Is high-fructose corn syrup fueling America’s obesity epidemic? Confusing research results in testing and America’s propensity for looking for something other than personal responsibility to blame is creating a sticky-sweet dilemma. But what is the truth?
It is true that America has become obese since the introduction of HFCS in 1970s. The new sweetener has about the same calories as sugar but boasts a longer shelf life and lower cost. As a result, HFCS quickly found its way into many packaged foods and drinks. It has nearly replaced sucrose (table sugar) in packaged foods and cornered the market on beverages. Nearly two thirds of the HFCS used in the US is used in sweetened beverages, namely soft drinks.
In 1970 the obesity rate for the US was at about 15 percent of the population. Today it has more than doubled with about one third of the population weighing in as obese. On average, Americans consume 60 pounds of HFCS per person per year. But is sweetener the cause for this trend? Maybe.
But the sweetener is not the only thing that has changed in the American lifestyle. Bigger portion size, more prepackaged food, more high-fat fast food, more soda consumption and less physical activity are all major lifestyle changes which have occurred. The advent of the personal computer, internet, cheaper food, and video games are all causes of the obesity epidemic in America. Face it, if you eat more and move less you will gain weight.
Some research is supporting the claim that HFCS is making us fat. Princeton University concluded in two separate studies that HFCS causes significantly higher weight gain and health risks compared to sucrose. Rats fed HFCS showed significant weight gain, especially in the abdominal area, over those fed table sugar.
If HFCS and sucrose are calorically similar why would HFCS show a greater rate of weight gain? The answers to this puzzle have yet to be discovered but may be related to the way fructose and sucrose are metabolized and utilized by the body. Princeton admits more long term study is needed.
Other studies have shown little difference between HFCS and sucrose. A 2007 study by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported no significant difference between the sweeteners or how the body metabolizes them. Furthermore, countries such as Mexico which use little HFCS in their diet are also showing disturbing obesity trends.
So what’s the Low-down on HFCS and Obesity?
Is high fructose corn syrup fueling America’s obesity epidemic? More long-term study is needed to find the truth behind this sticky puzzle. So what is a confused consumer to do? Eat less, move more, and limit junk food in your diet.
Strive to eat nutrient dense foods in a balanced diet. Limit all added sweeteners and processed foods in your diet. Enjoy sweets and soda in moderation. Try replacing at least some soda in your diet with water. HFCS may be a cheap sweetener but water from the faucet or drinking fountain is free and good for you!