Is High Fructose Corn Syrup “the New Trans Fat”?

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The non-profit consumer action group Citizens for Health earlier this month called on the Food and Drug Administration to do its part in raising awareness of the dangers of high fructose corn syrup by making an official statement recognizing the sweetener as an unsafe addition to the nation’s food supply.

FDA officials earlier this year issued a determination that partially hydrogenated oils–the trans fats in processed foods–are not “generally recognized as safe.”

Following that recognition, the FDA is proposing a ban all artificial trans fats, which raise cholesterol levels and are linked to heart disease and other illnesses, from the foods we eat. (Trans fats are found in coffee creamer, canned frosting, and microwave popcorn, among other things.)

Citizens for Heath wants high fructose corn syrup–responsible for sweetening many of the processed foods found on grocery shelves including soda and juice, cookies, breakfast cereals, breads and cough syrup–to share the same status.

In a press release, the organization, chaired by Jim Turner, called high fructose corn syrup “the most dangerous food in the world,” and suggested its consumption could be linked to liver damage and other health concerns including obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes, particularly in children.

The group pointed to previous expert opinion to cement its position against the sweetener.

“Type 2 diabetes was unheard of in children prior to 1980- when high fructose corn syrup began to be incorporated into processed foods,” said obesity expert Dr. Robert H. Ludwig.

According to Dr. Michael Goran, director of the Childhood Obesity Research Center, many soft drinks contain excessive levels of high fructose corn syrup and fall under the FDA category of not generally recognized as safe.

Dr. Mark Hyman, Chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine, said the sweetener, consumed at a rate of about 60 pounds per year by the average American, “is driving most of the epidemic of heart disease, cancers, and diabetes.”

Hyman also said high fructose corn syrup is particularly dangerous because it is processed differently in the body than natural sugars, resulting in disease-causing inflammation and depleted energy stores that can lead to overeating and weight gain.

Citizens for Health–which compared the lobbyists touting the safety of high fructose corn syrup to those who previously backed trans fats–has filed a petition with the FDA, calling on the organization to “take action against food and beverage manufacturers that use HFCS concentrations above approved limits, and to require accurate HFCS labeling information.”

The petition is available for public signatures on the group’s website at www.citizens.org.

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