It’s no mystery that packaged and prepared foods in our grocery stores are full of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Though while more food makers are omitting this ingredient due to health dangers (and consumer demand), some companies are still including this health-damaging ingredient. Now, new troubling scientific studies reveal how high fructose corn syrup-containing foods are causing yet another unwanted side effect – heart failure.
The Big Food Sugar Switch
Professor for cell biology at ETH Zurich’s Institute for Molecular Health Sciences, Wilhelm Krek summarizes the problem with today’s nutrition. He explains that fructose was a replacement for glucose, which at one point in time, was believed to be better for consumers.
At first blush, you can see why this was believed. While glucose spikes blood sugar levels and causes insulin secretions, fructose hardly makes them budge. And since it ‘tastes’ sweeter, food manufacturers thought it was an ideal food additive.
Unfortunately, the assumption that fructose (including high fructose corn syrup) was any better, was dead wrong. The liver converts fructose directly into fat. People who consume lots of fructose end up developing high blood pressure, suffering from obesity, and developing insulin resistance, among other health issues. Doctors usually call this metabolic syndrome – and for some time, they couldn’t figure out why so many Americans were so overweight.
In the past 30 years, the obesity rates in the US (and other fast-food nations) have absolutely sky-rocketed. It isn’t even necessarily because we are eating more and lacking physical exercise, or even because of genetics.
Medical bills to treat diseases associated with obesity are more than $200 billion annually now. Much of the obesity problem lies in food additives like fructose which food companies are so eager to put in their products.
Fructose, since it is sweeter, also causes us to desire sweeter and sweeter foods to satiate that taste while also limiting the secretion of leptin, a hormone which tells our brains we are satiated.
Furthermore, mercury is used in the production process of many types of fructose. So products which contain fructose also often contain traces of mercury.
This is old news though. These dangers of fructose are well established. In a new paper by Krek and Peter Mirtschink, an even more troubling side effect of fructose is described.
Fructose Causes an Overgrown Heart Muscle
Unknown previously, but verified through their research and recently published in Nature, fructose has been discovered to be a key driver for a molecular mechanism that drives uncontrolled growth of the heart muscle. This condition can eventually lead to complete heart failure, as the heart literally outgrows its ability to function within the body.
What’s more, since one consumes fructose to cause this issue, they likely have high blood pressure as well, which is a one-two punch to the cardiovascular system.
It’s also important to note that the growing heart requires more oxygen. When one has high blood pressure, the veins have a more difficult time pumping oxygen-rich blood to the heart. In an effort to keep us alive, our heart cells switch to an alternate supply of energy that is anaerobic in nature. The body goes into glycolysis — literally, the ‘splitting of sugars’. This, in turn, sets up a fatal chain reaction. The heart actually grows since it is harder to pump the blood through the circulatory system.
In the study, researchers discovered that a lack of oxygen within the heart’s cells would ‘flip a switch’ wherein HIF molecules “cause the heart muscle cells to produce ketohexokinase-C (KHK-C), the central enzyme in fructose metabolism. KHK-C has a high affinity for fructose and can therefore process it very efficiently. The production of KHK-C also has a reinforcing effect on glycolysis.”
The researchers also found that processed foods containing fructose were worrisome for instigating heart failure, whereas, normal consumption of fruit, since it contains fiber, vitamins, and important trace elements, did not have the same effect on the body.
Fructose in our Food Supply
The per capita consumption of high fructose corn syrup (largely made from GM corn) has skyrocketed. You would perhaps expect fructose to be in cakes, cookies, and even TV dinners, but what about yogurt, peanut butter, ketchup, iced tea, or tonic water? Surprised? Most people are.
Another reason to avoid fructose is that its most common form, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), is derived from genetically modified corn. That means it was developed in a lab, not grown and milled before it ended up in your table. The food we purchase from our grocery stores comes from crops which are absolutely dominated by GM seed.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention weight gain data illustrates that our obesity epidemic accelerated dramatically after GMO foods were introduced in the early 1990s. It is estimated that more than 80% of everything eaten in the US now is genetically altered since Americans rely so heavily on processed foods for their daily calories.
There are ways to avoid this, though. You have to really read food labels to avoid fructose entirely, including purchasing certified organic foods that would not contain GM HFCS. A list of foods containing fructose is also listed here.
Or, better yet, stay away from anything in a package, and eat a piece of real fruit. You’ll enjoy better health and avoid Big Food’s numerous additional additives and GMOs besides fructose in the process. Real health requires real food, and our hearts are heavy from the burden of corporate food greed. This latest study proves it.
This article is reprinted from materials provided by ETH Zurich.
Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.