Getting to the Root of the Problem: Fructose

Sugar toxicity. Sugary drink ban. Corn sugar. Sugar, sugar, sugar. It’s on everyone’s mind as the obesity epidemic surpasses smoking as the number one healthcare cost of the nation.

Experts are debating the source of the issue and what can be done to stop the plight of disease caused by the expanding waistlines of the U.S. population – forced moderation of sugary sodas is not the solution, especially when seconds are certainly up for grabs.

Dr. Michael Goran, a professor of Preventive Medicine and Director of The Childhood Obesity and Research Center at the University of Southern California relayed a theory that makes a whole lot of sense. He says that the problem is not the sodas or the size of the sodas, but the source of sugary sweetness in the vast majority of nation’s food products – high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS not only sweetens sodas, but is found in most breads, fruit juices, yogurt, breakfast cereals, salad dressings and the list goes on and on.

Although industry makers argue that HFCS is no different from table sugar – of course those lectures are often sponsored by the corn industry attempting to salvage their reputation – today it is different, quite different. The most common form of HFCS is known as HFCS 55 – it is 55 percent fructose – traditional table sugar is 50 percent fructose. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that the level of fructose in HFCS remained steady throughout the 1970s, but around 1980, the percentages in all food and beverages began a steady incline, reaching as high as 60 percent.

Goran headed a study that examined the fructose content of many popular products on the market today and found that most products with HFCS contain between 65 and 90 percent fructose, but without labeling to indicate the significant increase. In response to these findings Goran wrote, “Sometimes we get a double dose of fructose without knowing so–something that no FDA advisory committee would approve if it came to labeling, say, a new prescription drug.”

Why is so much fructose harmful? Unlike glucose, fructose is taken up exclusively by the liver, where it is re-packaged as fat, producing harmful by-products in the process – linking high consumption of fructose to multiple diseases including gout, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and fatty liver disease.

Many people mistakenly believe that fructose is healthier because it is the natural sugar found in fruit. The difference between the fructose in fruit and HFCS and even table sugar is the high fiber content that accompanies the consumption of most fruits. The fiber-rich flesh that encases the fructose slows and reduces absorption – acting as a sort of antidote to the havoc caused by HFCS and table sugar on your system.

So, what is the solution? Goran says, “Simply banning the sale of large portions of sugary drinks won’t work – if consumers want more they can buy multiple smaller servings. Neither will the typical alternative–increased nutrition education. These strategies are doomed for failure because they don’t address the root of the problem …. it is time for the FDA to re-examine whether HFCS warrants the federal government’s industry-friendly GRAS status it was given decades ago…. The agency might also define and enforce allowable fructose content–making sure it is really ‘the same’ as sugar by banning any concoction above the natural 50/50 fructose to glucose proportion.”

What can you do? Until the government recognizes this as the root of the problem and chooses the health of the nation over money and politics, you can stop purchasing products containing HFCS. It isn’t easy because it is in a large portion of the American food supply, but unnecessary beverages, like sodas, candy and fruit juice can be avoided in the name of your health and this cause.

Children are among the highest portion of the population still seeing increasing rates of obesity. From an evolutionary standpoint, breast milk is made only of lactose, which is glucose and galactose – babies can’t metabolize fructose properly.Fruit juices contain some of the highest concentrations of fructose – including orange juice. The ability to metabolize fructose often develops late in a child’s life, therefore the early addition of juice to their diet is not recommended.  Studies have linked high fructose intake to obesity beginning in infancy.

Taking a stand by boycotting these products is one major change you can make for your health, the health of your family and to force the government to make a change for the health of the nation – an effective change. Forward this article to everyone you know or at least share the message – it could make a difference.

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