Understanding Glycemic Index
Spring Low Carb Recipes
Taming High Blood Pressure
Making Low Carb Crepes
Getting a "Safe" Tan
Are Phereomones Real?
Benefits of White Tea
Eyes That Sizzle
Best of The Low Carb Blogs
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More and more people from the "low carb world" are taking their thoughts to the web in
the form of "blogs" (short for weblogs). And they're making a lot of sense. In fact,
blogging — an activity that's reaching phenomenon status is probably the best
way to get a message "out there."
So each month, we'll be bringing you the "Best of the low carb Blogs." The topics
won't always be about low carb per se. We're simply choosing those entries that we, at
Low Carb Luxury, find to be buzz-worthy.
This month, we feature an entry from Dr. Mike's Blog, written by Protein Power
doc, Michael R. Eades. Michael is a good friend of ours, and has a gift for drawing in
his readers. His warmth and down-to-earth nature always show through, but make no mistake,
Mike Eades is one very sharp fellow. Visit
his blog each week to read all that he has to offer!
High-Fructose Corn Syrup Follies
As anyone who has ever Googled it knows, there is information all over the net on high-fructose corn syrup
(HFCS). The information ranges from that put out by groups believing that HFCS is at Satan's right hand to
that put out by the Corn Refiners Association, which, as you might expect, says, Hey, HFCS is just sugar in
a different form, no better or worse than plain old table sugar. Even the New York Times is entering the
fray. In the April 11th issue Nicholas Kristof writes an opinion piece blaming HFSC for the obesity epidemic and
wanting to tax it.
Copyright © May 2006 Michael R. Eades and Low Carb Luxury
The HFCS promoters aren't taking all this abuse lying down. Last week at the Experimental Biology meeting
in San Francisco researchers underwritten by the HFCS industry made a presentation showing that HFCS was
harmless. These findings were, of course, trumpeted to all the media by the HFCS people, and the media
fell into step and reported the findings.
Before we get into what the findings were, let's look at what we do know for sure about HFCS and fructose.
First, there is no question that the consumption of fructose has increased dramatically since the development
and entry of HFCS into the food supply in about 1970. Depending upon whom you want to rely, the figures as to
the actual increase vary, but there is no doubt that the amount of fructose has significantly increased over
the past few decades. And there is no doubt that the overall consumption of caloric sweeteners (another term
for sugars) has increased over the same period. In fact, sugars of one form or another account for an
unbelievable 20-25 percent of calories consumed by the average American. Think about that for a minute.
Almost a quarter of our diet is composed of empty calories from a substance that we as humans were never
exposed to during the 2.7 million years of our existence as humanoid creatures on this planet as we were
being molded by the forces of natural selection to be the creatures we are today. (One of my favorite
quotes on this comes from Blake F. Donaldson, M.D. who long ago wrote a book called Strong Medicine. Says
Dr. Donaldson: "During the millions of years that our ancestors lived by hunting, every weakling who could
not maintain perfect health on fresh meat and water was bred out.")
So fact one, we know were eating more sugar in general and more fructose in particular. We also know that
fructose is metabolized differently than other sugars. Glucose, for example, can be used as is by virtually
every cell in the body; fructose can only be metabolized in the liver (and in sperm cells). If we eat too
much glucose, the metabolic process stores it away as glycogen--if we eat too much fructose, our livers
convert it to fat and, typically, store it in the liver. Why? Because glucose metabolism is tightly controlled
and fructose, in simple terms, jumps the main control point in the sugar metabolism pathway. Click here to read
a fairly accurate and comprehensible essay on this process. Click here for
full text of a paper about fructose
metabolism. (I don't totally agree with the conclusions in this paper, but the description of the control point
in fructose metabolism is accurate.)
If we forget about arguing over exactly how much the increase in fructose consumption has been over the past 30
years and focus only on what we know for sure, we can state the following with pretty much certainty: We're
eating more fructose than ever, it's converted to fat in the liver, and fatty liver disease is on the rise. To
see a previous post on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, click here. So, the only conclusion that we can draw
from these facts is that a lot of fructose is bad for us.
I'm sure the folks involved in the HFCS industry realize this and decided that they had to take some kind of
steps to counter the mass of accumulating evidence indicating that fructose is not just an innocent bystander
in the diabetes and obesity epidemics. What better way to do it than to underwrite a study showing that
fructose is harmless, then release that fact to the press and count on them to disseminate the info under
the imprimaturs of the various media outlets. That would be a way to do it.
But how could you underwrite a study and be sure of the results? Well, if you're in the HFCS biz, you're kind
of in a no-lose situation. If you construct the study in such a way the fructose almost can't come out looking
bad, but it does despite your best efforts, then you simply don't release the results to the press. If the
results get picked up online, who cares? It's just one more negative posting among the thousands of others
out there. But if the results are positive or if they're just not negative, then you're armed for the attack
using the media.
If I wanted to construct a study that would give non-negative results I would use young, healthy, thin subjects
and I would design the study so that these subjects consumed small amounts of fructose over a short period of
time because the negative effects of fructose take a while to become manifest.
Lo and behold, that's exactly what they did. (Click here to
see the study abstract.) The study subjects were
30 lean women who were randomized into two groups. Both groups ate the same number of calories for one day;
one group drank soft drinks sweetened with HFCS while the other group drank their soft drinks sweetened with
sucrose (table sugar). The researchers checked blood for glucose, insulin, leptin and ghrelin on this first
day. The next day these subjects were allowed to eat whatever they wanted, after which blood values were once
again evaluated. That was the end of the study. Would you be surprised to learn that this study showed
absolutely no difference between the two groups in terms of any of these blood parameters? Nor would I.
In the first place, we don't know how many soft drinks the subjects consumed. Since sucrose is 50 percent
glucose and 50 percent fructose, one half of the sugar in the soft drinks sweetened with sucrose was actually
glucose. HFCS is 55 percent fructose, so the difference in fructose between a six pack of soft drinks sweetened
with HFCS and the same six pack sweetened with HFCS is about 10-14 grams. Not enough to make a difference in
only one day in a lean, healthy person. So, when you get right down to it, the study didn't show squat, but it
did give the HFCS people something to issue a press release about and to talk up on their website. Notice in
this report from Yahoo Health how the writer pretty much
picked up the press release verbatim. That's what the HFCS folks are counting on.
Will Rogers once said, "The only thing I know is what I read in the newspaper."
In these days, if that's all you know, you're in trouble.
Michael R. Eades, MD