You’ve probably seen the commercials—all part of a frenzied campaign on behalf of the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) to persuade you that high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is perfectly safe. They say it’s natural, made from corn, it’s like sugar, and fine in moderation.
As a doctor, I can only advise you not to be fooled. The truth is, there are a lot of reasons to avoid high-fructose corn syrup—and shocking new research has just added one more to this list.
Let’s begin with what we already know: A processed alternative to sugar, HFCS is a favorite of the food industry for its ability to provide maximum sweetness at minimal cost. But while HFCS might be cheap to manufacture, you only need to look at statistics to see that its widespread use over the last 25 years has come at a very high price to consumers.
Fructose doesn’t trigger satiety hormones like other types of glucose do—one reason why it’s been targeted as a prime suspect in the rising obesity epidemic. But that’s not all: Studies have also linked HFCS to elevated triglycerides, (bad cholesterol), insulin resistance… and even increased risk of colon cancer.
Finally, when you consider yet another fact—that you’ll find HFCS hiding in a seemingly endless number of processed foods, from yogurt to soup to salad dressing—moderate intake of this particular ingredient proves to be a major challenge. In fact, the average total consumption of HFCS is approximately 13 teaspoons per day—likely even higher among certain populations, including children and teens.
That’s precisely what makes this next piece of recent research so disturbing.
A study published in Environmental Health has revealed that nine out of twenty samples of commercial HFCS contained detectable levels of the heavy metal mercury—presumably, the result of contamination with “mercury-grade” caustic soda during the HFCS manufacturing process. Even more shocking, these samples came in the form of a variety of popular name-brands—Smucker’s, Kraft, Hershey’s, Quaker, and Yoplait, to name a few.
In the United States, current regulation is limited only to methyl mercury in fish—but if these results are any indication, new practices are undoubtedly in order. In the meantime, keeping products containing HFCS as far away from your plate as possible appears to be the only truly safe precaution.
That said, it’s important to note that a scientific consulting firm, ChemRisk, was hired by the CRA to examine this new research. ChemRisk did so, and subsequently dismissed the offending report as “flawed and misleading”—citing that only one-third of the tested products yielded barely detectable levels of mercury, levels that were still at concentrations notably lower than you will find in other common foods.
This rebuttal might come as a relief to some. But it doesn’t to me.
Heavy metal toxicity is a major health problem with frightening consequences for both children and adults. It’s a modern crisis that should not—and cannot—be ignored. If nothing else, this study sheds light on just one more potential (and very prevalent) source of exposure to toxins.
Dr. Isaac Eliaz, a pioneer in the field of integrative medicine since the early 1980's, is a respected author, lecturer, researcher, product formulator and clinical practitioner.
Since 1991 Dr. Eliaz has maintained a busy private practice in northern California that focuses primarily on integrative, holistic protocols for cancer patients. He leads an integrative medical team at Amitabha Clinic in Sebastopol, California with focus on cancer and other chronic ailments.
To learn more, please visit www.dreliaz.org.
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