Are Fructose and High Fructose Corn Syrup Bad for Us?

Table sugar (sucrose) is a combination of glucose and fructose

Darya Pino earlier this month posted at her Summer Tomato blog a video regarding high fructose corn syrup.  The speaker in the video is pediatric endocrinologist Robert Lustig, M.D., of the University of California—San Francisco.
In the U.S. between 1970 and 1990, consumption of high fructose corn syrup increased over 1000%.  During those two decades, the incidence of overweight and obesity nearly doubled.  Many wonder if this is more than just coincidental. Most of this fructose is in soft drinks.  Soft drink consumption per person in 1942 was two servings per week.  In 2000, consumption was two servings per day.  Of course, these drinks typically have few nutrients other than sugars.

Dr. Lustig is convinced that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a chronic toxin, at least in the amounts many of us eat, and the cause of our current epidemic of childhood and adult obesity and overweight.  Even if this idea is not new to you, you may be interested to hear the biochemistry and physiology behind his position.  If you didn’t enjoy college lectures or are not a food science geek, you probably won’t be able to sit through this 1.5-hour video. 

I enjoyed the heck out of it!  Made me feel like I was back in college again.  Few of my professors were as good as Dr. Lustig at lecturing. 

Here are a few of his other major points:

  • HFCS was invented in Japan in the 1960s, then introduced to U.S. markets in 1975
  • sucrose and fructose are both poisons
  • in the U.S. we eat 63 pounds (28.6 kg) of HFCS and 141 pounds (64.1 kg) of sugar per year [he didn’t define “sugar” in this context]
  • he praises Yudkins book, Pure, White, and Deadly [I’ve written about the Cleave-Yudkin carbohydrate theory of chronic disease]
  • the triglyceride/HDL ratio predicts heart disease much better than does LDL cholesterol
  • chronic high fructose intake causes the metabolic syndrome [does he think it’s the only cause?]
  • only the liver can metabolize fructose, in contrast to every other tissue and organ that can use glucose as an energy supply
  • high fructose consumption increases the risk of gout and high blood pressure
  • fructose interferes with production of our body’s production of nitrous oxide—a natural circulatory dilator—leading to higher blood pressures
  • fructose increases de novo lipogenesis—in other words, it creates body fat
  • fructose interferes with natural chemical messengers that tell your brain you’ve had enough food and it’s time to stop eating
  • high fructose intake reduces LDL particle size, potentially increasing the future risk of cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks [small, dense LDL cholesterol is more damaging to your arteries that large, fluffy LDL]

So What? 

You don’t need polititians to reduce your consumption of sugary soft drinks and high fructose corn syrup—do it yourself starting today.  Read food labels—HFCS is everywhere.  I’ve found it in sausage! 

The food industry greatly reduced use of trans fats in response to consumer concerns, before the polititians ever dabbled in it.  HFCS can go the same route.  Consumption of soft drinks, sports drinks, and other sugary beverages—the major sources of HFCS—is up to you.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: The Advanced Mediterranean Diet and Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet are naturally low in fructose.


Filed under Carbohydrate, Causes of Diabetes, Overweight and Obesity, Shameless Self-Promotion

2 responses to “Are Fructose and High Fructose Corn Syrup Bad for Us?

  1. Steve

    Okay, dumb question – isn’t fructose the sugar I’m getting in fruit? And – is that a problem? I’d like to continue trying to increase my fruit consumption – currently average approx 2 serves – aiming for 3 or 4.

    I dont seem to see HFCS listed on Australian labels, yet we have the same obesity problems. We are “sugar heavy” though – that would be the connection. I just wonder if we use similar additives that maybe go by a different name…..


  2. You’re right that the sugar in fruit is mainly fructose. Compared to a can of Coke or other typical soft drink, there’s much less fructose in a piece of fruit.

    And Dr. Lustig would say that the fruit comes with the fructose antidote built-in: fiber.