Friday, April 29, 2011

Warning: Slow Death by Fructose

I'm no scientist, but I've known for awhile that high fructose corn syrup is something that I should avoid.  My husband and I could see in our lipid panels how it raises tryglicerides and LDL.  Nonetheless, sometimes it's hard to resist a glass of soda (I say that but DH gave up Mountain Dew cold turkey sometime ago when he made the connection) or a peanut butter cup... until we watched a lecture by Dr. Robert Lustig entitled "Sugar: The Bitter Truth."

Now, I won't pretend to understand how the body digests and uses or cleans all that we eat*.  In fact, in watching the video, I paused to ask my scientist husband for a little further explanation.  In the end, I got the gist.  Science shows that fructose (unlike other sugar: glucose) can only be processed by the liver, and in the processing of it, the liver turns it in to vLDL (very low density lipoprotein cholesterol).  That is, it turns it to  fat.  Some of the fat is purged from the liver, but some of it remains, causing damage to the liver.  When we ingest fructose it also stops the signaling that should be going to our brains to tell us when we've eaten enough.  The consequence... we eat more and think we're hungry even when our bodies have had enough.

I'll pause here to say that some fructose is natural, such as that found in fruits, and we'd be depriving ourselves of some delicious and healthy food if we tried to cut out all fructose.  However, fructose, often in the form of high fructose corn syrup, is being added to an overwhelmingly large portion of processed food because it is cheap, sweet, and addictive.  It is shockingly even added to baby formula! (I knew there was a reason I wanted to nurse our girls...)  Let's add to this abhorrent thought another fact that people may not realize.

Soft drink manufacturers add a lot of salt to keep us coming back, and to cover up the salty taste they fill the sodas with high fructose corn syrup.  I think I fully realized this when I was pregnant with my younger daughter.  I was so thirsty all the time because my nausea caused an aversion in me to just about everything, including water.  The one thing I wanted was 7UP, but as soon as I had finished a cup, I would be even thirstier.  So, we drink soda after soda thinking that we're quenching our thirst, but really we're just feeding an addiction.

The FDA refuses to do anything to regulate fructose in processed foods because it does not pose an acute danger.  Should we really be forgetting the fact that babies and young children are obese because of this stuff?  It seems to me despite what profits may be lost to business by regulating it that we really should.  However, since that's not likely to happen any time soon, it is up to each of us to read our food labels and decide if each product we buy is something we really want to ingest and feed our children.

* As I said I'm not a scientist, and my husband will probably read this and tell me I got something wrong or didn't quite explain it well.  I'll adjust as needed; in the meantime, I highly recommend watching the video yourself if you have 90 minutes to spare.

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