There’s been quite a lot of discussion regarding “High Fructose Corn Syrup” or “Corn Sugar” in the greater context of our general health. HFCS is a form of sugar that consist of 55% Fructose and 45% Glucose which are two forms of simple sugars. By comparison, cane sugar is 50/50 fructose and glucose.
So, what’s the difference?
Well, besides the fact that there’s slightly different taste, cane sugar is grown whereas HFCS is made in a lab and that HFCS is cheaper to produce on average. However, in terms of health; there really is no difference. As in your body does not process the sugar any differently. All types of sugars contain 4 calories per gram and every type of sugar (lab made or not) trigger the same insulin response which metabolizes the sugar into “Glycogen” where is either used by the body for energy or stored as fat.
There are two arguments to the debate over High Fructose Corn Syrup, but neither argument really challenges the other and both arguments are right (or simply not wrong). HFCS is processed by the body in the exact same way as organic cane sugar, honey, table sugar or any other kind of sugar. Should we avoid products with HFCS as an ingredient? Yes, because the average American diet consists of over 150 pounds of sugar per person, per year. That is A LOT of sugar! I mean that’s the size of a (slightly below) average adult. It is no coincidence that the rise of obesity, chronic diseases, mental health issues and other such diseases have seen such a sharp increase with an increase in average sugar consumption. Studies have shown that eating too much sugar has a role in all those issues, plus many more.
So, it’s not HFCS specifically that’s the problem, the problem is the high levels of sugar in the average person’s diet. Since HFCS is so cheap and easy to produce, it is commonly used as a flavor additive to enhance the flavor of foods, especially processed foods. Since HFCS has gotten such a bad reputation lately, companies are replacing it with other sugars, including advertising “organic, free range, gluten free, grass fed, vegan, pure cane sugar.” And a whole market has developed around these so called “healthier” sugars. Except that they’re not healthier because they’re still, say it with me… SUGAR!
So, if the root of all disease is basically sugar, what can we do? Well stop consuming so much damn sugar! I know, I’m laughing too because it’s easier said than done. How can we stop consuming so much sugar when it is laced in everything we eat? Studies have shown that sugar addiction not only is a thing but is equal to the physiological and psychological effects of substance abuse.
The sugar industry is a multi-billion-year industry, so unlike the tobacco industry, it won’t be declining anytime soon. However, you can still try to reduce the average sugar consumption in your life. The easiest way is to reduce the consumption of processed foods. Anything that is sold in a sealed package really. Everything from chips, cookies, bars, juices, sodas, even whole grain breads and supplements. Yes, supplements. While the marketing machine will try to convince you that the latest protein powder, pre-workout, Creatine power, multi-vitamin, or especially all those cringey MLM schemes are good for you. They are still processed and loaded with sugar. Also, remember that supplements are not regulated by the FDA like real food products are, so chances are the supplement label isn’t telling you everything that is in it. Avoid.
So, what can you eat? Fruits, vegatables, nuts, lean meats, limited amounts of whole grains, herbs and spices, and other foods that are in their natural form. If you are going to want a smoothie or something, it’s better to do it yourself. Make your own coffee so you can control the amounts of creamer and sugar you put in. Now I am sure you are reading this and taking the advice like a smoker takes the “smoking causes lung cancer” advice to heart. But understand that no matter if it’s High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Sugar, Table Sugar, Ultra veganey, organic, natural, cane sugar or any other kind of “ose” (fructose, glucose, sucrose, lactose, galactose, maltodextrose, etc.) that it is sugar. Sugar is sugar is sugar.
By Dirk Smith