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The Low Down on High Fructose

The Low Down on High Fructose

When Grimm’s wicked witch asked, “Who's nibbling on my house?" Hansel and Gretel ignored the question and continued to break pieces off her tasty gingerbread cottage. We bet that house was sweetened with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) -- most prefab baked goods are -- and, according to a study, that may be why the kids were determined to keep eating, despite the danger.

Some folks doubt HFCS is any worse than glucose (plain table sugar) -- and remember, all added sugars and syrups fuel body-wide inflammation contributing to obesity, heart disease and cancer -- so here’s the scoop.

The sugar contained in HFCS stimulates a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens that is a key player in the brain’s reward system. It activates two neurotransmitters -- dopamine, the “I want” hormone, and serotonin, the hormone that affects both satiety and inhibition. In other words, when you consume HFCS you feel hungry longer and crave more food. Apparently glucose doesn’t do that, according to research presented at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology annual meeting in December 2014.

So what products contain HFCS? It’s everywhere! Read the labels. Samples: Coca-Cola, many relishes and Miracle Whip.

You should get your fructose from fresh fruits. In addition to fructose (it’s not distilled from corn), fruit contains potassium, vitamin C, folic acid and a lot of fiber -- which slows digestion and helps control high blood sugar and cholesterol. So aim for five to nine servings of fruits and veggies a day. There’s your sweet plan. 

Medically reviewed in May 2018.

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