Sweet Misery: Sugar and HFCs

February 1, 2010

By johnmac

With Valentine’s Day this month, I’m guessing that some of us will consume more than our usual amount of chocolate and other sweet treats.  I know I’ll be looking forward to some dark chocolate- covered ginger!

There’s nothing wrong with occasionally indulging our sweet tooth, but it may surprise you to learn that the average Canadian consumes up to 3 pounds of sugar per week!

This seems almost impossible, until you consider the fact that sugar, in many forms, including glucose, sucrose, dextrose, lactose, maltose (basically anything ending in ‘ose’), malt syrup, and  high-fructose corn syrup, are being processed into all kinds of foods, including many so-called ‘healthy’ whole grain breads and breakfast cereals, nut butters, yogurt, spaghetti sauce, mayonnaise, ketchup, salad dressings and numerous other condiments, prepared foods, and packaged meals.

It has been known for decades that sugar suppresses immune system function (and obviously good health requires a healthy immune system).

I recently read that just 1 teaspoon of sugar suppresses the immune system for up to 6 hours!   With this in mind, it makes sense that cutting back on sugar consumption is among one of the most important things we can do for our health.

Suppressing our immune system isn’t the only way that sugar negatively affects our overall health.  It also does this by elevating our insulin levels.  Elevated insulin levels contribute to nearly every chronic disease including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, and obesity.

Beware of the worst form of sugar:  high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  The use of HFCS in foods and drinks has increased drastically over the years thanks to a chemical manufacturing process that makes it sweeter and cheaper to use than sugar.  HFCS contains a high percentage of fructose (up to 55%).  The body handles fructose/HFCS differently than glucose, causing the following problems:

  • fructose metabolism raises blood triglycerides more than other sugars, which raises the risk of heart disease
  • triglycerides are the body’s storage form of fat, so HFCS promotes fat gain (recent studies show that the consumption of HFCS sweetened drinks is associated with obesity in children)
  • unlike glucose, fructose does not stimulate the hormone leptin, which tells our brain that our stomach is ‘full’
  • the fructose from HFCS is devoid of enzymes, vitamins and minerals which we would normally get when we consume fructose in its natural form (i.e. from eating fruit)
  • it does not satisfy the body’s craving for glucose, so we actually get hungry after consuming foods/drinks that contain HFCS
  • it is associated with poor development of collagen in growing animals
  • animals on high-fructose diets develop liver problems similar to those of alcoholics

What is the worst source of HFCS?  Well, almost 25% of the sugar consumed in the Standard American Diet (SAD) comes from soft drinks, in the form of HFCS.  In fact, HFCS in soft drinks is now the number one source of calories in North America.  How SAD is that?  I could write pages related to the health hazards of soft drink consumption, but instead I’ll just mention a few of them:

  • Drinking one can of pop per day can translate into more than a pound of weight gain per month.
  • The high phosphoric acid content of colas weakens bones by leaching calcium out of them (note that teeth are bones and the combination of sugars and acids in soft drinks dissolves tooth enamel).  Phosphoric acid also promotes the formation of kidney stones and interferes with the function of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, impairing our digestion.
  • Some soft drinks contain caffeine, which increases stomach acid levels.  A prolonged acidic environment compromises digestion and causes inflammation which then leads to stomach aches or more serious pain.  Caffeine also stimulates the adrenal glands and regular use can cause adrenal exhaustion.
  • Carbonated drinks can cause your stomach to ‘bloat’, which may cause heart burn and acid reflux.

What about fruit juices or diet sodas?  Most commercial fruit juices are also high in sugars and/or HFCS – in fact, I bet that some are just as bad as sodas.  While freshly squeezed/juiced fruit juices are a better alternative, they are still high in sugar (and devoid of the fibre you would get from eating the whole fruit), so it is recommended that they be diluted with water. Artificial sweeteners (e.g. aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose) cause a whole host of other health issues and some recent studies suggest that they actually make you gain weight…in addition to being neurotoxins and hormonal disrupters.

There’s nothing better than a glass of good, filtered water to quench our thirst!  Most of us don’t drink nearly enough water in a day (a common guideline is that the number of ounces of water you should drink daily is equal to half of your weight in pounds – e.g. if you weigh 150 pounds, you should drink 75 ounces of water per day).  A splash of fresh lime or lemon juice adds a nice touch of flavour.  There are also so many herbal teas that are not only delicious hot or cooled but that also offer numerous health benefits.  Bottoms up!



  1. Soft Drinks:  America’s Other Drinking Problem, Judith Valentine, PhD, CNA, CNC, May 26, 2002 (http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/NewsDetails.aspx?storyid=269187)
  2. Perfect Weight Canada:  Change Your Diet, Change Your Life, Change the World, Jordan Rubin, Siloam Publishing, Lake Mary, FLA, 2008
  3. 10 Diseases Linked to Soda, mercola.com, Feb 10, 2009
  4. Soft Drink Consumption: The Frightening Statistics and Associated Health Risks! (http://www.everyday-wisdom.com/soft-drink-consumption.html)
  5. Sweet Deception: Why Splenda, NutraSweet and the FDA May Be Hazardous to Your Health, Dr. Joseph Mercola and Dr. Kendra Degen Pearsall, Nelson Books, Nashville, Tennessee, 2006

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