Mental Monday

Dr. Oz Reveals the Sneaky Sugar in Your Food

So it's no big revelation that you need to steer clear of sugary foods -- cakes, cookies, pastry, regular soda -- when you're trying to lose weight. The thing is, that's easier said than done because a little food additive called high-fructose corn syrup lurks in loads of products you'd never even think about because they're not terribly sweet! Things like ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce, breakfast bars, jellies, yogurts, peanut butters. Even fat-free or low-fat foods, like salad dressing are often loaded with HFCS. The very salad dressing that you thought was helping you stick to your diet by eating more veggies may actually be sabotaging your weight loss efforts.

"Most anything with a sweetener in it that's preserved has high fructose corn syrup in it, because [regular] sugar won't preserve," said Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of The Dr. Oz Show and co-author of the recently re-released "YOU: On A Diet." "It's ubiquitous."

Indeed, a full 50 percent of all the sugar we consume comes from HFCS in processed foods. In as little as 70 years -- basically within a single generation -- Americans have gone from eating no HFCS to eating more than 63 pounds of it (about 128,000 calories) each year. "It was so inexpensive and had such a long shelf life, it became a very efficient and inexpensive way to sweeten food, and began to be added to all foods," noted Dr. Oz. Why does this matter? Because Dr. Oz believes HFCS is even worse for us than regular table sugar. "It's very difficult not to correlate the increase in HFCS over the last 50 years directly to the increase of obesity. It's not only the only reason we have an obesity problem, but it's one of the top reasons." Here's why:

• Your brain doesn't recognize the fructose in HFCS as regular food, so you can eat a lot of it and still be hungry, which means you eat even more. Our bodies have a nifty feedback mechanism -- a protein called leptin, which is released by our body's own fat -- that turns off our hunger signals, letting us know that we're satisfied and can step away from the buffet. But when we consume fructose in foods or drinks containing high fructose corn syrup, that feedback mechanism gets disrupted. So not only don't we get the message that we're full, but because the brain doesn't recognize this stuff as real food, it still wants us to eat.

• Sugar also sets us up for some wild swings in blood sugar highs and lows that make us crave -- you guessed it! -- more sugar, which in turn prompts the body to store more fat. Indeed, when people who are even slightly overweight -- in other words, most of us -- eat sugar, we store a whopping 35 percent of it as fat. All sugar does this, not just HFCS. But unlike regular sugar, HFCS is cheap and shelf-stable so you don't have to park yourself in the candy and cookie aisle to get a lot of it.

• The fructose in HFCS also seems to overwhelm your liver's ability to process it. "The liver doesn't particularly like it when there's fructose in there," Dr. Oz said. "It's irritating and the liver responds by producing inflammatory compounds." Among other things, like laying the groundwork for artery damage and heart disease, these compounds also encourage your body to store more fat. "You're literally turning the major organ responsible for detoxifying you into fat, which is hindering your ability to get thin," he said. "Fat people have a tougher time getting thin than thin people have staying thin. The odds are stacked against them because their livers can't keep up."

The obvious solution is to limit your consumption of HFCS -- no small task to be sure. Dr. Oz suggests four ways to get started:

Limit processed foods. "If you eat whole foods, real foods, foods that don't come in colorful packages, that come out of the ground looking the way they look when you eat them, they won't sabotage your natural ability to regulate your weight," Dr. Oz said.

Read your labels. If HFCS is one of the first five ingredients in a particular product (or there's more than 4 grams of sugar per serving), skip it. "Natural versions of condiments don't have HFCS, but the inexpensive, more customarily eaten versions usually do," he said.

Try natural sweeteners. Raw honey, agave syrup, or stevia (a powdery natural sweetener that you can use like regular sugar or artificial sweeteners), are good options. "Natural sugar in natural form is the best way to get it," said Dr. Oz.

If you drink soda, switch to 100 percent fruit juice. Even though juice has sugar, it at least offers valuable nutrients. Or better yet, opt for water. If plain water is too boring, add some fizzy seltzer and a squeeze of lemon or lime. Or try no-calorie flavored waters, made with sucralose (aka Splenda).

Written by Norine Dworkin-McDaniel
Published January 2010


"When faced with a challenge, look for a way, not a way out." David Weatherford


Betsy said...

Yikes! That's definitely good to know. I try to eat at "clean" as possible. The fewer ingredients in a food, the better!

Sandra said...

Hello Michelle, Glad to see you blogging again and with such useful information.
Can you do me a favor and send me the link to your beachbody website. I need to order some Shakeology and I want to do it through your site rather than my own (I'm sure the cost is the same).

Andrew is getting fit said...

It definitely pays to avoid processed foods wherever possible doesn't it?

hondo3777 said...

Chef Hymie Grande ( ) is the first and only bottled BBQ sauce to carry the seal of the American Diabetes Association on the label. It has no high fructose corn syrup, no processed sugar, it is all natural and vegan friendly. It is produced at the Rutgers Food Innovation Center in Bridgton, NJ by Jamie Failtelson, a.k.a. Chef Hymie Grande of Carlstadt, NJ. 5% of proceeds go to the American Diabetes Association.

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