Watch out for this new kind of High Fructose Corn Syrup – HFCS-90
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) was introduced in the 1970s and it has caused health problems for us ever since. With 150 million Americans either pre-diabetic or diabetic, obesity is the new normal, and worst of all childhood obesity rates have risen to levels that are heart breaking. Given that over 40,000 US children have undergone dental procedures under general anesthesia is telling. In the last 20 years, Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NALFD) has become the most common liver disease in pediatrics as result of the increased prevalence of early onset obesity. The worst thing is that some of these children actually progress to require a liver transplant from drastic complications of this disease. Remember that NFALD is a totally preventable condition, has never been reported in early medical books, and should be a zero event. There is no medication to treat it and only diet has ever shown any promise in reversing this disease. This is why learning about the effects of HFCS and sugar in general is so important.
HFCS is a harmful ingredient that Americans over-consume to the tune of over fifty pounds per year. This is mostly from processed foods found in supermarkets and fast food restaurants. But even “whole foods” and “organic” foods contain a fair bit of HFCS. Most people knowingly consume high fructose corn syrup in cereals, fruit juices, candies, sport bars and the like. Even if the label says 100% natural, it is a pretty good bet that there is some amount of HFCS. How does this happen? A good example (and there are many), in 2010, the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) applied for permission to replace HFCS with “corn sugar” which has led to “natural sugar” being placed on food labels. What you are ingesting is in fact HFCS, just under a different name. The goal of the CRA was to “accurately describe” that corn is a natural ingredient. It should also be highlighted that the CRA reportedly paid bloggers with Wal-Mart gift cards to blog about the fact that HFCS and table sugar were nutritionally equivalent and affect the body in the same way. One of these websites was Momcentral.com. A quick search yielded dozens of articles on products like fruit snacks and cookies and McDonald’s sponsored social media messages. The CRA spends millions of dollars in research and public relations campaigns–just to give you an idea of the magnitude of the issue at hand.
Many food companies are marketing their products and 100% natural. This is common labeling and many people unfortunately buy into this type of marketing. Today, there is now an HFCS-90, which means that 90% of the syrup is fructose. Regular HFCS is usually 40 or 50% fructose. Companies like General Mills and others can eliminate the designation of HFCS on the label by using HFCS-90. Fructose or fructose syrup are the names used to replace HFCS. Of course, the companies say that such a small amount is used that it cannot be unhealthful. You will see this type of marketing on many “lightly sweetened” and “natural” foods.
To bring this all together, remember that fructose is basically mainlined straight to the liver. Then the liver must do something with this fructose bolus. The liver responds by storing triglycerides in its cells, resulting in NAFLD. This is hugely oversimplified, but you get the point. Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease is associated with obesity, Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, dyslipidemia, heart disease, cancer and metabolic syndrome. It is presumed that the underlying common pathophysiology among these conditions is insulin resistance and that NAFLD is the hepatic manifestation of insulin resistance. Not too surprisingly, patients with NAFLD have an increased mortality (death) due to cardiovascular disease. Growing scientific evidences suggest that obese children with Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease are more predisposed to cardiovascular disease. Interestingly, this association seems to be independent from being obese. In fact, based on recent findings, it has been proposed that liver steatosis plays an independent role in determining early atherosclerosis and cardiac dysfunction.
Despite the efforts of the Corn Refiners Association, people are more aware that High Fructose Corn Syrup is present in many products that we all eat on a daily basis. The consumption of fructose has increased exponentially since the early 1970s, and with this rise, an increase in obesity and complications of obesity have been observed. Read the labels and do your best to eat whole foods.