Obesity Declassified

Since its discovery in 1957, High Fructose Corn Syrup (HCFS) has been one of the best kept secrets of food and beverage company productions with the total support of the USDA. Currently, researchers like Robert H. Lustig, a University of California at San Francisco endocrinologist, author of Fat Chance, have begun to declassify the role HCFS plays in our obesity problem.

 As a child, I loved the Orange Soda we had on holiday family picnics and the batch of Hires Root Beer my mother brewed up each summer. Then, in the early sixties, the flavor changed; soda tasted like chemicals and was no attraction for me beyond the Root Beer floats we flavored with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I knew that chemical sweeteners had been added in increased amounts over the years, but only recently looked at the big picture. Here’s what I learned.

 High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), the darling of Big Ag corn growers, receives government subsidies that keep its price cheap and make a tidy profit from its monopoly, paid for with our tax dollars. But that’s only half of the story. HFCS, as a sweetener is much more potent than natural cane sugar, which is not subsidized and therefore more expensive and we pay the full price for natural sugar.

 In 1915, drinking a 6.5 oz soda bottle daily would cause an 8 lb. wt. gain/year. Today’s 20 oz. plastic bottle daily will cause a 26 lb. weight gain/year. The industry went from bottles to cans in 1960, and currently also sells in big, thirst buster 44 oz. cups and big  42.2 oz. plastic bottles.

 In tandem with the increase in the size of soft drink containers, food and beverage companies distracted us with the fat-free propaganda. Fat was claimed to be the culprit causing obesity. Yet, we need fat for energy and healthy nerve functioning. We need fat to transport vitamins A, D, E and K; to protect and surround organs like the heart and liver; to prolong digestion for longer-lasting satiety, and more. All this was disregarded as people were encouraged to go on a low-fat blitz. It didn’t matter that there wasn’t a fat problem before HFCS was introduced. The public was successfully blindfolded from the real culprit.

The tragedy is that the food and agriculture corporations knew exactly what they were doing, what was causing obesity to go viral. They spent years suppressing research and funding only research that supported their claim that fat was the problem. Since educational institutions are challenged to come up with research grants, having a review string attached to any corporate funds meant research to the contrary never saw print.

 So, how about the rest of the story: how does HFCS make people fat? First, we have to understand how our intestines connect with the liver and the rest of our body. If you could stretch out your intestines, they’d look like the border trim of one big umbrella. The fabric connecting it all together would be the mesenteric membrane with veins in place of the spokes and a big vein that goes to the liver in place of the handle. Anything we eat has to be broken down to a slurry fine enough to be absorbed through the wall of the intestine and into the small veins that funnel into the big vein to the liver.

The liver then decides what to do with what we eat. If we take in more sugar than the body needs for the functions mentioned above, the liver cannot store extra sugar. It converts it to fatty acids that are then sent out to be stored in all the familiar places.

 When we eat whole foods, the sugar in them shares space with nutrients and fiber that slows down transit time to the liver because the food must be chewed, then ground up in the stomach before it turns into a slurry and moves on into the intestines. Even in the intestines, food relies on a squirt of bile from the gall bladder and squirts of insulin and enzymes from the pancreas to blend it up before it moves through the mesentary to the main line to the liver.

 However, when we drink soda, it moves through the digestive track like a luge! There’s no gradual absorption. Every swig is a big hit for the liver to deal with right now! Too much soda right now means more fat stored right now. Pregnant women pass the HFCS to their developing fetuses and any offspring they nurse. The WIC (Women, Infants and Children) nutritional program provided HFCS laced formula for babies that caused babies to be obese at 6 mos. of age.

Significantly, the FDA gives fructose a GRAS (Generally Rated as Safe) status. The FDA does not regard fructose as an acute toxin. It is classed as a chronic toxin. Translated, that means it only leads to chronic diseases, doesn’t kill you right off.

Lustig uses 4 interventions with his clients, who happen to be obese children.

  1. Get rid of all sugared liquid. Drink only water and milk.
  2. Eat carbohydrates with fiber- include plenty of raw veggies.
  3. Wait 20 min. for second portions.
  4. Buy your screen time, minute for minute, with physical activity time.

The first step in dealing with any problem is to know what the cause is. Whether we are obese or not, we are all affected by the problem of obesity.  Hopefully, we will provide support and encouragement to each other in our goal to keep each other well.

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