All calories were not created equal: High fructose corn syrup


I just finished watching Dr. James Lustig’s enlightening lecture about the dangers of fructose.  As a nutritionist, I like to think I’m pretty well informed on the topic, but what I learned from this video left me stunned.

Increased Fructose Intake- A Timeline:

<< Before WWII – 16-24g/ day >>

1966: High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) was developed by Japan

1970’s: US food prices had been fluctuating, which prompted then President Nixon to establish the USDA, whose job it was to develop cheap, stable sources of food.  At the same time, LDL (the so-called “bad cholesterol”) was discovered, prompting the USDA,  The American Medical Association (AMA), and The American Heart Association (AHA) to call for for a drastic reduction in fat consumption by Americans, in an effort to prevent cardiovascular disease.

1972 – Women, Infants and Children (WIC) was established to provide cheap/ affordable foods to new mothers and infants; specifically, to prevent ‘failure to thrive’ in low income undernourished newborns

1975– HFCS was introduced in the USA at rates 50% cheaper than table sugar, which helped to stabilize the fluctuating cost of sugar

1975 on:  With more Americans eating out, people began consuming more processed foods.  Well aware that reduced fat foods weren’t as palatable as their full fat counterparts, manufacturers began replacing fat with sugar— in the form of cheap HFCS.  It can now be found in most processed foods, from Starbucks blended beverages to whole wheat bread, and everything in between; including WIC-approved infant formulas

<< 1977-1978 – 37g/ day (8% daily calories) >>

<< 1994+ – 54.7g/ day (10.2% daily calories) >>

 So, here we are, over 40 years later… and what is the leading cause of death in the U.S.?  You guessed it—heart disease!    American children,  particularly underprivileged children, are being introduced to massive amounts of sugar from the moment they leave mommy’s belly!  It’s no wonder that we have an obesity epidemic, and that more and more children are being diagnosed with Type II diabetes; once considered an adult-onset disease.

<< Currently – Adults: 72.8g-141g/ day (12.1+% daily calories) >>


** 25% of adolescents get AT LEAST 15% of their daily calories from sugar **


What makes fructose so bad ?

Though fructose is a carbohydrate, it is metabolized much like a fat, and is a toxin in the same ways that alcohol is.  Let’s compare equal amounts of glucose intake to fructose intake



 HFCS containing products are cleverly marketed as socially acceptable & “cool”


As a food additive, the FDA has given fructose a safe GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) rating.  In other words, HFCS is safe because it is not an acute poison.   One Coke is not going to kill anyone on-the-spot, so the health consequences of prolonged exposure to HFCS containing foods and beverages are conveniently disregarded.

The USDA has too much money invested in corn and HFCS to admit that it poses health problems; going so far as to launch an expensive campaign aimed at convincing people that a calorie from sugar (any sugar) is the very same– lies!

Until 1992, Gatorade tasted very different.  After it was purchased by Pepsi in 1992, the soda giant added HFCS to the formula and began an aggressive marketing campaign aimed at youth.  Gatorade was conceived as a drink for elite athletes, but is now most commonly consumed by sedentary teens.

Bottle sizes for Coke have tripled in size from 6.5oz. in 1915 to today’s 20oz. bottles.  Convenience stores offer ‘Big Gulps’ in 44oz.+ sizes.  What are the three magic ingredients in Coke that keep the consumer coming back for more.  The caffeine in Coke is a diuretic.  The 55mg of salt per can of Coke, combined with the loss of fluid from caffeine makes a person thirstier the more they drink.  The HFCS masks the salty flavor, while each new sip stimulates the appetite because the brain does not recognize calories consumed from fructose.  Remember: 100% of fructose is processed by the liver and the liver alone.

HFCS is hidden in many processed foods/ drinks and it is DIRT CHEAP


It is estimated that Americans consume an average of 63 lbs. of HFCS per person each year!

Just take a look at the ingredients list for government subsidized (WIC) infant formulas.  The first ingredient is corn syrup!  This makes fructose economically evil, because underprivileged children are much more likely to be exposed to toxic doses of it.

If HFCS-42 (42% fructose) is not concentrated enough, manufacturers can also choose from a 55% and a 90% version.  Not only are most consumers kept in the dark about foods and beverages containing HFCS, they have no idea which concentration of fructose they’re getting.  As I continued to research, I discovered more layers of deception and omission.  In some instances, the information is available but requires jumping through many hoops to find.  For example, the information is not download-able, the font is too small, or it can turn into a full time job when you have to call the company’s headquarters.  And who’s got the time, energy, or know-how to decipher how many of the sugar grams listed are from fructose and how many from table sugar?  I found Coffee Bean’s (CBTL) website to be especially elusive regarding nutritional data.

I put in a call to Starbucks to find out if two of their drinks (randomly chosen) contained HFCS.  Indeed, their Peppermint Hot Chocolate and Caramel Macchiato not only contain sugar, but also include a substantial amount of HFCS!   I found many of their more popular items exceed the daily recommended amount of total sugar in a single serving.  Unfortunately, they do not break down how many grams come from sugar and how many come from HFCS (nor the concentration of HFCS used).   Carl’s Jr.’s seemingly wholesome “hand-scooped” shakes contain both sugar and HFCS, and contain between 69g-86g of sugar each!

What further exacerbates the dangers of HFCS is that the foods that most often contain it are lacking in fiber, which acts as a buffer to minimize the harmful effects of sugar.  In nature, every fructose containing food also contains a significant amount of fiber.  As Dr. Lustig so wisely notes: “When God made the poison, he packaged it with the antidote”.


Here are some less obvious places you can find HFCS:

Starbucks – Chicken and Greens Caesar Salad Bowl

CBTL , Panera, Souplantation– If CBTL makes this information available, I couldn’t find it on their website!  Only nutrition facts, but not ingredients  information are listed.

Domino’s – Buttermilk Ranch Dressing, Red BBQ Sauce

McDonald’s – Most condiments & sauces, burger buns

California Pizza Kitchen Thai Chicken Salad


Did you know…. (click here!)


** (Powerpoints courtesy Dr. James Lustig)

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