Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 15th 2014 Contents A27
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If there is a number-one food
villain right now, high fructose
corn syrup (HFCS) is it.
HFCS debuted in the 1970s
and became the favourite of the
processed-food and drink indus-
try because it tasted similar to
sugar, but was cheaper to pro-
duce and more stable during food
processing. Anything to increase
profits and if it turns out to be
bad for you, well, is you to catch,
we gone. As its use has
increased, so have levels of obe-
sity and related health problems.
Is that related?
HFCS does not occur naturally.
It is an industrial product
extracted from corn stalks. It is
ubiquitous in processed food
products like juices, sweet drinks,
ketchup, yogurt, bread, cereals,
ice cream, condiments and even
Apart from the fact that HFCS
is a sugar and excess sugar caus-
es obesity and disease (one 20-
ounce HFCS sweetened sweet
drink has 17 teaspoons of sugar,
the recommended daily require-
ment is six teaspoons), there is a
major difference in the way
HFCS and sugar are metabolised.
HFCS is absorbed rapidly, goes
straight to the liver and is
changed into fat, resulting in
fatty liver, a key element in the
development of obesity and dia-
It also damages the lining of
the intestine. This allows danger-
ous products of harmful gut bac-
teria and partially-digested food
proteins or allergens to be easily
absorbed into the body and trig-
ger the inflammation that we
now know is the basis of heart
disease, cancer and accelerated
aging. It is not a nice product
and it is everywhere.
Now, here s a beautiful example
of how people love to learn the
wrong thing. Millions of children
have traditionally been encour-
aged to eat carrots for the sake
of their eyesight. But those
promises of better vision, includ-
ing the ability to see in the dark,
exist mainly because of a
wartime propaganda campaign.
During World War II, the
British government attributed the
ability of its night-flying pilots to
shoot down Nazi bombers to
their carrot intake! In reality, the
pilots were employing the newly-
invented radar system. Even
though it was a trick to fool the
Germans by perfidious Albion,
the idea caught on spectacularly.
The myth that carrots are good
for your vision remains powerful
today. While it s true that carrots
are good for maintaining vision
(they are high in betacarotene (a
component of Vitamin A, essen-
tial for vision), they don t offer
visual superpowers, like seeing
better in the dark.
Fibre is found naturally in
many foods like fruits and veg-
etables, whole grains and
fibre prevents constipation, low-
ers the risk of diabetes and heart
disease and even helps maintain
Grocery store shelves every-
where are filled with processed
foods that have added fibre:
bread, yogurt, ice cream, sugary
cereals and even water.
Unfortunately, this artificial
fibre does not offer the same
benefits as natural fibre. Whole
natural foods like oatmeal contain
complex fibre. So-called fibre-
enriched foods like white bread
rely on a single type of fibre.
These isolated fibres are either
chemically synthesised or
extracted from fibre-rich plants.
All isolated fibres do is to make
you feel full. There are too few in
a single serving to make much of
a difference to your health. In
addition, isolated fibres aren t
efficient at encouraging bowel
movements. They have little
impact on blood sugar or choles-
terol and, consumed in large
amounts, they can cause gas and
There is a longstanding food
myth that if you crave certain
foods, eg chocolate or cheese or
pickles, your body must be crav-
ing specific nutrients found in
these foods. The idea that your
body, at an elemental level, is
sending signals to your brain
forcing you to gulp a glass of
orange juice or swallow down a
slice of cheesecake is simply,
again, wrong. Food cravings for
humans revolve around emotional
needs rather than physical ones.
In fact, if a food is forbidden,
you ll probably want it all the
There is one notable exception:
If you are deficient in iron, you ll
have specific cravings---but not
for iron-rich steak or liver.
Instead, the desire is for ice
cubes, and not covered with
scotch. It s a variant of pica, a
disorder in which people, espe-
cially small children, eat things---
clay, paper, chalk---that aren t
actually food when they are
nutritionally deficient or emo-
Finally, after all that food talk,
here s a different story to make
A persistent myth states that
certain parts of the body, the fin-
gernails and hair especially, con-
tinue to grow, for days and even
months, after death.
There s some truth to that. For
an organ transplant of the kidney
or heart to occur, the organ can t
immediately and utterly fail.
Instead, the cells can thrive for
hours after the more profound
expiration of life.
Glucose ceases to be produced
upon death however. Fingernails
and hair, which rely on glucose
for growth, stop growing pretty
So why does it look like nails
and hair continue to grow?
Because when life ceases, dehy-
dration occurs and the skin
retracts. It then appears that the
fingernails are longer on a dead
person or that more visible hair
stubble is present.
Oscar Wilde said it best: "The
public have an insatiable curiosity
to know everything. Except what
is worth knowing."
HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP NOT NICE
DAVID E BRATT, MD
HFCS is absorbed
rapidly, goes straight
to the liver and is
changed into fat,
resulting in fatty liver,
a key element in the
obesity and diabetes.
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