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Sugar Isn’t Just Sugar…

The High Fructose Corn Sweetener groups have been advertising that their product is the same as sugar.  They’ve gone to the extent to petition the USDA and FDA to allow them to change the name of the product to sugar.  Simply sugar.  Making no distinction as to the source of the product, nor alluding at all to the chemical manipulation that corn sugars undergo to concentrate the fructose component making it far sweeter than the raw corn sugar.

Technically, they’re right.

Table sugar; be it labeled cane, beet, or corn; are all chemically very similar.  After all, there’s a reason we don’t often see the distinction between them on the grocery store shelf.  Of course, there is one notable exception which labels their product “Pure Cane Sugar.”  That’s really just a marketing ploy though.

So, what is sugar?

Do we really need it?

I’ll answer the second question first.  Yes, we need sugar in our bodies in the form of glucose.  Every cell in the body uses glucose as fuel.  Our brains would completely cease to function without glucose.  Glucose though is the very simplest form of sugar and the only one our bodies can actually make use of.  So yes, we need a sugar, but our bodies produce that sugar, glucose, from the foods we eat.  So, no, we don’t need to eat sugar in our diet in any form.

Now, let’s delve into just what we mean by sugar.

Let’s define table sugar first.  Table sugar is any crystalline form of sucrose and/or fructose.   You can buy refined fructose, which is highly refined fruit sugar and nothing else.  You actually use about half as much because of how highly refined it is.  But table sugar is really a combination of fructose, glucose and other compounds.  The difference between cane, beet, and corn sugar and high fructose corn syrup is the ratio of fructose in the sugar.  Regular sugars are 50% fructose and high fructose corn syrup is 55% fructose.  Like I said, the HFCS people are technically correct, there’s no real difference between their product and what is currently known as sugar.

So what is so bad about High Fructose Corn Syrup?  And by extension, sugar?

The real culprit here is the fructose.

“But John, doesn’t fruit have fructose in it?”

Yes, it does.  Its the primary sugar in fruit.  But there is also a ton of other nutrients, not to mention the fiber which helps to move the sugar through your system.  You see, fructose is difficult for the body to break down, so if you have the fiber to help it move along, you don’t actually absorb much of it.

So, how is fructose in sugar so bad for you?  Refined fructose does get processed in the body though.  It just doesn’t process very nicely.  It actually messes up your body pretty profoundly while it breaks down.  Unlike other sugars that are broken down in the stomach and intestines, fructose can only be processed by the liver.  Because of this, the break down of fructose causes the liver to produce very-low-density lipoprotein (really bad cholesterol), which is even worse for you than low density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol).  This raises your triglyceride level and thus your risk of heart attack.

If heart attack isn’t enough for you, fructose also changes the way your brain recognizes your consumption of other foods.  Fructose changes the way your brain reacts to leptin, which is a protein hormone that regulates your energy intake and expenditure.  What happens is that fructose changes the way the brain reacts, and instead of feeling full, you keep eating because the brain doesn’t get the signal to stop.  One of the tips they always give to dieters is that they should drink 8 ounces of water about 20 minutes before a meal to help the dieter feel full.  Now, if you drink 8 ounces of soda made with HFCS 20 minutes before a meal you actually won’t get that full feeling that signals you to stop eating.  Your brain doesn’t recognize leptin, you don’t get the signal you’re full, you continue to eat, you get fat.  Its a rather simple connection, and it starts with fructose.

The biggest plagues to modern man, coronary artery disease and obesity, can both be attributed to high fructose corn syrup.   The more refined the food, the higher the HFCS content, the more deadly it is.  Oh, and here’s a tip, low fat foods need something to make up for the loss of flavor and texture.  What’s used to replace that flavor and texture? High Fructose Corn Syrup.  Its cheap and plentiful.  Besides, sweet foods taste better than anything else.

Yea, if you happen to be a 3 year old…

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