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The Pros & Cons of High Fructose Corn Syrup

By Amy Long Carrera

Break corn starch down into corn syrup, and you get 100 percent glucose, the fuel your brain, muscles and the rest of your body easily uses for energy. Add an enzyme to this sugary syrup and you end up with high-fructose corn syrup, a controversial ingredient that your body may metabolize slightly differently than table sugar, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In 2012, the FDA denied the Corn Refiners Association’s petition to use the term corn sugar to describe HFCS, on the grounds that the chemically produced sweetener does not meet the accepted definition of sugar.

Sweetening the Pot

High-fructose corn syrup saves the food industry a lot of money. It's the most cost-effective sweetener available, passing on a savings of more than $3.8 billion to U.S. consumers over the past decade, according to the Corn Refiners Association. The sweetener is also versatile, adding flavor and texture to products that range from breads, bars and yogurt to condiments and beverages. The Corn Refiners Association maintains that there is no difference between HFCS and sugar.

Expanding America’s Waistline

Rats that consumed HFCS gained significantly more weight and abnormal body fat than rats that ate table sugar, according to a study published in 2010 in the journal, "Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior." Princeton University researchers also determined that the rodents also had higher blood triglyceride levels. Higher blood triglyceride levels contribute to heart disease and diabetes, according to the American Heart Association. A 2004 article in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” associates the rapid increase in U.S. obesity rates to increased intake of HFCS in beverages. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advises you to reduce your intake of all added sugars, including high-fructose corn syrup.

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