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The Bonvie Blog: HFCS

New Study Finds that Fructose Fuels Cancer Cells

By LINDA and BILL BONVIE

Canadian Sol Orwell may not be any relation to the late British author George Orwell, but some of the statements made on the website he co-founded seven years ago, Examine.com – an endeavor which he says is intended to rebut “outlandish claims” on topics like health, nutrition and supplements with “evidence-based analysis” – can only be described as, well, Orwellian.

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Learn more about the dangers of HFCS

Take the site’s claim, updated in December, that “there are no studies that indicate any long-term health risks from drinking diet soda,” which “is not harmful to health, well-being or body composition.”

Or the latest one that “there is currently no evidence to suggest that HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) is any worse than sugar,” that both are “essentially the same,” and that “the difference between them is too small to matter in moderate consumption” (an assertion virtually identical to that made by the Corn Refiners Association, the lobbying group representing the makers of high fructose corn syrup).

So why bother mentioning this kind of processed-food propaganda? Because all too often you’ll find that it winds up as the basis for health and nutrition stories in mainstream media, especially since Examine.com is touted as one of the top 10 innovative companies in fitness.

But unfortunately, anyone who relies on this site (or others like it) to “come to a consensus you can trust” may be putting their health and well-being in real jeopardy, because they’re quite likely to remain blissfully ignorant of the fast-growing volume of research that has come to the opposite conclusion.

One glaring example is a Duke University study published in late April in the journal Cell Metabolism – just a day after Examine.com last updated its assurance that HFCS is essentially the same as sugar.

In essence, what the Duke researchers found that is that fructose can fuel the metastasis of colorectal cancer.

“When cancer cells get to the liver, they’re like a kid in a candy store,” was how it was explained by one of the biomedical engineers involved in the study. “They use this ample new energy supply to create building blocks for growing more cancer cells.”

According to a press release from the university’s Pratt School of Engineering, being inside the liver enables cancer cells to learn how to produce more of an enzyme that breaks down fructose. Once having done that, they proceed to “gorge on the fructose,” allowing them “to proliferate out of control and become unstoppable.”

The thing that the researchers were particularly struck by, the release noted, was that “many Western diets are rich in fructose, which is found in corn syrup and all types of processed foods.” (By “corn syrup,” they were obviously referring to HFCS, since ordinary corn syrup is 100 percent glucose and contains no fructose whatsoever.)

Notice that what did not concern the scientists doing this study was sugar consumption.

Sugar, or sucrose, is made up of equal parts glucose and fructose which are bound together (just as fructose is with the fiber in fruit).

With HFCS, however, as is even acknowledged by the Examine.com website, “both molecules float in solution (as monosaccharides or lone sugar molecules) rather than being bound to each other.”

And that, far from being a difference that’s “too small to matter” is, in reality, huge. Nor is the fact that HFCS is typically 55 percent fructose “practically insignificant,” as the site also claims, since the amount of fructose involved is actually10 percent greater than that in sugar (and can go as high as 90 percent, which the site also acknowledges).

But the findings from this study are yet another of the ways HFCS “does a body bad,” which we detailed in our book Badditives! Beside those we discussed:

  • How it’s clearly linked to obesity and diabetes (both of which have skyrocketed in the decades since this artificial sweetener became a substitute for sugar and began appearing in all manner of processed foods and beverages)
  • Its link to pancreatic cancer and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (“overwhelming your liver’s processing capacity,” in the words of one expert)
  • Its effect on the brain and learning ability, and the ways it has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease and asthma…

It now appears to play a significant role in speeding up the spread of cancer.

Actually, it seems that the more we actually “examine” the effects of ingredients like HFCS, the more reasons we find to steer clear of anything that contains them.


Linda and Bill Bonvie are regular bloggers for Citizens for Health and the co-authors of Badditives: The 13 Most Harmful Food Additives in Your Diet – and How to Avoid Them.

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