Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sugar is poison

Those latest adds by the Corn Refiner's Association which are trying to "rebrand" high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as the same as sugar scare me. Why would they spend so much telling me it is "safe" if it were actually safe? I know, I'm a skeptic.
Last night, I thought I'd try and educate myself about this. Here is what I found out.
Sucrose is normal granulated sugar, the stuff we put in coffee or on cereal. Sucrose is made up of two other sugars in equal proportions -- Glucose and Fructose -- which are bonded together. When you eat table sugar (Sucrose), your body breaks it down into Glucose and Fructose.
Glucose is the energy of life. It is in rice, pasta, grains, etc. It can be metabolized (used) by muscles, but is mostly broken down in the liver and stored until you burn it off (or, if you don't burn it off, it is turned into fat). Fructose, on the other hand, can only be metabolized by the liver. But there are a bunch of other nasty things that Fructose does.
Fructose is found mostly in fruit (but fruit contains fibre which mitigates some of its bad effects). Fructose does not create an insulin response, which is why it is used by diabetics as a sweetener. Fructose creates uric acid which causes gout and hypertension. Fructose is more readily turned into fat than Glucose. A good analogy for Fructose is another carbohydrate, Ethanol, or booze. Ethanol is fine in small quantities but in large quantities, it causes toxic effects on the liver and your body. Fructose acts in exactly the same way, but without the buzz. Fructose, like Ethanol, is a poison! With all poisons, it is dosage that determines toxicity.
Okay, so what is High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) and why is it so bad? Well, HFCS is just Glucose (corn syrup) and Fructose, typically in exactly the same proportion as they are found in Sucrose (table sugar). They just aren't bonded together, which really doesn't mean anything because as soon as Sucrose hits your small intestine, it is broken apart. Look at the image above. The top (Glucose Fructose) is HFCS and the bottom (Sucrose) is table sugar. They are the same. Your body treats them the same. So what is the big deal? Here's the thing: it isn't that HFCS is worse than sugar, it is that sugar is really bad and HFCS is the same as it.
The real problem is HFCS is really cheap so it is put in everything to make it taste better. Here is a good analogy. Image table sugar is rat poison. In the past, it used to sit in a bowl on your table and you'd put it in coffee or on porridge or in baking. But if you didn't put it in stuff you wouldn't eat it. You could control your intake. But now, the rat poison is in everything: bread, juice, pop, cereal, anything processed. So if you don't put rat poison in your coffee, who cares, because you are getting it in everything else you eat. That is what makes HFCS so dangerous, is that there is no escaping it.
Sugar is poison, whatever the form.