HFCS (NOT!) Fun

You’d think I’d have learned by now, especially after that Agave Controversy post, not to post about Science stuff.

A sweet problem: Princeton researchers find that high-fructose corn syrup prompts considerably more weight gain

A Princeton University research team has demonstrated that all sweeteners are not equal when it comes to weight gain: Rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same.

In addition to causing significant weight gain in lab animals, long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup also led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen, and a rise in circulating blood fats called triglycerides. The researchers say the work sheds light on the factors contributing to obesity trends in the United States.

Working at a University, I’ve met a lot of scientists who say things like, “Calories are Calories, if you’re fat, you’re just eating too many calories and not getting enough exercise.”

Personally, I’ve always thought that a pretty simplistic way of looking at things as complicated as diet, culture, and metabolism.

Interestingly, it appears that some Scientists are seeing further evidence from animal based experiments that High Fructose Corn Syrup, even in water solutions with similar calorie contents to those with sucrose sugar solution, may be far more likely to cause obesity and other fat related illnesses.

And again, I’ll point out that while Agave Nectar is nowhere near as ubiquitous as HFCS in the American diet, it shares many chemical characteristics with that substance.  Some brands of Agave Nectar may actually contain more fructose than High Fructose Corn Syrup.

Agave Nectar Controversy

[Thanks to drinksnob for the comment below.  I have attempted to correct any errors in my article.]

There has been a lot of talk recently by how bad or good for you Agave Nectar may be.

Agave Nectar: Good or Bad?

Madhava’s Craig Gerbore Responds to Agave Nectar Controversy

First, let’s get this out of the way: No matter how the producers attempt to frame their products, Agave Nectar is not a traditional Aztec sweetener.  It was, according to one producer, invented in the 1990s.

The Agave Juice may be harvested in a way that is relatively benign and favors small farmers or it may be a large industrial operation.

The Madhava Agave Nectars insist that they only buy from small farmers who run sustainable farming operations. Other companies may not be so benign.

The complex carbohydrates in Agave Pinas are indigestible to humans without being transformed into sugars.

There are currently three ways to do this.

First they can be heated, as is done for Tequila.

Second natural enzymes can be introduced, as in Pulque or Chicha.

Third chemical enzymes can be used, in a process similar to the manufacture of High Fructose Corn Syrup.

The sugars produced by this process are primarily Fructose and Glucose.

While the percentages of these sugars produced vary, in most brands, more Fructose is produced than Glucose. Some brands can be more than 90% Fructose. Fructose is perceived as sweeter than many other commonly used sugars, thus smaller volumes can be used to sweeten than other sugars. This is good for diabetics.

Agave Nectar is essentially an invert syrup, similar to Lyle’s Golden Syrup or Steen’s Cane Syrup.  Like other sugars, fructose needs to be processed primarily by the liver to be metabolized.

The queue (or metabolic pathway) for processing fructose is less efficient than the process by which other sugars can be broken down.  It thus enters the blood stream at a slower rate. This is good for diabetics.

However, it is also more costly to your body to process Fructose than it is to process other sugars.

Recent studies on High Fructose Corn Syrup indicate that it may be far worse for those who consume large quantities than even us HFCS scare mongers had previously thought.

Over consumption of Agave Nectar may have similar risks.

But all the conclusions on HFCS are based on its ubiquity in the American food stream. Agave nectar, while similar, is nowhere nearly as widely consumed.

With either, in terms of cocktails, the primary poison is always alcohol. However bad Agave nectar is for you, it is probably always dwarfed by how bad Alcohol is for you.

As always, I am not a scientist, and these conclusions are mine alone based on the research I have done.  Please feel free to draw your own conclusions and/or prove me wrong.

Madhava’s Craig Gerbore Responds to Agave Nectar Controversy