Is Your Health in Danger? Not All Sugars Are Created Equal
Heard of corn sugar?
A visit to the latest marketing push by the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) at cornnaturally.com assures the public that corn sugar, also known as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), is natural and safe.
This push is in response to the bad press recently surrounding high fructose corn syrup.
Even the global consumer-goods company Sara Lee has caught wind of the negative associations between health and HFCS and, in 2010, made the switch to cane and beet sugar in their product, Soft and Smooth Whole Grain White (and Wheat) Bread.
In response to Sara Lee’s move from HFCS to beet and cane sugar, Corn Refiners Association reminds consumers in an urgent press release that high fructose corn syrup “aids in fermentation of yeast in breads” (while also aiding in the fermentation of yeast in our own bodies). CRA also tells us that HFCS “prolongs freshness and enhances flavor”. They add that, “the consumer will not gain from this switch, which provides no added health benefit; and in fact may end up paying more at checkout.”
The same press release regarding the Sara Lee switch also cites associate Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, David S. Ludwig: “There’s not a shred of evidence that these products are different biologically. The decision to switch from HFCS to cane sugar is 100% marketing and 0% science.”
Interesting that the quote is pulled from a Chicago business publication, of all places, rather than a medical journal. At moments like this, when a large and powerful advertising campaign rooted in the highly profitable business of corn-making refers to a prestigious medical community, it is a good idea to explore science, history, and the consumer community for oneself. (1)
Read your ingredient labels! Even a “healthy” food like whole-grain bread could contain high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient.
Michael Pollan has done just this.
In 2008, Pollan published a #1 New York Times Bestseller, In Defense of Food, in which he, prior to the 2010 Sara Lee switch, specifically addresses Sara Lee’s Soft and Smooth Whole Grain White Bread. In the chapter, “Eat Food: Food Defined”, he suggests that high fructose corn syrup is one sign that signifies food has crossed over to “food product”. Of Sara Lee’s Soft and Smooth Whole Grain White Bread he says that it:
“Could serve as a monument to the age of nutritionism. It embodies the latest nutritional wisdom from science and government… but leavens that wisdom with the commercial recognition that American eaters have come to prefer their wheat highly refined.” (2)
American eaters also read. And, even while inundated with the commercial push by FDA food pyramid standards, they are making health-conscious choices and using the force of their dollar. This is being done to such an extent that Sara Lee removed HFCS from their whole grain white bread.
Corn is a big business.
And those in the business of corn have solid financial reason to promote high fructose syrup. The documentary, King Corn, reveals the prevalence of corn in our society. When asked if making the film changed how the producers, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, eat, they tell us that:
“There’s … the question of availability and access. Take a road trip across America and chances are the food options are rather slim. Or rather, fat. Fatty, corn-based meats and cheap corn-based sweets are generally more prevalent than fresh, locally produced healthful alternatives… the bottom line is that our overproduction of corn can make it very hard to eat well in America, even if you want to.”
In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan clarifies that “since 1985, an American’s consumption of HFCS has gone from 45 pounds to 66 pounds”. During the same period, “our consumption of refined sugar actually went up 5 pounds“.
Earlier in this same book in the chapter, “The Plant: Corn’s Conquest”, Pollan lists examples of where corn may be found: HFCS or corn sugar in soft drinks and fruit drinks and “for modified or unmodified starch, for maltodextrin, crystalline fructose, ascorbic acid, for lecithin and dextrose, for lactic acid and lysine, for maltose, for MSG and polyols, for caramel color and xanthan gum, read: corn”. Corn is everywhere and in most processed foodstuffs. (3)
In spite of what the Corn Refiners Association would like you to believe, not all sugars are created equal.
For example, different sugars require different enzymes to digest them. Lactose, a milk sugar, needs lactase, the enzyme that breaks apart lactose, in order to digest and absorb this particular sugar. Enzyme specific sugars offer a substantial clue that while “sugar is sugar”, as CRA ad campaigns tell us, there are still small variances that determine markedly different effects on human physiology when digested.
Your digestive tract uses sucrase to digest sucrose and maltase to digest maltose. These three sugars, lactose, sucrose, and maltose, are two-sugar units. Cane and beet sugar are almost pure sucrose; they are both two-sugar units, which are made of one glucose and one fructose that are linked together with a weak glycosidic bond.
Both glucose and fructose are single-sugar units that are absorbed easily and rapidly into the bloodstream. This means that the body cannot burn them properly, and glucose floods our blood and cells.
Sugars make fat.
If you have ever been told that you have high triglycerides, your doctor may have also told you to cut back on the amount of sugar that you ingest. What happens when you overload on glucose and refined sugars?
- The pancreas secretes insulin, which moves glucose into our cells.
- Glucose is fed to mitochondria, and energy is made.
- Excess glucose stimulates the production of fatty acids: three fatty acids, hooked to a glycerol molecule, make a fat molecule – also called a triglyceride.
- These fat molecules are deposited in our cells, organs, or transported through blood to fat tissue for storage. (4)
Excess sugar does more than make fat molecules.
- Diabetes is the result of the pancreas and adrenal glands relating to each other as if on a biochemical seesaw. In the presence of chronically high levels of blood sugar, both endocrine glands get overworked and begin to fail in performance.
- Additionally, sugar uses the same transport system as vitamin C, one of the most vital antioxidants and nutrients in your body. Vitamin C boosts the immune system, fights infection, and makes skin elastic.
- Sugars will also cross-link with proteins, creating something called an advanced glycation end-product (AGE), which not only creates wrinkles but stiffness in your internal environment as well, such as blood vessels. AGEs have been implicated in complications of diabetes, the formation of cataracts, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, stroke, atherosclerosis, and several other systemic inflammatory conditions.
- And, sugar feeds candida, fungi, cancer cells, and other pathogenic microorganisms.
Several years ago, Donna Gates brought a sweet little plant called Stevia rebaudiana to the American market.
She did this in her search for an all-natural sweetener that could safely replace sugar and would not feed candida. In Japan, she found stevia. The Japanese had been cultivating and using stevia since the 1970s.
As it turns out, manufacturers of artificial (and neurotoxic) sweeteners like Equal, NutriSweet, and Sweet’N Low actually created the FDA ban on stevia. Stevia is naturally 30 – 40 times sweeter than sucrose and even enhances glucose tolerance. Donna Gates led a grass roots movement that supported stevia and its use as a sweet replacement for sugar, and the FDA eventually lifted its ban on stevia.
As American consumers learn more about their health and discover how food can either damage or heal the body, big agricultural business and the FDA are both more likely to become partners in supporting food that is nourishing and healing. After all, as cornnaturally.com demonstrates, an informed and health-conscious American dollar speaks and creates the market.
WHAT TO REMEMBER MOST ABOUT THIS ARTICLE:
As an American consumer, it is important to understand that not all sugars are created equal. Many common products on the market that are advertised as healthy contain high fructose corn syrup on the ingredient label. Although the Corn Refiners Association would like you to believe that high fructose corn syrup preserves the freshness of foods, the truth is that excess sugars in the diet are linked with diabetes, a weakened immune system, wrinkles, stiffened blood vessels, and especially the growth of candida, fungi, and cancer.
Fortunately, Donna Gates has introduced a Japanese plant called stevia to the market as an all-natural sweetener alternative that can safely replace sugar without feeding candida!
- Crain’s Chicago Business, Sept 7, 2009.
- Pollan, Michael. In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. New York: Penguin. 2008.
- Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. New York: Penguin. 2006.
- Erasmus, Udo. Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill. Summertown: Alive Books. 1993.