High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a common ingredient in many food items in the United States. It has become almost a staple in most processed foods due to its mass availability and low price.
High-fructose corn syrup is made by processing corn starch (which is 100% glucose) to turn some of the glucose molecules into fructose. This makes it easier to use in jams, cookies, baked goods, etc., and increases its shelf life. (1)
However, excessive consumption of high-fructose corn syrup can have dire consequences for the body in the long run. (1)
Why High-Fructose Corn Syrup Is Dangerous for Your Health
Research suggests that consuming more than 6 teaspoons of sugar in a day is harmful. High-fructose corn syrup is about 180–13,000 times sweeter than sugar and can increase the risk of diseases. (2)
Here are a few reasons you should avoid excessive consumption of foods that contain high-fructose corn syrup.
1. Can lead to weight gain
Since 2015, obesity rates have increased exponentially in the United States. According to surveys conducted in the last decade, more than 35% of adults and 18% of adolescents in the country are obese.
Diet and lifestyle factors both contribute to this epidemic. This has led researchers to suspect the addition of relatively new ingredients such as high-fructose corn syrup in the food industry has a part to play in causing obesity.
Recently, several reports suggested that fructose can turn to fat deposits (triglycerides) in the body much faster than other forms of sugar. It also influences the hormones to increase appetite over time. (3)(4)
2. Increases diabetes risk
Fructose can decrease the insulin sensitivity of cells. Insulin is a hormone that helps convert blood sugar to energy after meals.
Research suggests that regular consumption of fructose can decrease insulin sensitivity by 17% in as little as 3 months! (5) This is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder where blood sugar rises above normal levels. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to major health complications such as nerve damage, heart disease, and infections. (6)
3. Increased risk of gout
Gout is a type of arthritis that can cause painful joints. It occurs due to high levels of uric acid in the blood. Fructose-rich foods have been linked to gout in recent studies.
4. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
Nearly 25% of adults in the United States have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and this number is only expected to increase in the coming years. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease causes fat deposits in the liver that can damage the organ. (9)
Research studies show that excessive intake of fructose can damage the liver cells (as fructose is broken down in the liver) and lead to inflammation. This can be a risk factor for developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease later in life. (10)
5. Uric acid elevation and kidney stones
When fructose is broken down in the body, it is turned into purines, which are further broken down into uric acid. Excessive fructose consumption can cause a buildup of uric acid in the blood. Not only does this put you at risk for gout but also for kidney stones. (11)
High-fructose corn syrup has been associated with several health risks. However, it is increasingly being used in all processed food industries. People must avoid its consumption by limiting the intake of food items that contain it.
Consuming a diet rich in antioxidants such as carnosine, vitamin C, alpha lipoic acid, and fish oil can help protect your body from the harmful effects of excessive fructose to some extent.