High fructose corn syrup is currently still a common sweetener in many countries of the world. As an alternative to table sugar (sucrose), high fructose corn syrup is used in many beverages and foods to improve the sweetness and flavors of such food products as well as enhance browning and retention of the moisture content. Generally, high fructose corn syrup is almost identical to sucrose, for example, both of them are equally sweet and have the same levels of fructose and glucose. Both sucrose and fructose sugar have increasingly become popular ingredients in several fast foods such as fruit-flavored drinks, sodas among many other beverages and foods (Bray and Samara, 538).
Most people are, however, currently concerned about the potential Physiological and pathophysiological consequences of excessive intake of high fructose corn syrup as an alternative to sugar. For example, many nutritionists believe that high fructose corn syrup has largely been responsible for the rising cases of health problems such as dental cavities, obesity, poor nutrition, and increased vulnerability to heart attack risks in many developed countries and particularly in the United States. This paper focuses on the cultural prevalence of consumption of high fructose corn syrup as well as its physiological and pathophysiological effects on the health of consumers.
Cultural differences in consumption of high fructose corn syrup
The consumption and average intake of high fructose corn syrup significantly vary among different countries and cultures of the world. For example, in Canada and Europe, high fructose maize syrup as it is often known is generally used as a sweetener but its use is not very much widespread. Additionally, many European countries have banned the use of high fructose corn syrup and are currently advocating for other healthy natural sweeteners such as fructose sugar and bee honey.
In the other parts of the world such as Latin America and many Asian countries, cane sugar as opposed to high fructose corn syrup is employed in both beverages and the manufacture of various fast foods. This is particularly because raw sugar cane is relatively cheaper to produce in most of these countries. Additionally, some of these countries do not have the necessary expensive machinery that is commonly employed in the manufacture and processing of high fructose corn syrup.
In the United States, however, HFCS is consumed at comparatively higher levels mostly as a substitute for sucrose sugar in beverages, processed fast foods, and in other food products such as yogurt, soft drinks, salads, and tomato soup. Consequently, the high consumption rates of high fructose corn syrup in the United States explain the widespread prevalence of obesity and other health risks associated with high fructose corn syrup such as heart diseases.
The high usage of corn sugar in the United States can be best explained by the fact that the costs of processing high fructose sugar are significantly lower than the costs of producing and processing sugar cane (Ruxton,18) This is because the US federal government has always provided subsidies to the corn farmers while at the same time limiting imports of sugar by high tariffs. The result is that it is easier to produce high fructose corn syrup in the United States than produce sucrose sugar.
Physiological risks of high consumption of high fructose corn syrup
Generally, there are many physiological and short-term effects of consuming high fructose corn syrup. In most cases, the intake has been epidemiologically linked with several metabolic disorders such as abdominal symptoms, cancer, and liver disease. Concerning abdominal symptoms, a common short-term physiological effect of excessive intake of high fructose corn syrup is usually gastrointestinal distress which sometimes leads to diarrhea, bloating, and flatulence in the affected individuals. This problem is particularly prevalent in individuals who have gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel and inflammatory bowel and such individuals should not take high amounts of high fructose corn syrup because fructose is usually more difficult to be absorbed as compared to sucrose sugar.
Additionally, recent research has also indicated that the calorie levels in fructose sugar are significantly higher than the calorie level of other sources of sugar such as glucose and sucrose. In this regard, a short duration of excessive intake of high fructose corn syrup can potentially increase the fat deposition in the muscles of an otherwise healthy individual. On the other hand, when the fats are deposited around the liver of the affected consumers, high fructose corn syrup can increase the risk of liver disease. Additionally, fructose is often linked with several physiological complications that often result in insulin resistance in individuals. While glucose is often responsible for stimulating the release of insulin, fructose sugar does not have this property and is instead easy to be metabolized and turned into adipose fats (Silverthorn 55)
Pathophysiological effects of high fructose corn syrup consumption
Although the debate regarding the long-term effects of consuming diets rich in high fructose corn syrup continues to rage among health experts and nutrition, many researchers concur that the long-term effects are often as grave as the short-term ones. One of the most common long-term effects of high fructose corn syrup consumption is the increased cancer rates among consumers. Many studies have generally concluded that over time, users of high fructose corn syrup may develop tumor cells particularly in such areas as the pancreas (Ferder, 108). This is often because tumor cells often thrive best on fructose.
Another important term physiological effect of consuming high fructose corn syrup is the increased cases of obesity. Concerning the fact that fructose corn syrup is largely made from starch, high consumption of these food products can significantly lead to increased accumulation of fats in our bodies and result in obesity-related complications. This is often because fructose is usually readily converted to fats in the body as compared to glucose.
In my opinion, there are many good reasons why consumers should now shift from consuming high fructose corn syrup to other healthy alternatives such as sucrose sugars. This is particularly because the number of health concerns associated with the consumption of fructose-rich diets outweighs the potential benefits to consumers. More research is also needed to further determine the other health impacts of consuming high fructose corn syrup, and this will significantly help to build a scientific consensus concerning its physiological and pathophysiological consequences on the consumers.
Bray, George A, Samara J. Nielsen.”Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity”. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 79.4 (2004): 537–543. Print.
Ferder, Inserra F. “The role of high-fructose corn syrup in metabolic syndrome and hypertension”. Current Hypertension Report 12: 2 (2010) 105–112. Print.
Ruxton, Gardner C. “Is sugar consumption detrimental to health? A review of the evidence”. Food and nutrition Journal, 50.1 (2010) 1-19. Print.
Silverthorn Unglaub D. Human Physiology: An Integrated Approach with IP-10. 5th ed. San Francisco, California: Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Company, Inc. Print.