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Ubiquitous corn syrup unhealthy
Corn syrup sticky problem; finding the best vitamin D pill

Date published: 4/2/2006


QI have been reading your column for two years now and love it.

What can you tell me about high-fructose corn syrup? I have heard it is bad and one of the reasons Americans are so fat. It is in almost everything, even breadcrumbs!

--N.F., Stafford

ACorn-syrup sweeteners were almost nonexistent in the early 1900s, but their use has grown since then, according to researchers. At the same time, Americans have grown heavier and the rate of diabetes has soared.

I don't think it's fair to blame America's collective weight gain entirely on high-fructose corn syrup, but it may have played a role.

In addition to slurping more sodas than ever before, we are eating larger portions of all foods, moving less and eating mindlessly, often while standing, watching TV or driving, rather than savoring our food.

Still, consuming high-fructose corn syrup is linked to a higher risk of diabetes and may cause indigestion and diarrhea for some people.

Sweeter than ever

After some technological improvements in the 1970s, corn syrup became cheaper than crystalline table sugar, which is derived from sugar cane and sugar beets. Nowadays most sodas, lemonades and fruit punches are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, and the sweetener turns up in unexpected places as well, such as in hot dogs.

In 1970, each American ate about half a pound of high-fructose corn syrup per year. By 1997, we averaged 62.5 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup a year.

Even when taking into account that Americans eat more calories now than in the past, high-fructose corn syrup is associated with a higher risk of diabetes, according to agriculture records analyzed in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

And women who drank one or more sodas or fruit-flavored drinks made with high-fructose corn syrup per day were 83 percent more likely to develop diabetes, according to a Nurses Health Study.

That high-fructose feeling

Large amounts of fructose sometimes cause embarrassing symptoms such as a rumbling belly, gas pains, bloating, flatulence and diarrhea, according to research in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

About half of healthy people reported these symptoms when they took 25 grams of crystalline fructose, and about three-fourths of people reported discomfort when they consumed 50 grams of fructose.

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