Dr. Roy Murrell, DC 200 NE 20th Avenue, Suite 140 Portland Oregon 97232 - disclaimer - 971-312-9497
COMPARING HIGH-FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP AND SUGAR
It is pretty common knowledge that this country has a major obesity problem along with the associated health issues of metabolic syndrome (diabetes, high lipid profile, hypertension, and heart disease). For the last 25 years it has been widely accepted that a low-fat diet was good for your heart and good for your health. Food manufacturers put out a low-fat or non-fat version of almost every food on the market. Unfortunately, to make this food more palatable, they added more sugar and as a result we, as a nation, doubled our obesity rate. This is old news to most, but what I want to talk about here is the difference between glucose (the simple sugar in all carbohydrates), sucrose (table sugar) and high-fructose corn syrup, and how each plays a part in our on-going battle of the bulge.
Everyone knows that sugar is not good for you if consumed in excess. Despite this general knowledge, Americans still consume 165 lbs. of sugar/person/year and 65 lbs. of high-fructose corn syrup. Is there any wonder why 33% of the population is obese? Sugar, technically called sucrose, is made up of one part glucose (which comes from all of our carbohydrates) and one part fructose, which is most commonly found in fruit. High-fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, is approximately 55% fructose and 45% glucose and has a slightly sweeter index than sucrose. HFCS has been getting a lot of bad publicity lately, mainly for its use in soda and fruit drinks which account for half of all calories consumed from added sweeteners. Unfortunately, sugar is not any different. Some people think that good old-fashioned sugar is better for you than HFCS but sorry to say, that is not the case and the problem lies with fructose. This is true of honey, as well, which has higher amounts of fructose than glucose. (The bad thing about HFCS is that it is cheap, so manufacturers use it liberally even though it is sweeter than sugar.)
All carbohydrates break down into glucose, but what sets glucose apart from fructose is that it can be metabolized in almost every tissue of the body. Fructose, on the other hand, can only be metabolized in the liver. When we consume something that can only be broken down by the liver, we call it a toxin or poison. Obviously, we consume fructose naturally in the fruits we eat, but it is in comparatively small doses and surrounded by a great deal of fiber which slows the metabolism process. In a sense, this is nature’s way of protecting you from the fructose.
HOW DOES FRUCTOSE AFFECT OUR HEALTH?
One of the primary issues that connects fructose and obesity is the fact that fructose does not cause an insulin response like glucose. There are no insulin receptors for fructose. When there is no insulin, there is no leptin. Leptin is a hormone secreted by the fat cells that tell the brain when we have had enough to eat. It is our feedback appetite-control mechanism. You can eat unlimited amounts of fructose and yet never get the message from your brain that you have had enough.
Another major difference between fructose and glucose is in the conversion to fat. When you eat a big plate of pasta, the majority of the glucose that comes from this meal will be used by cells all over the body and the remainder will be stored as glycogen (stored energy to be used when needed) in the liver. Very little of it gets converted to fat. Your liver can store unlimited amounts of glycogen from glucose. (This new finding was a huge surprise for me.) When you eat a food with added sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, 30% of it is converted to fats and the predominant fats are very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL’s, or the bad cholesterol) and triglycerides. One of the biggest risk factors for heart disease is high triglyceride levels, high VLDLs and low HDLs. Virtually everyone who has high cholesterol could reverse this problem by eliminating all sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. This country spends billions of dollars on statin drugs (which are very unhealthful for you) to lower cholesterol when we could solve the problem with simple dietary control of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. This is not to say that high-glycemic foods such as pasta and white bread are good for you; they are not. They keep your insulin levels high which eventually leads to insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes. High insulin levels also cause high leptin levels and your brain can become leptin resistant (meaning it stops paying any attention to it). This causes more over-eating and contributes to more obesity.
Another major issue with fructose is related to the biochemical breakdown of it in the liver, which causes a massive increase in the waste product uric acid. Uric acid is the primary cause of gout (a type of arthritis). Uric acid also blocks an enzyme that produces nitric oxide (NO). Nitric oxide is our endogenous way of keeping our blood pressure down; when you can't make nitric oxide, your blood pressure goes up. In a recent study, young adults who were obese and had hypertension were given the drug Allopurinol which is what you treat gout with -- it lowers uric acid. What they found is that in lowering uric acid it also reversed their hypertension. We have an epidemic of hypertension in this country and many think fructose consumption is a major contributor.
WHERE DOES ALCOHOL STAND ON THIS ISSUE?
We can't talk about fat conversion, obesity, cholesterol problems and heart disease without talking about alcohol metabolism. We all know that alcohol abuse causes liver problems. This is because 80% of all calories consumed in alcohol end up in the liver and they basically go through the same process as fructose. They get converted to triglycerides and VLDL’s just as fructose does, but at a larger percentage calorie-wise. If you eat 120 calories of sugar, half of that is glucose, so roughly only the 60 calories that was fructose go to the liver. When you consume 120 calories of alcohol, 96 of them end up in the liver; you can do the math on fat conversion. That being said, the consumption of sugar and corn syrup sweetened soft drinks in this country is far greater than the number of alcoholic beverages consumed.
TIPS ON DECREASING YOUR SUGAR INTAKE
You have to read labels!! Sweeteners are in everything these days, even bread. Manufacturers are not required to list added sugar on a label. Carbohydrates are listed as percent/fiber and percent/sugar. Those can be natural sugars (glucose) and it can be added sugars (sucrose). You need to use some common sense as to what seems excessive sugar on a label and what the food tastes like. Sugar is very addictive and many would like to pretend or ignore how much sugar is hidden in something, but if you are fighting a weight issue, hypertension, high cholesterol, or blood sugar problems, you need to be hyper-vigilant and watch every food you consume. I know it is easier said than done. I hope this information gives you more insight into this issue and can help you make more informed choices concerning the foods you consume.
Yours In Health