There has been a marked increase in obesity and obesity-related disease in western countries. There may be genetic or other medical reasons for some of these cases, but what about the western diet? The increase in obesity rates seems to be related to the increase in foods produced with High-Fructose Corn Syrup.
It is important to understand where High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) originated in order to properly address the epidemic of HFCS-related obesity problems. According to David Gutierrez, scientists created this artificial sweetener in 1971, in an attempt to create a low-cost alternative to sugar. Natural sugar is equal amounts of the natural sweeteners fructose and glucose. HFCS tilts the balance to 55-45 in favor of fructose, hence the name.
HFCS costs half the price of sugar and is six times as sweet, but there are certain metabolic side effects to the consumption of this man-made sugar substitute.
Metabolic Side Effects of HFCS
While Dr. Richard Johnson, chief of nephrology at UF College of Medicine, says that “we cannot definitively state that fructose is driving the obesity epidemic,” HFCS doubtless plays a strong contributory role. George Bray, who analyzed food consumption in the United States between 1967 and 2000, found that the “use of HFCS…mirrors the rapid increase in obesity.”
The underlying reason for this is that the human body handles fructose differently from glucose. Fructose does not stimulate the production of insulin, which the body uses to help regulate weight. Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric neuroendocrinologist, adds that this imbalance tricks the brain into thinking that it is starving, so that people are then more likely to eat more. This is because, according to Gutierrez, fructose is processed by the liver and interfere’s with the liver’s ability to process fat.
It is a vicious cycle. The brain perceives starvation, sending the body into shock. The person eats food high in HFCS to try to satisfy the craving. The fructose destabilizes insulin production, causing weight gain but which the brain sees as starvation, starting the cycle all over again.
The Solution: Change in Diet
Dr. Lustig offers a four-step process to change diet to offset HFCS-related obesity.
First, get rid of sugared drinks. That includes sodas, sweetened fruit drinks, and sweetened or flavored water. Lustig suggests drinking only water and milk, but if you can, it would be better to only drink water. Milk has sugars in it as well, and the human body was designed to drink only water. It helps lubricate the system, get rid of toxins and excess fat.
Second, increase vegetable consumption. Lustig calls them “carbohydrates associated with fiber.” Fiber aids in digestion. Broccoli and cauliflower, without the cheese sauce, are excellent vegetable sources.
Third, wait in between helpings. Give the digestive system time to process food before giving it more to deal with.
lastly, exercise is always a good thing. A system of regular exercise is beneficial and can help reduce cravings for HFCS foods. A simple walk around the block is a great way to start.
George A Bray, Samara Joy Nielsen, and Barry M Popkin. “Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
David Gutierrez. “Fructose fueling childhood obesity, diabetes.” Medical News Today.
Jeffrey Norris. “Sugar is a Poison, says UCSF Obesity Expert.” UCSF Medical News.
Melanie Fridl Ross. “Fructose and Obesity.” Medical News Today.