High Fructose Corn Syrup is Going to Kill You (Among Other Things)
I am sick of this. I am tired of the excuses people
give when I share with them the dangers of eating foods with products such
as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), sugar substitutes like saccharin,
sucralose (a.k.a. Splenda), and aspartame, and, worst of all, partially
hydrogenated oils. It almost angers me when, after given the facts, people
choose to ignore the dangers of these substances. You are the one
responsible for your lifestyle and wellbeing. You have the choice; why
on earth would you choose to harm your body? Can you really con yourself
into believing that these things are safe – after all, they are approved by
the government? If saying it bluntly is the only way to make people listen,
then here it is.
Let’s start with body chemistry 101.
The body’s chemical composition is made up of water
(61.6%), protein (17%), fats (13.8%), minerals (6.1%), and carbohydrates
(1.5%) (based on the weight of a 65 kg body). Collectively, these materials
regulate body temperature, provide fuel for energy, building blocks for body
tissues, growth and repair of these tissues, and metabolic function and
The body composition of a healthy adult male is body
cell mass (55%), extracellular supporting tissue (30%), and body fat (15%).
All of the chemical processes that occur in the body
are termed “metabolism.” Oxidation of food is one of the main processes in
metabolism. All carbohydrates, protein and fat can be broken down and used
for energy in the body. These come in the form of food. When no food is
present in the body, body tissues can be broken down.
The body requires energy for performing work and
maintaining basic bodily functions. BMR, basal metabolic rate, is the rate
that these processes take place while the body is at rest. This rate varies
between age, sex, height, weight, and activity level.
Now, what the heck are all those compounds?
“Carbohydrates are compounds containing carbon,
hydrogen and oxygen in the proportions 6:12:6.” In the food we eat,
carbohydrates come in the form of sugars and starches. The breakdown of
these is as follows: monosaccharide, disaccharides, and polysaccharides.
(Sorry, I don’t mean to bore you; I feel obligated to provide some
background for the geeky science folk like myself.)
To cut things short, these sugars are categorized by
chemical complexity and they each differ in the way the body processes them.
Fats come in two forms: storage fats and structural
fats. Pretty self-explanatory, right? Fats are broken down by lipases and
other enzymes in the pancreas, intestine, and liver, so that they can absorb
into the body.
Fats are further divided into saturated and unsaturated
fats (again, structural differences). Unsaturated fats include
polyunsaturated fats and mono-unsaturated fats. Saturated fats come mostly
from land animals, while unsaturated fats usually derive from plants.
Some fat in the body can derive from carbohydrates and
proteins that are eaten.
Proteins are compounds that contain carbon, hydrogen
and oxygen, as well as nitrogen and sulphur. These play a more significant
role in growth and repair of body tissues.
Proteins are made up of amino acids. Different
assemblages of amino acids create different proteins.
I will skip the roles of specific vitamins and
Partially Hydrogenated Oils
Let me begin by saying that many fats are in the “cis”
form rather than the “trans” form. This simply means that the spatial
positioning of hydrogen-carbon bonds in the fat is different. Cis
bonds are shaped like this
While trans bonds are shaped like this
Most trans fats are formed during processing of foods.
Hydrogenation gives food better flavor and longer shelf life. Most baked
goods, fried foods and packaged snack foods contain partially hydrogenated
oils, although some trans fats occur naturally in certain meat and milk
products. These are not usually categorized the same as manufactured trans
fats. Certain coronary diseases have been linked with a high intake of
trans fatty acids (2.)
Right now, you’re probably saying, “Wait! I thought
saturated fats were supposed to be bad for you.” This is true. Saturated
fats increase the levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein), or “bad
cholesterol,” in your blood. This puts you at risk for coronary disease.
Additionally, saturated fats decrease the levels of HDL (high-density
lipoprotein), the “good cholesterol,” in your blood (2).
The problem with trans fats is that the LDL/HDL ratio
increase is doubled to that of saturated fat (2)
Trans fats are also processed differently by the liver.
Metabolism of trans fats interferes with production of Delta
6 desaturase, an enzyme for converting fatty acids to other materials
essential for cell function (2).
There’s a multitude of other effects on the body due to
partially hydrogenated oils. Cascading effects may include “headaches, joint
pain including back pain and arthritis, skin problems, premenstrual
syndrome, and menstrual cramps” due to imbalances of certain hormones.
“ ‘When you eat normal cis fats, the body metabolizes half of
them in 18 days. When you eat trans fats the body requires 51 days to
metabolize half of them. This means that half of the trans fats you eat
today will still be inhibiting essential enzyme systems in your body 51 days
from now’ ” (3).
Speaking from personal
experience: when I eliminated these substances from my diet, I felt much
better. Can you imagine how much better your body functions and feels? You
can’t imagine it until you actually do it.
How do you determine if trans fats are present in
foods? You have to read the label. Look for “shortening,” “partially
hydrogenated vegetable oil,” or “hydrogenated vegetable oil” (2). New
guidelines have since been made, requiring trans fat content to be on
nutrition labels. But the only way to be sure of the foods you’re eating is
to read the label.
I also want to warn you of what I consider misleading
One day, I was reading a box of Kellogg’s Smart Start
Healthy Heart cereal. It claims to promote a healthy heart by lowering blood
pressure and cholesterol. Sounds good, right? The only problem is that it
contains partially hydrogenated oil.
I yelled at Kellogg’s. I sent them an email, asking how
could they possibly call their cereal “Smart Start Healthy Heart,” when it
contains partially hydrogenated oil, the very substance that is bad for your
heart. In addition to increasing that LDL/HDL ratio, it interferes with
hormones (Prostoglandins 1 and 3) that counteract high blood pressure, blood
clotting and HDL production (3).
Their response was the following:
“In order to meet the claim HEALTHY, the product must
meet the following
criteria: (as regulated by the FDA). These are the same criteria to carry
the American Heart Association seal:”
They list a bunch of criteria. I will skip to this
“A Heart Healthy diet is one that is low in total fat,
cholesterol and sodium. It also is high in potassium and soluble fiber.
Smart Start Healthy Heart can help lower blood pressure (low sodium, good
source of potassium) and reduce cholesterol (no cholesterol, oat bran to
The oat cluster contains a small amount of partially hydrogenated oil,
however the partially hydrogenated oil contributes an insignificant amount
of trans fat.”
While “the US
National Academy of Sciences recommended in 2002 that dietary intake of
trans fatty acids should be totally eliminated” (2).
So . . . who should we believe? The
guidelines of the FDA that companies hide behind, or our scientists?
True, the amount of partially hydrogenated oil in the cereal may be minute.
But knowing what these substances can do to you, why would you want to have
it at all?
There is simply too much to delve into. I will add more
of this article, bit by bit. This is just too important of a subject to skim
I encourage you to look up more articles on your own! I
have just chosen a select few to write from.
1. “Human Nutrition in the Developing World.”
2. “Trans Fat,” Wikipedia.
3. “The Dangers of Hydrogenated or Partially