Production of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), also called isoglucose and glucose-fructose, began in the 1970’s and by the 1990’s consumption of this product was greater than that of sugar. Today, HFCS is used by processed food producers in a plethora of products, including soda, candy, bread, many types of breakfast cereal, ketchup, crackers, cookies and even flavored yogurts. It is both cheaper than sugar and easier to transport, making it a big hit for food producers who want to provide the sweet flavor at a lower cost.

Unfortunately, HFCS has found to be a contributing factor in the obesity epidemic facing North Americans today. Why is this, you ask?

Some studies suggest that when we ingest glucose, it stimulates our bodies to produce insulin, which, in turn, encourages our bodies to regulate our food intake. HFCS, on the other hand, doesn’t prompt our bodies to regulate our food intake. In addition, HFCS, if not burned off quickly, is more likely to be stored as fat. And, because HFCS doesn’t stimulate insulin it must be metabolized by the liver. Increased fructose consumption ends up leading to increased production of very low-density lipoproteins. Fructose also encourages the conversion of carbs and protein to fat. Because of this, you could be eating a diet that is low in overall calories but still have trouble losing weight.

In addition to weight gain, there have been some other frightening discoveries related to HFCS. In studies where rats were given high doses of fructose, multiple health problems emerged. The rats suffered from anemia, high cholesterol and enlarged hearts. Male rats did not reach maturity and had delayed testicular development while the female rats were unable to produce live young. Now, you might be thinking that those things would only occur with very high doses of HFCS. I challenge you to read the labels of all your processed foods to see how much of this food additive you are actually consuming. If you are a big soda drinker prepare yourself for a shock.

While the debate rages on about the dangers of HFCS, it seems clear that the most obvious choice is to limit your dietary intake of processed foods. And to be on the safe side, decrease your consumption of all types of sugar. Stick to unprocessed foods in their natural state and choose organic whenever possible.