Is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) really as much of a problem as people would like us to believe? And in fact, what about fructose in general? After all, the actual biochemistry of fructose metabolism does not activate insulin, and therefore it might not be as big of an issue in terms of representing a health threat compared to other sugars, like glucose or dextrose. Right?
Well, let’s dig into the science a little bit and see what we can learn. In a new study published in the Journal of Hepatology, researchers wanted to explore how fructose, sucrose (common table sugar, which is made up of 50% glucose and 50% fructose), or glucose affected the body in terms of some fairly important parameters like the generation of fat in the liver.
The study evaluated the effects of these sugars in 94 healthy young men over a seven-week period. The subjects consumed, on a daily basis, drinks containing fructose, sucrose, or glucose, 80g per day, or a drink that did not contain sugar. Continue reading
Over the past several decades efforts have been made to try to convince us that, as it pertains to sugar, fructose is our best choice. One of the reasons often cited for this messaging was the misguided notion that somehow choosing fructose would help reduce risk for diabetes because “fructose doesn’t elevate insulin.” More on that idea later, so for now let’s focus on the relationship between fructose consumption and risk for type 2 diabetes. Continue reading
Lately, in an apparent attempt to push back from the negativity surrounding high fructose corn syrup, there seems to be an increase in the number of articles published touting the advantages of fructose as a “safer sugar.” The main point that is so often emphasized is that unlike glucose, fructose does not seem to increase insulin. Increasing insulin, which is how our bodies cope with increased glucose levels, may, when it’s constantly challenged, lead to a state in which we tend to lose our sensitivity to insulin. This means that with time, on a diet that constantly raises our glucose levels, insulin becomes less effective. Losing insulin sensitivity or becoming “insulin resistant” is not only associated with elevated blood sugar and subsequent diabetes, but also a fairly extensive list of chronic degenerative conditions that we want to do our best to avoid like coronary artery disease and Alzheimer’s. Continue reading
Excessive alcohol use can cause fat accumulation in the liver. Ultimately, This accumulation of fat may lead to liver failure that may actually prove fatal.
But it turns out, that there is another form of fat accumulation in the liver that has nothing to do with consumption of alcohol, hence the name non-alcoholic liver disease (NAFDL). NAFDL is considered the most common liver disorder in developed countries, estimated to be present in an incredible 30% of American adults.
NAFDL is often not a benign condition. It is strongly related to insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. That means that people who have NAFDL are far more likely to develop things like type II diabetes and ultimately may even develop cirrhosis of the liver.
As we watch America’s waistline continue to expand, and along with it the perpetual increase in diseases associated with this increased incidence of obesity, it’s really important to identify potential causes associated with this issue. No doubt, our lust for sugar and carbs is playing a central role, as I discussed in Grain Brain. In fact, the number one source of calories in America is now high fructose corn syrup.
It would be simple to call it a day, point an accusatory finger at the dramatic dietary changes that have shifted Western cultures away from fat in favor of sugar and carbs, and do our very best to get this information out to those involved in such areas as public health, product development, advertising, etc., and hope for the best.
But there’s new research that quite clearly reveals that another factor may well be playing a role not only in the soaring rates of obesity, but also in increasing the risk for metabolic syndrome, which is the name given for a group of risk factors known to increase the risk for such conditions as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and others. Continue reading
Many people think that a diet focused on boosting brain health can’t include the occasional treat or sweet. That’s simply not true. There are plenty of sweets out there that you can eat that won’t have an adverse effect on your health. For instance, there’s nothing wrong with indulging in a few pieces of dark chocolate (greater than 70% cacao) every now and then. I know some folks sprinkle Stevia on berries and serve that as a dessert (though I find berries plenty sweet enough on their own). However, there is one sweetener that is plenty popular that you should probably try to avoid: agave nectar.
Agave nectar has become increasingly popular over the past few years as an alternative sweetener for those looking to eliminate sugar from their diet. What’s the problem with agave? Well, for starters, the refined fructose in agave nectar is significantly more concentrated than that in the now widely-demonized high-fructose corn syrup. This fructose-heavy sweetener shares even more in common with HFCS, in that the two are made using the same process, which is highly dependent upon chemicals.
I encourage you to read the article from which I’m drawing this information, and to reach your own conclusions. Again, if you’re looking for a sweetener, I’d encourage you to avoid agave. Stick to Stevia instead.