Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Excessive fructose consumption a major health hazard? Likely so

The following was published in the Saturday, January 3, 2009 edition of The Daily Inter Lake:

Fructose, Sucrose and your health

By David Brown

For those resolved to lose weight gained over the holidays, I suggest you eat less fructose. And for those who didn't gain any weight whatsoever, I suggest a lowered fructose intake also. Why? Because excessive fructose consumption is finally being recognized as a major health hazard in the modern diet.

And we're not just talking about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) here. White sugar (sucrose) has nearly the same effects. I say "nearly the same" because scientists have shown that the liver processes the fructose part of a blend of molecules of fructose and glucose into triglycerides (fats) a little differently from sucrose, a double sugar molecule consisting of fructose and glucose chemically bonded.

Blended or bonded, it's fructose that loads the bloodstream with fat. In a July 24, 2008 New York Times article by Tara Parker-Pope titled "Does Fructose Make You Fatter?" the author reports, "In a small study, Texas researchers showed that the body converts fructose to body fat with 'surprising speed,' said Elizabeth Parks, associate professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas...In humans, triglycerides, which are a type of fat in the blood, are mostly formed in the liver. Dr. Parks said the liver acts like 'a traffic cop' who coordinates how the body uses dietary sugars. When the liver encounters glucose, it decides whether the body needs to store it, burn it for energy or turn it into triglycerides. But when fructose enters the body, it bypasses the process and ends up being quickly converted to body fat.

In a 2004 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition article authored by George Bray, Samara Nielsen, and Barry Popkin the authors wrote, "It is becoming increasingly clear that soft drink consumption may be an important contributor to the epidemic of obesity, in part through the larger portion sizes of these beverages and through the increased intake of fructose from HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) and sucrose."

Subsequent research by Peter Havel, Richard Johnson, and others has confirmed the suspected connection between fructose and weight gain and elucidated the metabolic pathways that affect hunger, fat storage, and fat mobilization.

Fructose also appears to promote diabetes, heart disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and many lesser known effects. In an article by Laura Jefferson titled "The Negative Effects of High Fructose Corn Syrup on the Human Body Excluding Obesity, Diabetes, and Kidney Failure" the author wrote, "Many of the lesser-known effects of high fructose corn syrup are the result of a trickle down effect. When high fructose corn syrup changes the balance of nutrients, it also can lead to problems with vitamin and mineral deficiency. The most noticeable effects of high fructose corn syrup include problems with liver disease, heart failure, minerals, osteoporosis, micro nutrients, accelerated aging, and copper deficiency."

Of course, bad publicity about HFCS has elicited a response from the Corn Refiners Association (CRA). In June, the CRA launched a 30 million dollar advertising campaign in a transparent attempt to convince consumers that HFCS is not a problem. To familiarize yourself with their version of the truth Google "The Truth About High Fructose Corn Syrup - HFCS Facts."

Apparently negative publicity is making the CRA extremely nervous because spokesmen for the organization have begun to troll the internet for articles and editorials containing negative comments about HFCS. For example, in the comment section following a Boston Globe article titled "Florida farm an organic gourmand's delight" Audrae Erickson, President of the CRA, wrote, "The American Medical Association (AMA) in June 2008 helped PUT TO REST (emphasis mine) misunderstandings about this sweetener and obesity, stating that “high fructose corn syrup does not appear to contribute to obesity more than other caloric sweeteners.”

Regarding the AMA decision not to bash HFCS, Clinical nutritionist Byron Richards wrote, "Last year the AMA was able to avoid making a public decision on the resolution, but intense pressure over the past year from within their own ranks forced them this year to take a stand. After all, the obesity epidemic is rapidly becoming the top public health problem in this country. With their tail between their legs and no trumpets blaring, the AMA sided with the Corn Refiners Association and against the public health – based on the lamest logic imaginable. Their decision was immediately broadcast far and wide – interpreted by the media to mean that the AMA had given high fructose corn syrup its seal of approval. The AMA said they couldn’t tell if high fructose corn syrup was worse than any other sweetener, and there was no way to tell if it was really causing obesity because people eat too much in general. Their conclusion is laughable."

The beverage industry, on the other hand, tracks nutrition research closely and apparently has seen the hand writing on the wall. A few years back Coca-Cola teamed up with Cargill to finance studies to determine the safety of Rebiana, a stevia derived sweetener. Their efforts paid off because on December 17, 2008 the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of stevia as a food additive. Some natural health practitioners believe stevia to be far safer than artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose.

Meanwhile, most Americans remain clueless regarding the health hazards associated with excessive fructose consumption. Clearly, the sweeteners industry has powerful ties to dietetics, public health, medicine, and commerce. You'll have to do your own research if you want to learn the truth. You won't see it on television or the print media.

With some reservation, I recommend The Sugar Fix by Richard J. Johnson, MD. Like most authors of books about nutrition and disease, Dr. Johnson made little attempt to understand or resolve the saturated fat controversy.

For those with internet access I suggest you Google "HFCS hazards" or "On High Fructose Corn Syrup and Weapons of Mass Destruction."

Have questions, comments, or criticism? Contact me at

David Brown
1925 Belmar Dr
Kalispell, MT 59901