What is high-fructose corn syrup? What are the health concerns?

High-fructose corn syrup is a common sweetener in sodas and fruit-flavored drinks. As use of high-fructose corn syrup has increased, so have levels of obesity and related health problems. Some wonder if there's a connection.

Research has shown that high-fructose corn syrup is chemically similar to table sugar. Controversy exists, however, about whether the body handles high-fructose corn syrup differently than table sugar.

At this time, there's insufficient evidence to say that high-fructose corn syrup is any less healthy than other types of sweeteners.

It is known, however, that too much added sugar of all kinds — not just high-fructose corn syrup — can contribute unwanted calories that are linked to health problems, such as weight gain, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and high triglyceride levels. All of these boost your risk of heart disease.

The American Heart Association recommends that most women get no more than 100 calories a day of added sugar from any source, and that most men get no more than 150 calories a day of added sugar. That's about 6 teaspoons of added sugar for women and 9 teaspoons for men.

If you're concerned about your health, the smart play is to cut back on added sugar, regardless of the type.

The health concerns about HFCS (High-fructose corn syrup)are related to its high fructose content. Fructose is metabolized differently in the body than glucose. It is not stored in the muscles or liver, so it goes directly to the liver to be processed. In the liver, fructose can be converted into fat. This can lead to a number of health problems, including:

  • Obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Fatty liver disease

Some studies have suggested that HFCS may be more harmful than other types of sugar, such as table sugar. However, more research is needed to confirm this.

Here are some tips for reducing your intake of HFCS:

  • Read food labels carefully and look for products that do not contain HFCS.
  • Limit your intake of processed foods and beverages.
  • Cook more meals at home, so you can control the ingredients.
  • Choose natural sweeteners, such as honey or fruit, instead of added sugars.

It is important to note that moderate amounts of added sugar are not harmful to most healthy people. However, if you are concerned about your sugar intake, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian.

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