugar, honey and maple syrup.On September September 14, 2010 the Corn Refiners Association released the following statement:  In an effort to help clarify the labeling of food products for consumers, the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow manufacturers the option of using “corn sugar.”

So what is “corn sugar” exactly?

“Corn sugar” is created by process called isomerization.  Essentially corn starch is processed to corn syrup and then treated with enzymes to convert some of the glucose into fructose.  Yes, it sounds simple but it is a highly technical process that involves separating glucose and fructose, purifying it then recombining those little molecules, then mixing and remixing what was already sliced up in order to turn about half of the glucose into fructose.

CS was invented in Japan in 1966 and introduced to the US market in 1975.  It is sweeter than table sugar and is so cheap to produce that it has found its way into a multitude of food products.  Because of this, our current consumption of CS is 63 pounds per person per year.  Wow- that is a lot of sugar.

On the other side of the debate there have been numerous studies done on the effects of just fructose in relation to two hormones – insulin and leptin.

To help you understand the concept here is a short summary of what happens in your body when you consume glucose vs. fructose.

When glucose is consumed, insulin is produced by the pancreas and released into the body.  Insulin helps glucose get into the cells for energy production and is also stored in the muscles and liver for later use. Leptin is another hormone that is produced when insulin is released which helps regulate our storage of fat, increases our metabolism when needed and also tells the brain that we are full and to stop eating.

Fructose, on the other hand is metabolized in the liver and does not cause the release of insulin nor does it enhance leptin production.  Consequently, the consumption of fructose means no insulin production and no leptin production which means that the cells cannot use it as energy and your brain still signals hunger which ultimately results in over-eating and weight gain.

Notice that we are talking about just fructose and not high fructose corn syrup.  As you know fructose is in fruit but it is natural fructose and not highly processed. As mentioned before, CS is in everything – so you may consume more fructose in one day eating processed food (and more specifically soda) than you would consume in several servings of fruit.

So in summary, is it the over-consumption of sugar that is making us obese?  Can it ultimately be blamed on high fructose corn syrup and the effects of fructose on the body?  Or is it because “corn sugar” is added to every processed/fast food we eat?  Can we ultimately call it the “Frutosofication of America?”  The next time you go to the grocery store take note of how many food items contain “corn sugar.”  You’ll have a “sweet surprise.”

Sources: Robert H. Lustig, M.D. UCSF Divison of Endocrinology and Metabolism The Bitter Truth-

The Twinkie Deconstructed Steve Ettinger

The A-Z Guide to Food Additives Danna M. Minnich, Ph.D, C.N.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition