The 'Devil's Nectar' - Herbal Health

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Saturday, 1 March 2014

The 'Devil's Nectar'

I have previously written about sugar alternatives and the current issues surrounding them (see post on stevia and whilst cane sugar has been used and refined for a good many years, we are all too aware of the health risks associated with excessive refined sugar consumption. However, the desire to manufacture, transport and store cheaper alternatives spawned the birth of a controversial food additive which has now become firmly embedded in the staple diet of the average American consumer. The health risks of this food substance has been reported to be numerous and severe yet the powerful lobbyists with vested interests ensure that this additive remains readily available and there is little prospect of this ever changing.

We are referring to high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which is present in numerous foods, mainly processed since ninety cents of every dollar in America spent on food is spent on processed foods. But surprisingly HFCS is also found in a number of innocuous items such as salad dressings, yoghurts, soups, bread, cereal, mustard, ‘health bars’ and even beer among so many others. So what is HFCS and why is this so bad for us?

There is evidence shows that it may be linked to obesity, diabetes, and increased risk of heart problems. For the past 30 years the U.S. obesity rate has risen, along with the increase in consumption of HFCS. The synthetic and highly processed sweetener is used in everything from sweet foods like soda and cookies to savoury products like tomato sauce and salad dressing. Other health risks include the following:

  1. Increased Inflammation: HFCS has been shown to interfere with a key enzyme in our body that delivers copper to the vital organs. This leads to copper deficiency in some, but adversely affects organ systems in many: heart, liver, testes, pancreas…which increases inflammation in the body….which equates to disease and symptoms.
  2. HFCS has been strongly linked to the sharp rise in both obesity and diabetes.
  3. Furthermore, fructose is twenty to thirty more times glycating than glucose. This means more free radical production and advanced or premature ageing. Animals fed a high-fructose diet in lab studies developed livers that of chronic liver damage and cirrhotic. 
  4. Weight Gain: There’s another controversy resulting between the HFCS and sugar industries, and again, it’s just another moot point. A Princeton University study has claimed that HFCS causes more weight gain than refined sugar does.
Industry-sponsored scientists have been quick to criticise the methodology of the research but scientists argue that the work was designed to demonstrate the long-term effects of HFCS. This is a critical point because high fructose corn syrup is consumed every day over a long period of time and in many instances, since childhood resulting in long-term exposure to the food additive.

Additionally, HFCS has been linked to the following:
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Cancer
  • Obesity
  • Gout
  • Advanced/accelerated ageing
  • Weakened immune system
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Osteoporosis 
  • Elevated cholesterol 
  • Anaemia
  • Mineral deficiency
A 'Natural’ Food Additive?
This has been argued that given the origins of corn (being a natural food), surely HFCS is therefore natural and what’s the harm? HFCS is anything but natural simply due to its highly processed nature. HFCS never exists in nature and can never be harvested as a natural product. The controversy between whether high-fructose corn syrup or sugar being natural is just a smokescreen -a distraction that attempts to blur the negative health consequences associated with both of them. The Sugar Association and the Corn Growers and Refiners associations have been able to indulge in this controversy because the FDA had never created a standard for what is or isn’t 'natural’. Although the standard still hasn’t been set, the FDA has decided that the synthetic fixing agents used to produce HFCS does prompt the agency to object to the use of the term 'natural’ on a product containing HFCS.

More worrying is that HFCS is all manufactured from genetically modified corn. GMO corn has been linked to an increased incidence of corn related allergies. It has also been recently revealed that HFCS contains trace amounts of mercury - an extremely powerful and dangerous neurotoxin (despite this revelation, the FDA continues to nothing about it). Autism has huge correlations to mercury. Autism now effects 1 in 90 children, and it continues to rise.

What of the European & UK Scenario?
In the UK, foods containing HFCS include McVitie’s HobNobs, McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes, Carte D’Or ice cream and Mr Kipling Bakewell Slices. It often appears in ingredients lists as ‘glucose-fructose syrup’, ‘high fructose corn syrup’ or ‘HFCS’. Although this syrup can be found in many of our processed foods and drinks, this varies enormously from country to country.’ He said there was relatively little fructose consumed in the UK, with Hobnob biscuits being an exception, the level of consumption of refined sugar increases the risks of consuming foods with HFCS (neither of which are good!).

Tips to avoid HFCS
It’s simple - as far as possible exclude all processed and pre-packaged foods and read all food labels carefully avoiding those containing this ingredient. Further, it is eminently moire sensible and healthier to cook from raw, fresh ingredients which you have sourced yourself and cook from scratch. This will mitigate the worst effects of the health risks associated with HFCS.


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