High-fructose corn syrup is in everything from soups to ice cream. Its received a lot of negative press over the past few years for good reason. Food companies use high-fructose corn syrup in place of sugar because it is cheap and easy to use logistically, helping boost their all-important bottom line. Nevertheless, it has absolutely no redeeming qualities when it comes to your health. If you’re looking for a quick way to gain weight, get diabetes or bring on a host of other ailments, high-fructose corn syrup is just what the doctor ordered. Don’t take my word for it though. Check out this list of the 10 worst health effects of high-fructose corn syrup.
It’s no secret that eating lots of sugar can play a role in the development of type II diabetes. Since high-fructose corn syrup is similar to sugar, it unsurprising that the substance puts people at risk for diabetes. The way that high-fructose corn syrup is processed by the body leads to insulin resistance, which can worsen over time. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that converts glucose into energy. The inability to convert sugar into energy is a major problem for diabetics. High-fructose corn syrup can also cause increases in triglycerides and abdominal fat, both of which are known risk factors for developing diabetes. Foods with high-fructose corn syrup are often addictive, making people crave them even more. Regularly consuming food with high-fructose corn syrup is a fast track towards having to monitor your blood sugar for the rest of your life.(1, 2, 3)
High-fructose corn syrup is also connected with heart disease, which can begin as early as adolescence or even childhood. A study from the Georgia Health Sciences University found markers for heart disease and vascular disease in children between the ages of 14 and 18 who consumed high amounts of fructose. The risk of heart disease is further compounded by the increase in midsection fat caused by the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup.(4)
Is it any coincidence that obesity levels are rising along with the widespread use of high-fructose corn syrup? The body processes high-fructose corn syrup in a way that limits the secretion of leptin, which is a hormone that normally tells your body when you’ve had enough to eat. As a result, you end up eating more than necessary because your body never gets the signal to stop. A study out of Princeton University found that rats who had access to high-fructose corn syrup put on a significantly more weight than those who only had access to table sugar, despite their overall caloric intake being equal.(2, 3)
High blood pressure
You can add high blood pressure to the growing list of unpleasant health effects caused by high-fructose corn syrup. A research team out of the University of Colorado Denver Health Sciences Center found in an analysis that people who consumed more than 74 grams of fructose per day had a much higher risk of having high blood pressure. In fact, the risk of having a reading that qualifies as “very high blood pressure” (160/100) was 77 percent higher for people who consumed food and drinks sweetened with fructose daily.(5)
Even if you somehow manage not to become obese from consuming high-fructose corn syrup, your liver could still suffer greatly. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that fructose consumption can lead to extensive liver damage even when an individual does not become obese from it. The study’s lead author expressed surprise at how quickly and extensively the liver was damaged by a diet high in fructose.(6)
Impaired mental function
With so many harmful effects, it’s easy to joke that you’d have to be stupid to eat foods that contain high-fructose corn syrup. Nevertheless, eating the substance could impair your mental function. In a UCLA study, a group of rats who were fed a diet of a solution of high-fructose corn syrup had reduced synaptic activity in their brain compared to a group that did not consume the substance. This made it difficult for the rats who were fed the substance to complete a maze. In addition to hurting your body, this ingredient is also harms your brain.(7)
The news just keeps getting worse when it comes to high-fructose corn syrup. It turns out that the production of high-fructose corn syrup entails using mercury-grade caustic soda. A study by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy found that nearly one-third of products that contain high-fructose corn syrup also contain mercury, which is toxic to humans in all of its forms and can cause permanent health damage. This is particularly true for children who gravitate toward sweet foods.(3, 8)
Increased belly fat
We’ve already addressed the link between high fructose corn syrup and obesity, but it also causes another problem that warrants specific attention: an increase in belly fat. Studies have shown that rats on a diet high in high fructose corn syrup experienced abnormal weight gain and a large amount of visceral fat in the belly area. Having some extra stomach fat isn’t just a nuisance when you need to wear a swimsuit and hit the beach; extra belly fat puts you at risk very serious health problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and even cancer.(2)
Consuming high-fructose corn syrup regularly is also linked to an increased risk for various neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. As mentioned earlier, high-fructose corn syrup is laced with mercury. This can lead to the buildup of amyloid plaque, which are proteins that have been found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. If you want to keep your memory intact, remember to not eat high-fructose corn syrup.(9)
Increased uric acid
High-fructose corn syrup has been tied to higher levels of uric acid. Excessive amounts of uric acid are associated with gout, a painful condition that affects the joints and can be very difficult to treat. Higher uric acid levels also put you at an increased risk of developing a number of serious issues, including kidney disease, fatty liver disease, hypertension and insulin resistance.(3, 10)
Consuming high-fructose corn syrup is akin to inviting a host of ailments take hold of your body. With so many potential ailments attached to high-fructose corn syrup, it’s hard to understand why anyone would willfully consume the toxic ingredient. Nevertheless, high-fructose corn syrup continues to be used by major food companies, even in foods that you would not normally consider to be sweet. It’s found in many food items, so make sure to read the ingredients listed; it’s one ingredient you should avoid at all costs.