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  • Writer's picturedrwendyross

A sweet but deadly ingredient

If you are struggling with food cravings, often feel hungry soon after eating something that would reasonably be expected to get you through the morning, or find your energy levels fluctuating wildly — maybe it is time to start checking the labels on the food you buy for high fructose corn syrup.

About 10-20 years ago there was a lot of debate about whether or not high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) was any worse for people than simple cane sugar.

Finally, a study was published in early 2013 showing conclusively that it does affect the brain very differently. Using functional MRI, Yale University researchers showed different patterns of brain activity on fMRI scans.

People consuming glucose drinks had lower blood flow in certain parts of their brains, (indicating their appetites were satisfied), but this did not happen when fructose was consumed.

Fifteen minutes after drinking glucose, the fMRI’s showed reduced activity of the brain regions that control appetite, motivation and reward processing. Fructose ingestion did not change these at all! This showed that when the human brain is exposed to fructose, the pathways involved in appetite regulation are altered, thereby promoting increased food intake. No wonder it is so hard to stay on a diet!

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is lurking in the most unexpected places.

That powdered hot chocolate mix -check! Pretty much any pop — check! That lovely bagel — sorry! Check! Many breakfast cereals, ketchups and yogurts have it too.

You need to read labels carefully as it may be disguised as glucose/fructose, iso glucose, maize syrup, HFCS and occasionally corn sugar.

Unlike regular cane sugar (sucrose) which has two tightly bound sugar molecules (glucose and fructose), HFCS has a slightly different ratio with no chemical bond between them. This means that no digestion is required and the molecules are more rapidly absorbed into your bloodstream.

Fructose goes straight to the liver and triggers lipogenesis (the production of fats like triglycerides and cholesterol) which is why it is the major cause of liver damage in the US causing fatty liver in 70 million people.

In Canada, about 25 per cent of the population has non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). This includes 3 per cent of children some as young as 4! HFCS also causes leaking across the intestinal membrane, triggering an immune reaction and the body wide inflammation that we know is at the root of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, dementia and accelerated aging.

Naturally occurring fructose in whole fruit is part of a complex of nutrients and fibre that does not exhibit the same biological effects as the high free fructose doses from HFCS.

Take home message today — an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

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