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Irene Rubaum-Keller

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Is High Fructose Corn Syrup Safe?

Posted: 07/30/09 05:07 PM ET

There is much confusion over this ubiquitous substance. When I read the studies that concluded mercury was found in HFCS, I set about purging it from our house. It was everywhere. It was in my son's chocolate milk, catsup, bread, burger and hot dog buns, Gatorade and is even a prominent ingredient in Yoplait yogurt. I expected to find it in candy, but yogurt? It is everywhere.

In his excellent book, The Sugar Fix, Dr. Richard Johnson talks about the dangers of a diet high in fructose. Fructose raises uric acid, which contributes to: high blood pressure, obesity, inflammation in the arteries, heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. He also explains how when we eat fructose, it doesn't signal the brain that we have had enough. In fact, other research has shown that rats given a sugar water solution (glucose being the sugar) will binge on it but not get fat, as they will reduce the amount of rat chow accordingly. However, give these rats a HFCS sweetened water solution and they will gain weight.

When I wrote this blog about Dr Hoebels' work with rats and sugar addiction, it contained just two little sentences about HFCS and how I planned to write more about it coming up soon. Well, those sentences prompted the PR agency for The Corn Refiner's Association to contact me and suggest I have a "briefing" with their expert Dr. John White. Being a writer, and wanting to be fair, I did chat with Dr. White. His doctorate is in biochemistry, and he consults for the Corn Refiner's Association. What Dr. White said didn't surprise me. His job was clearly to convince me that HFCS is safe and makes sense economically.

There is a lot of research out there that tells us that eating too much fructose, in fact sugar in general, is bad for our health. Dr. White didn't dispute this. He did say that the research damning HFCS is using a diet so high in it that it doesn't apply to humans and the amount we tend to consume. He also compared it to the toxicity of water. You know how if you drink too much at one time you can die. Well....

As far as the mercury in HFCS, Dr. White said that research wasn't very accurate and that there is mercury in the air, the water, everywhere. That nasty water again. I asked him what further studies were being done to make sure there was no mercury in the HFCS and he said, "As far as I know there aren't any. This is a dead issue."

So is HFCS safe? Dr. White says he eats it. You be the judge for yourself. In my house we eat as little processed food as possible. We eat lean protein, vegetables, fruit and whole grains. Oh and chocolate, not sweetened with HFCS. Beware of too much water though.

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