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High Fructose Corn Syrup: Villain or Unjustly Vilified?

Fitday Editor
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We all know that too much sugar is bad for you because it can lead to diabetes, heart disease, stroke and weight gain, according to the American Heart Association. And if you start your day with too much sugar, it just sets you up to crave more sugar throughout the day. But is there a different between the sugar found in high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and other kinds of sugar? The short answer: yes.

Glucose, often called "simple sugar" or "dextrose," is what granulated sugar is comprised of. HFCS is a combination of fructose and glucose that has been refined and it is used to make all sorts of food and beverages like bread, pastries, processed foods and soft drinks that fill the shelves of most grocery stores in America. Companies use HFCS to sweeten their products because it is inexpensive, transports well during shipping and is very cost-effective.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that U.S. consumption of HFCS went up 1,000 percent between 1970 and 1990. And recent studies have shown that the fructose in HFSC makes cancer cells grow faster. This is especially true when it comes to pancreatic cancer cells which divide and proliferate when exposed to fructose, according to the Journal of Cancer Research.

Pancreatic cancer is the deadliest form of cancer and when the cells were exposed to fructose, they grew considerably faster during a study at UCLA's Cancer Center. When the cells were exposed to glucose, they did not have the same reaction. They did not grow and proliferate as fast as the fructose-exposed cells. In other words, all tumor cells thrive on sugar but they use fructose to proliferate especially when it comes to pancreatic cancer cells.

For those of us who are not suffering from pancreatic cancer but still wanting to make good health choices, what are our options? My suggestion is to limit processed foods (and also sugars) as a whole. I would rather my clients eat one real chocolate-chip cookie made with whole ingredients than a whole package of highly processed, HFCS-loaded cookies (even if they are labeled "fat free and sugar free.")

Some of us are hardwired to indulge our in our sweet tooth. We may be full after dinner but there is always room for dessert - right? You are not eating sweets or dessert necessarily because of hunger, it is usually for pleasure. If a meal is not satisfying or leaves you still feeling hungry, many start looking for the cookie jar or raid the freezer for some ice cream.

Here are some tips to beat those sugar cravings and avoid HFCS products:

  • Try this experiment if you are addicted to soft drinks. Get your soft drink and then get a tall glass of ice water with some lemon. Drink a couple sips of soft drink, then a couple sips of water. Eventually your body will tell you "The water feels better to me." This is a great way to slowly eliminate soft drinks.
  • Make an effort to substitute a whole food for a processed food at every meal. You should notice a difference in how you feel and energy level.
  • Read the labels of your favorite foods in your pantry and cupboards that you may have been consuming for quite a while. The first 3 words in the ingredient list are mainly what the product is made from and should be avoided.
  • Artificial sweeteners are not the way to go. Try a tablespoon of maple syrup in your morning coffee instead of the yellow or blue packets. Grade A, dark amber maple syrup contains antioxidants, is all natural and your body will recognize it as such.

Sherry L. Granader is a Sports Nutritionist, National Speaker and Spokesperson, Author of 2 healthy cookbooks, Writer, Ghost Writer, Nationally Certified Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. She has shared the stage with such celebrities as Whoopi Goldberg, Suze Orman and the late Governor Ann Richards and served as the On-Air Nutritionist for QVC television in the United States and the UK. She has cooked for her favorite bodybuilder, Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk) and his family, shared her nutrition expertise with Chuck Norris on the set of his movie "Sidekicks" and appeared on 8-time Mr. Olympia, Lee Haney's Championship Workouts on ESPN. Sherry hosted her own "Healthy Living" show on PBS for several years. For more information on Sherry, visit or write to Sherry at

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