Killing Us Sweetly! Part Three

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Killing Us Sweetly! Part Three

06th Jan 2014

A Digression on Sweeteners: Glucose-Fructose Syrup

In this article, let’s have a think about a point I have made before, if I am a food manufacturer, my job is to make you eat more of my products. In order to do this, I would need to create a desire to consume my product. On this basis if you ever look at labels, you may see the ingredient “Glucose-Fructose syrup or (In the US) high fructose corn syrup. This stuff, in short, is one of the sweetest substances known to mankind.

Glucose-fructose syrup is made up of glucose and fructose. Corn syrup is taken through an enzymatic process which converts some of the glucose to fructose to make a desired sweetness. This may be a little technical so to make it simple, most food gets converted to glucose in the body and used for energy. Fructose on the other hand is often called “natural” but really isn’t at the levels we are discussing here. The fructose in fruit is offset against fibre and nutrients however the fructose in table sugar and glucose syrup is there for one thing only, to create an intense sweetness.

So where did glucose-fructose syrup come from?

The US government needed a cheap replacement for table sugar. In the US sugar is two to three times more expensive than anywhere else. Due to the fact that this stuff is sweeter than table sugar means that food production costs are drastically reduced.

After two US scientists failed to make it safe for mass production in 1957, it was in Japan in 1961 that high fructose corn syrup was first produced. The adding to food started and rapidly grew between 1975-1985.

Fructose & Human History

One of the reasons why this stuff is so bad is that human beings until recently would have not consumed the levels of fructose that we do today. Most staples of early human diets like meat, vegetables, berries and roots would have contained little or no fructose at all. There was a 25% increase in the use of added sugars between 1975 and 2000 alone. If we look at the world’s health in that time, it is not surprising we had such a rapid rise in diabetes and obesity worldwide. In the UK alone, there was an increase of roughly 13% in this period. This was round about the time that people starting believing that fat was the problem and also that exercise worked as a primary driver for weight loss. While this was going on, this stuff and the correlation to obesity went unnoticed.

Fructose Syrup & Normal Appetite Function

The reason this stuff is potentially so bad is the following: Fructose does not go through the normal digestive process of human beings like glucose does. To keep it simple when we eat something like an potato, part of the process includes an insulin response (which stores the excess blood glucose) and what is called a leptin response (which is a signal to brain that you have eaten enough) both these responses have worked for thousands of years to stop us eating. Pure fructose does not trigger this process.

The other problem that came out of the increased fructose load of food is that fructose is directly metabolised by the liver thus 80% of the calories are converted straight to fat. Studies have done to show links between fructose consumption and increased fat storage. There have also been studies that link fructose consumption to increased visceral fat storage which is the type of fat that surrounds organs. There have also been studies done linking fructose to increase LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides, both linked to heart disease. Studies have also shown the links between fructose consumption and a process called glycation, which speeds up the aging process. I am just touching the surface here.

Conclusion

Check the label? I would. The key to the whole argument here is that no company or product is evil, it just needs to sell. In order to sell products, as mentioned, you need to keep people using them. If you or your family are struggling with obesity or ill health, it may be worth checking how much processed food is being eaten and thus, how much fructose is being eaten.

References

health implications of fructose consumption

Sugar: The Bitter Truth