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It’s High Fructose Corn Syrup Again

August 18, 2010

UFO - Unidentified Fried Object

Nobody wants to be a one-trick pony. Nobody wants to be viewed as a fanatic in the grip of a twisted, vendetta-like obsession against one particular villain. But, sometimes, a topic is difficult to ignore. You can’t simply mention it once and then move on.

For instance, take high fructose corn syrup… Please! No, really, just take it away. Make it disappear by whatever means necessary. It’s one of those substances that obesity-conscious people love to hate. Every piece of news about HFCS that comes along is worse than the last thing we’ve heard about it.

Now, it’s cancer. It turns out that pancreatic tumor cells feed on fructose. This is according to research done at UCLA and published in the Cancer Research journal, as reported for Reuters by Maggie Fox.

Fox tells us that, in America, the consumption of HFCS has increased 1,000% in the last 20 years. That’s a pretty big number. Two things are noteworthy: pancreatic cancer is one of the worst kinds to have; and this is not the first or only study to show the same alarming results.

All along, we’ve been told that sugar is sugar is sugar. Apparently not. Dr. Anthony Heaney says of the UCLA’s Jonsson Cancer Center research findings,

They have major significance for cancer patients given dietary refined fructose consumption, and indicate that efforts to reduce refined fructose intake or inhibit fructose-mediated actions may disrupt cancer growth.

The research team determined that tumor cells offered a diet of glucose and fructose will metabolize and utilize both, but differently. Fructose, they use to multiply. Without fructose, the scientists are thinking cell proliferation could be slowed down or stopped.

Fox says,

Now the team hopes to develop a drug that might stop tumor cells from making use of fructose.

Got a problem? Invent a drug. That is so old-school! No offense to the pharmaceutical industry, but wouldn’t it be more practical to get rid of the fructose? Maybe so, and Dr. Heaney advocates intervention by the federal government to help reduce the amount of HFCS that winds up in our bodies.

There are at least two health problems of epidemic proportions: obesity and diabetes, and fructose is at the center of both. Dr. Joseph Mercola says fructose is the largest source of calories consumed by Americans. In the body, it is stored as fat, and as if that weren’t bad enough, he says,

For most Americans, fructose can act like a poison.

Twenty-five grams should be the upper limit of a person’s daily intake, but the American average is nearly three times that much, 70 grams per day. Dr. Mercola also warns that agave sweetener is no better in this respect than high fructose corn syrup. He gives some specific advice:

You can use your blood uric acid level as a marker of sensitivity to fructose. If your uric acid level is above 4 mg/dl for men and 3.5 mg/dl for women, you are probably better off avoiding fructose in most forms.

It’s especially galling when the HFCS industry uses children and young people in ads to boost its sales, but even the ads featuring adults are lame. The Corn Refiners Association made this “Sweet Surprise” commercial, and a health food store in Connecticut parodied this one for a TV ad of its own. In fact, the creation of parodies based on the HFCS lobby’s efforts at public relations seems to be a growth industry. YouTube is full of them!

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Cancer cells slurp up fructose, US study finds,” Reuters, 08/02/10
Source: “Is this Popular Natural Sweetener Worse than High Fructose Corn Syrup?,”, 07/03/10
Image by mynameisharsha, used under its Creative Commons license.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Cynthia1770 permalink
    August 18, 2010 10:28 AM

    My google alert for HFCS picked up your post. Nice compilation of
    the recent reasearch about fructose and HFCS.
    Here’s another reason to avoid all national brands of soda.
    22%. Yes, when you guzzle a Coke, Pepsi, A&W Rootbeer, Diet Pepper,
    7-up, or Sprite you are getting 22% more fructose that glucose.
    The CRA states that HFCS-55 is “roughly similar” to sucrose since
    it is 55% fructose: 45% glucose which to the casual observer appears
    to be just 5% different than the 50% fructose: 50% glucose in table
    sugar, sucrose. When you sit down and do the math, a great difference
    emerges. 55%:45% = 55/45 = 1.22.
    This means in every Amercian Coke there is, compared to glucose,
    22% more fructose. Considering that average teen chugs a few sodas
    daily, that is a lot of extra fructose the liver is forced to metabolize.
    Ditch all national brands of soda.
    Take care,
    Cynthia Papierniak, M.S.

    • Robert A. Pretlow, MD permalink*
      August 18, 2010 9:30 PM

      Thanks for the great message, Cynthia. HFCS is frequently incriminated as a cause of the obesity epidemic. It’s cheaper and easier to use than table sugar, and is currently is being added to thousands of foods. It’s now in soft drinks, candy, ice cream, bread, crackers, salad dressing, jelly, pickles, soup, applesauce, juices, even baby food and some types of baby formula. It was thought that high fructose corn syrup is no unhealthier than table sugar, and the many-fold increase in food’s total sugar content is what’s likely contributing to obesity. The sweetness is very pleasurable and comforting, so people eat more of HFCS sweetened foods. Such pleasure may even be addicting. But as you point out, a darker side to HFCS is becoming evident, the hazardous metabolic effects. High blood pressure ( and fatty liver disease (, which may lead to cirrhosis, even in kids, are two examples. A much needed discontinuation of federal corn subsidies would put a damper on HFCS. – Robert Pretlow, MD


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