Monday, January 22, 2018
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Ask the Expert: High Fructose Corn Syrup

It may not be called “sugar,” but high fructose corn syrup is a sweetener we may need to avoid. In this edition of “Ask the Expert,” Dr. Jeannine Hogg, pediatric hospitalist at Baptist Women’s Hospital, explains that the skinny on high fructose corn syrup may be more sour than sweet.

Can you explain what exactly high fructose corn syrup is?

Can you explain what exactly high fructose corn syrup is?

High fructose corn syrup is a sweetener manufactured from corn starch via a chemical process that links the glucose and fructose together to form sucrose (sugar). It was first used in the 1950s as a cheaper sweetener alternative in processed foods. Using HFCS instead of sugar from sugar cane or beets (which was much more expensive) allowed for the amounts of sugar found in foods to increase significantly. It is also an additive used to improve taste in highly processed foods. Some studies show that sugar in the form of HFCS has an almost addictive quality and, at the levels we are currently ingesting, may be toxic.

What are some foods that readers might be surprised to learn can contain high levels of HFCS?

What are some foods that readers might be surprised to learn can contain high levels of HFCS?

Ketchup, tomato sauce, salad dressings (including “light” or “diet” brands), cereals, juices (including “natural” types), yogurt, and even milk can contain high levels of HFCS.

Studies have shown that Americans eat as much as 35 pounds of HFCS per year. What health concerns could this lead to?

Studies have shown that Americans eat as much as 35 pounds of HFCS per year. What health concerns could this lead to?

The biggest danger in consuming this much HFCS is the large amount of calories they contain. This much HFCS intake is linked to problems with weight gain and obesity, diabetes, and the development of fatty liver disease. In addition, there are also risks with cavities and poor oral health related to taking in so much sugar.

Is HFCS of particular concern when it comes to kids? That is, are a lot of products aimed at children loaded with HFCS?

Is HFCS of particular concern when it comes to kids? That is, are a lot of products aimed at children loaded with HFCS?

Many products that are marketed to children, including soft drinks, juice boxes, snacks, cereals and many other processed candies and sweets, all have high levels of HFCS.

What are some healthier alternatives to products with HFCS, especially for kids?

What are some healthier alternatives to products with HFCS, especially for kids?

Healthier alternatives include consuming foods that are less processed, whole foods (such as apples, oranges, strawberries, and raisins), and eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. Try to look for products that do not have HFCS as a “hidden” ingredient.

 

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