Wednesday, October 27, 2010

High Fructose Corn Syrup- Is it linked to diabetes and obesity?

Ok, I received a request a couple weeks ago on this topic, but have been swamped, so let's get to it. To start off with the main point, it is NOT responsible for diabetes, nor weight gain. Now let me explain. It is simply sugar, nothing more, nothing less. It is used as the primary sweetener in many of the sweet foods we eat today, and this sugar is included in the grams of sugar listed on the label. High Fructose Corn Syrup is sugar that is actually made form corn, and believe it or not, when absorbed into the blood stream is non-distinguishable from regular sugar. It is absorbed, processed, and released the same away as regular table sugarHigh fructose corn syrup is composed of the same two simple sugars (fructose and glucose) as table sugar, honey and maple syrup. Now I have discussed before that sugar does not cause diabetes. I want to make that the key discussion here, because I get frustrated with parents who bar their children from sugar with the belief it is responsible for this disease.
A little about diabetes:
Type I diabetes is a chronic and life-long disease that is caused by the pancreas's inability to produce enough insulin to keep the body's glucose levels stable. (It is sometimes genetic, but not necessarily). You can't stop it, and food is not to blame for the disease. People with this type of diabetes have a malfunction in their body, unfortunately lower amounts of sugars and insulin are required and the only way to control it. Type II diabetes is another story. It is primarily linked to obesity. In fact, 80% of those that suffer from type II diabetes are obese or significantly overweight and are not physically active, factors for the other 20% include ethnicity, age, and heredity. It is preventable, and when appropriate weight loss takes place, it is virtually like it never existed. Why does obesity cause type II diabetes? Scientifically, there is still a lot of research to be done, but the basics are that as your body weight increases, this means your calories are increasing, and it is harder for your body to process and break down the extra sugar from the excessive calories. This is an article, word-for-word by Dr. John Messmer, MD:

"Do not be misled by the fact that diabetics have higher blood sugar levels than normal. The problem in diabetes is not what is eaten, but how much. For most adults with diabetes, the problem arises from being overweight.
When one eats, the pancreas sends insulin into the bloodstream. There, the insulin stimulates the cells of the muscles and liver to take in the sugar. Sugar is either:
Burned off
Stored as starch in the muscles and liver
Converted into the fat found in fat cells.
All excess calories, whether from sugar, protein, or fat, are stored. Too many calories of any kind causes weight gain. When those genetically predisposed to diabetes gain too much weight, they will produce insulin slower or stop responding to insulin, causing their blood sugar to rise even higher. Once diabetes develops, too much sugar or too much of any food elevates the diabetic's blood sugar. When blood sugar is too high for too long, the body suffers from progressive organ damage.
So, while sugar can be a contributing factor [in the weight gain], too much sugar cannot cause diabetes. Instead, be aware of high caloric intake."

Now back to high fructose corn syrup. Now that you know that is is basically sugar (from corn), and in a lot of sweet foods, that are higher in calories, it should make sense that they should be eaten in moderation. It, itself is not responsible for weight gain and diabetes, if you eat more calories, are less physically active, gain more weight, and genetically have a pre-disposition, you are asking for type 2 diabetes. Be smart in your lifestyle. Make the right choices, and enjoy the good stuff in moderation, not excess. Type 2 diabetes used to be known as "adult onset diabetes", but it is becoming more and more common in children, why? Because children are increasingly less active, eating unhealthier, and more overweight. Simple. Get yourself and your kids off the couch, eat healthier, and maintain a healthy weight. Normal body mass is defined as 18.5 - 24.9. You should attempt to stay within that range to avoid diseases caused obesity. Bottom line, high fructose corn syrup will not kill you. There are no harsh chemicals in it, but it should definitely be considered in moderation due to the caloric content of foods that contain it (after all, it is sugar, and sugar has a lot of calories). Be good to yourself, enjoy life, and don't deprive yourself. Live not in fear of food, but enjoy it.

Jillian <3

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