A cheaper sweetener which raids everything from sodas, toffees and even your packet of crisps, high fructose corn syrup has replaced sugar quickly than you can imagine over the last few decades. While it may be chemically similar to table sugar, controversy over its metabolism still exists.

Too much sugar of any kind, is a truckload of unwanted calories which can result in a host of problems such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is more readily absorbed in the body as opposed to sugar and is comparatively more harmful. Did you know that a 20 ounce can of soda contains about 15 teaspoons of sugar, all of which is HFCS?

An industrial food product produced through a chemical enzymatic process, HFCS contains an unhealthy and inappropriate ratio of glucose to fructose and that too in an unbound form. While this is the main reason behind its uber sweet nature, it is also the epicenter of the many health troubles. Here are six such side effects of HFCS that can adversely affect your health.

1. Weight Gain & Obesity
With the inclusion of HFCS across a variety of foods, the incidence of obesity is on rise among the general population. While this may come as a surprise for many, considering the high levels of sugar in HFCS, it is something which shouldn’t be overlooked. Research studies have shown that HFCS may interfere with the ability of your body to produce leptin— the hormone which is associated with the feeling of satiety. [1]

A study carried out by scientists at Princeton University, found that rats on a diet rich in high fructose corn syrup experienced abnormal weight gain and a large amount of visceral fat in the belly area, as contested with those who had less access to sugar, despite their overall caloric intake being equal.[2]

2. Diabetes
Excessive consumption of HFCS can result in developing insulin resistance, which can worsen over time. Besides it can also be coupled with an increase in the amount of triglycerides in the body and weight gain, both of which are high risk factors for developing diabetes.

3. High Blood Pressure & Heart Disease
Elevated levels of blood pressure, triglycerides and LDL (bad cholesterol) are some of the many unpleasant health effects of consuming too much of HFCS.[3] Together these factors, compound the risk of arterial plaque buildup which can lead to various problems including hypertension, heart disease and stroke.

A study from the Georgia Health Sciences University found markers for heart disease and vascular disease in children between the ages of 14 and 18 who consumed high amounts of fructose. [4]

4. Liver Damage
As mentioned earlier, during the chemical enzymatic synthesis of HFCS, the glucose and fructose naturally bound together get separated. What this does, is streamline the fructose directly to the liver and can cause fatty liver. [5]This severely hampers the organ’s ability to process and eliminate toxins inducing damage and premature scarring.

5. High Exposure To Mercury
The chemical synthesis of HFCS calls for the use of mercury grade caustic soda which never get eliminated from the product. While these amounts may be trace, bearing in mind the high consumption of HFCS loaded products in today’s world, they can get accumulated in the body and cause irreversible health damage.

6. Impaired Mental Function
A UCLA study was able to demonstrate the brain-hindering properties of HFCS. The study which was carried out on rats found that those which were fed a diet comprising a solution of high-fructose corn syrup had reduced synaptic activity in their brain compared to those who didn’t. [6] The mercury present in HFCS can also trigger development of neurodegenerative diseases and dementia.

To conclude, we’d advise you to always read the labels on the food products you buy to help you make better choices.

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1. Bray GA, Nielsen SJ, Popkin BM. Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Apr;79(4):537-43. Review. Erratum in: Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Oct;80(4):1090. PubMed PMID: 15051594.

2. Bocarsly ME, Powell ES, Avena NM, Hoebel BG. High-fructose corn syrup causes characteristics of obesity in rats: increased body weight, body fat and triglyceride levels. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2010 Nov;97(1):101-6. doi:10.1016/j.pbb.2010.02.012. Epub 2010 Feb 26. PubMed PMID: 20219526; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3522469.

3. Kolderup A, Svihus B. Fructose Metabolism and Relation to Atherosclerosis,Type 2 Diabetes, and Obesity. J Nutr Metab. 2015;2015:823081. doi:10.1155/2015/823081. Epub 2015 Jun 14. Review. PubMed PMID: 26199742; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4496653.

4. Pollock NK, Bundy V, Kanto W, Davis CL, Bernard PJ, Zhu H, Gutin B, Dong Y. Greater fructose consumption is associated with cardiometabolic risk markers and visceral adiposity in adolescents. J Nutr. 2012 Feb;142(2):251-7. doi:10.3945/jn.111.150219. Epub 2011 Dec 21. Erratum in: J Nutr. 2013 Jan;143(1):123. PubMed PMID: 22190023; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3260058.

5. Basaranoglu M, Basaranoglu G, Sabuncu T, Sentürk H. Fructose as a key player in the development of fatty liver disease. World J Gastroenterol. 2013 Feb 28;19(8):1166-72. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v19.i8.1166. Review. PubMed PMID: 23482247;PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3587472.

6. Agrawal R, Gomez-Pinilla F. ‘Metabolic syndrome’ in the brain: deficiency in omega-3 fatty acid exacerbates dysfunctions in insulin receptor signalling and cognition. J Physiol. 2012 May 1;590(Pt 10):2485-99. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2012.230078. Epub 2012 Apr 2. PubMed PMID: 22473784; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3424766.