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HFCS: Bad for the Brain?

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) may tinker with the brain in ways that, unlike glucose, may actually encourage us to overeatHigh fructose corn syrup (HFCS), the sweetener that’s ubiquitous in sodas, processed snacks, and junk foods, may tinker with the brain in ways that, unlike glucose, may actually encourage us to overeat. The problem is that after downing a soft drink containing fructose, the brain may not register that we’re full, according to a study published in the January 2, 2013 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. For the investigation, scientists used MRI scans to visualize and compare blood flow in the brain after their subjects - 20 young, normal-weight men and women – drank beverages containing HFCS and, a few weeks later, one containing glucose. Scans showed that drinking the glucose-sweetened beverages turns off brain areas that stimulate the desire for food, but this didn’t happen when the drinks contained HFCS. The study was small and didn’t prove that HFCS contributes to obesity, although increases in obesity have paralleled the use of HFCS. More studies will be necessary to confirm the negative effects HFCS has on the brain.

My take? The U.S. Agriculture Department has calculated that the average American consumes more than 40 pounds of HFCS every year. I'm concerned that this highly processed substance has disruptive effects on metabolism, in part because the body doesn't utilize fructose well, and humans have never before consumed it in such quantity. Earlier studies have documented potential problems with thinking and memory, and HFCS has well-known adverse effects on other aspects of health. Clinical studies strongly suggest it promotes obesity, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes; disturbs liver function, and elevates serum triglycerides in men. The latest study is further evidence that HFCS isn’t good for us.

Robert Sherwin, et al, “Effects of Fructose vs Glucose on Regional Cerebral Blood Flow in Brain Regions Involved With Appetite and Reward Pathways”, JAMA. 2013; 309(1):63-70. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.116975

Weil Lifestyle. Does High Fructose Corn Syrup Harm the Brain? July 30¸2012.

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Reader Comments (9)

HFCS is in so many products that I will not buy. I found something more disturbing just this year, and it has been around for over a decade. Please research NEOTAME now used as an even cheaper sweetening ingredient than HFCS. Neotame is added without malace or concern for the health risk because FDA approved it and the kicker is that it will never show up on the label. I have counted on that label to guide my purchases, and I have now turned to learning to use a pendulum instead.

When the product boasts of sugar free or 10 times sweeter, the red flag should go up for the consumer. Please spread the word to conscientious buyers.

March 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPenny M

We have heard that HFCS is unhealthy, however, the term GMO is rarely broached. Is it possible that biotech is going too far and is sacrificing everyone's health for the good old bottom line? Long live the Corporate Congre$$!

March 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJudy G

HFCS, Aspartame, Neotame, and anything GMO should be avoided at all costs! Stevia, xylitol, raw honey, organic maple syrup (from the tree) are the best sweeteners to use. And, if one can afford it try to buy organic produce, meat, and eggs. Also, more and more people are having issues with eating gluten, so at least try to limit one's intake of it. Bottom line is that our food is not the food that our ancestors ate, and we are we poisoned all in the name of profit.

March 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmy P

There is just too much processed food out there these days. And most people dont have the time to cook their own food at home let alone grow their own ingredients in the busy world of 2013.

I have just recently started to use stevia in everything I possibly can here at home and I am very happy with it. It can give a little weird color in a mango smoothie but it taste just as good if not better than sugar.

March 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Hart

Products containing HFCS have been a big no no for me for long time now. Substances like this are not only unhealthy, they tend to be addictive as well.

March 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

As bad as all this sounds (and is) it's just scratching the surface and it goes way beyond soda pop drinks too! Glad more of this info is hittin the waves though.

March 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterManny

I started reading up on HFCS a few years ago and have virtually eliminated it from my diet (there are a few things I love I'm having a hard time getting rid of!) It's scary to think what else we are going to see happening to people because of this product decades from now...

March 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterErica House

Thanks for this one. A lot of foos and beverages today has its own side effects to our health. This article warns me to be meticulous in every food that I partake because most of it contains chemicals that can damage our brain or our health. Thank you for this post. ^^

March 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBalini Sports

I try to stay away as much as possible from sodas as they are really not good for you to drink anyway. There are a few ingredients that will kill brain cells and break down your teeth

March 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterZack

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