Health Hijacked by High Fructose Corn Syrup

by Jill Taylor on April 30, 2013

in Healthy Living

teensOur teenagers face a critical point in their lives where they establish lasting eating habits. They often look for fast solutions, if they eat breakfast on the way to school or grab a snack after practice. These convenient options may seem like a good idea, until these snacks are uncovered.

As we take a look at an artificial sweetener called High Fructose Corn Syrup or HFCS, you’ll see the man-made compound is in more than soda. HFCS is creeping into a number of processed foods, and is a major health threat to our teenagers.

Gastroenterologist Dr. Dawn Sears is the Scott & White Medical Director of Wellness and works with teenagers through McLane Children’s Scott & White. She is passionate about the onslaught of obesity that is plaguing our culture today.

“The obesity epidemic occurred starting in the ‘80s when HFCS was introduced,” she says. “This has changed the entire way we view health. As a result, this current generation will be the unhealthiest generation ever and will probably be the first time in which life expectancy will actually decline from one generation to the next.”

The ‘80s not only brought funky fashion that is coming back into style, but this serious issue of HFCS. We may not be able to keep the tie-dye out of their wardrobe, but we can keep teenagers safe from the overwhelming amount of fructose.

Where is High Fructose Corn Syrup Found?

The number one way HFCS is delivered to humans is in soda and sugar sweetened drinks and juices.

This is over 45% of all HFCS consumed. You will also find it in virtually every other processed food you eat, even the healthy ones, Dr. Sears says.

HFCS is in granola bars, peanut butter, soup, saltines, fruit snacks, ketchup, pancake syrup and frozen meals. If you look on the package, you may also see another name such as corn sugar, fructose sugar, corn starch, corn syrup, modified food starch and others. Don’t be fooled, all of these are a form of HFCS. They are usually in foods to add sweetness, keep food preserved, or maintain consistency at a cheaper cost.

Why is High Fructose Corn Syrup Bad for My Teenager?

When your teenager grabs a soda with his friends, or on a late-night slushy run, he is consuming unneeded calories.

In fact, Dr. Sears says if you drink one 32oz. soda a day it results in an extra 500 calories. It takes a seven-mile walk to burn those calories, or it will result in one extra pound of fat gain per week.

That’s a lot of calories your body is consuming with a quick sip of a drink. Other processed foods can contain high amounts of sugars which don’t send off full signals to our brain or may block the receptor that helps our body get rid of sugars through energy and movement.

“Sweeteners tell your brain that you have taken in food and that you don’t need more,” says Dr. Sears. “Both HFCS and artificial sweeteners do not do this, so this results in people eating more food and not being satisfied and eating even more food and continuing to want something more.”

Because artificial sweeteners do not tell your body when you are full, you risk overeating. This is a major problem that is plaguing our younger generation. Dr. Sears compares the socially acceptable soda drinking, to the socially acceptable smoking that occurred in the 1950s. Both are hazardous practices that greatly impact our health and need to be watched closely.

“Taking in higher levels of fructose leads to higher blood sugar levels in the blood stream which stay higher longer and ultimately cause high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and many other health problems,” says Dr. Sears.

How Can I Fight High Fructose Corn Syrup?

In order to fight back against HFCS, obesity, and other health risks, here are a few suggestions.

    1. Drink water—Water is less expensive and better for your body. Dr. Sears recommends only drinking sugar drinks about once a month.
    2. Don’t buy it—As parents you are the gatekeepers to the home, and whatever you buy will be available to your children. Instead of stocking up on sugary snacks, drinks or processed foods, consider prepping healthy snacks with your children to have on hand throughout the week. You can cut up fruit, put oatmeal in bags, or provide other quick options that are better for your whole family.
    3. Provide a variety of fruits and veggies early on—If you start early, your children will know fruits and vegetables are an important part of their diet. Explore new types, because you may be stunned to discover that your teenager loves brussel sprouts.
    4. Realize the real cost savings—Dr. Sears says it just takes more planning, because apples cost the same as a bag of chips and a bag of frozen peas is less than a dollar and you can get a couple family meals from it. Even more than the immediate savings, you will save on medical expenses and health costs in the years to come.
    5. Eat the good fructose found in fruit or other natural sugars—Dr. Sears says when we consume fruits or other good sugar it comes along with Vitamin C, fiber and other helpful substances. If we’ve had too much HFCS, our taste buds may find these natural sugars dull, but with a few weeks of palate cleansing you can find pleasure in fruits and vegetables again.

“The decisions and habits of the teen years determine the habits and health of people for the rest of their lives,” says Dr. Sears. As parents are educated about healthy eating, you will protect your children from the dangers of high fructose corn syrup.

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