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Why Is High Fructose Syrup Bad?

author image Angela Ogunjimi
Angela Ogunjimi has been a prize-winning writer and editor since 1994. She was a general assignment reporter at two newspapers and a business writer at two magazines. She writes on nutrition, obesity, diabetes and weight control for a project of the National Institutes of Health. Ogunjimi holds a master's degree in sociology from George Washington University and a bachelor's in journalism from New York University.
Why Is High Fructose Syrup Bad?
A dish and a beaker of high fructose corn syrup sit next to an ear of corn. Photo Credit: PRImageFactory/iStock/Getty Images

High-fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, is created from corn starch and used ubiquitously by processed food makers as a sweetener and food preservative. It’s actually a mixture of simple sugars, called monosaccharides, but in most formulations, HFCS contains more fructose than any of the other sugars. While the Corn Refiners Association, along with the American Medical Association, have not advised that people begin cherry-picking their sugars, several studies have found that HFCS has a negative effect on your health.

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High-fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, can cause you to overeat and gain weight. This is because of the way your body metabolizes the sweetener and how your brain views it. There is a hormone known as leptin, produced by your fat cells and circulated throughout the body. Known as the “satisfaction hormone,” leptin also works with sensors in your brain to signal when you’ve had enough to eat. High-fructose corn syrup travels almost directly to your liver, skipping over the processes that would trigger the action of leptin to dial back your appetite. Moreover, gaining too much through your diet will also cause your leptin signaling not to function properly.

Promotion of Belly Fat

Drinking too many sugary drinks and eating foods sweetened with HFCS is linked to visceral fat, which is deeply embedded deposits of fat tissue beneath your abs. This fat is dangerous because it starts to form around your internal organs, putting you at risk of problems like fatty liver disease. About 2 to 20 percent of Americans have fat increasing around their livers, and they don’t know it. Researchers, publishing in the November 2010 “Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior,” found that rats that ate more HFCS gained more weight in the belly and more blood-circulating triglycerides.

Increase in Diabetes Risk

HFCS also promotes insulin resistance, one of the hallmarks of diabetes and metabolic syndrome. This is because, with its direct route to the liver, HFCS more readily converts to fat by your liver than other types of sugar. HFCS in the liver also promotes the overproduction of fat and cholesterol, known as dyslipidemia, according to Canadian researchers publishing in the February 2005 “Nutrition & Metabolism.” A diet that is high in HFCS, thus can cause the buildup of fat in your bloodstream and stress your liver, which in turn causes problems with using insulin to regulate your blood sugar.

High Blood Pressure

Even just a moderate increase in the amount HFCS in your diet can increase your risk of high blood pressure. "Medical News Today" reports that 74 milligrams of the added HFCS or more -- the equivalent of about 2.5 cans of soda -- can raise your risk of hypertension by 28 to 87 percent. The problem lies in the fact that HFCS promotes a rise in uric acid levels in your bloodstream. Uric acid is waste product that is created after your body breaks down your foods and drinks. Too much uric acid can tax your kidneys and is usually a precursor to high blood pressure. If you don’t check high blood pressure through changed diet and possibly medication, you can experience kidney failure, heart attack and stroke.

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