Depressingly Sweet – The Dangers of High Fructose Corn Syrup

Products as diverse as cola drinks, peanut butter,  breakfast cereal, yoghurt and prepared meals have all been known to include High Fructose Corn Syrup, or HFCS. Use of this corn-based alternative to sugar, HFCS has soared in food manufacture since the 1990s, due to high corn subsidies - and sugar tariffs by US governments.

That makes HFCS cheaper than cane sugar - very attractive to the food and beverage industry . . . 

But less so for consumers: HFCS is linked to depression, amongst other health issues


Depression can happen with all four main food intolerances

Remember that the main four food intolerances can lead to depression if left untreated:

  • Dairy (lactose intolerance)
  • Gluten intolerance
  • Yeast sensitivity and
  • Fructose

StudentHowever overloading on Fructose (via HFCS in particular) - especially via sweet beverages - has the potential to damage health.

HFCS has been linked to high levels of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and causative of depression in women and adolescents. So, what is the real story regarding this additive, and how can you stay away from it?


What is High Fructose Corn syrup?

First invented in Japan in 1966, HFCS was adopted into the manufacture of American foods from 1975 onwards. Its core ingredient, fructose, differs from other sweeteners (ie sucrose – table sugar) in that it was relatively unknown in human diets in great quantities until its mass production. Small amounts are found naturally in apples, honey, grapes and dates, but it is not naturally prevalent in a traditional diet of meat and vegetables.


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Princeton Research links fructose to obesity

Despite claims from the Corn Refiners Association that HFCS has no adverse affect on health greater than that of table sugar, a Princeton University study team in 2010 found that rats fed HFCS gained significantly more weight than those fed table sugar, even though consumption of calories was identical in both cases.1 Princeton Professor Bart Hoebel, who specialises in the neuroscience of appetite, weight and sugar addiction, comments:

"When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they're becoming obese - every single one, across the board. Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don't see this; they don't all gain extra weight."

Whilst this study has been attacked by the Corn Refiners Association as inaccurate, it still raises some disturbing questions about how the body processes HFCS. One common theory is that excess fructose is converted directly into fat due to its simple structure, whereas glucose (which contains an extra enzyme) can be stored in the body as energy or in the liver and muscles as glycogen.2


Removing fructose improves depression

HCFS consumption has also been linked to depression. According to various studies, around 30% of the Western world suffers from fructose malabsorption, a condition where the body cannot metabolise high levels of fructose, sending the excess down to the colon. Here, it feeds harmful bacteria and causes symptoms such as chronic inflammation, stomach pains, flatulence and bloating, and is commonly mistaken for Irritable Bowel Syndrome.3 Stomach issues have a proven link to depression – in fact, a group of people with known fructose malabsorption were fed a low-fructose diet for four weeks in an Austrian study. They were tested for depression both before and after the trial. Afterwards, their tested depression had improved by 65%. 4

There are also studies that link fructose (and, in some cases, lactose) to prohibiting the production of serotonin (the happy chemical) in our brains, which affects the ability to stabilise mood. 5


Could you be affected?

The American Medical Association conducted a review of existing studies in 2009, and concluded that it was unlikely HFCS contributed more heavily towards obesity than sucrose. However, further testing, such as the Princeton experiment mentioned above, has shed new light on the possible dangers of imbibing high levels of HFCS. So, how can you avoid HFCS?

First of all, if you think you may suffer from Fructose Malabsorption, there are a number of ways to be tested. HFCS is often referred to as ‘corn sugar’ on packaging and labelling, so be sure to check the additive labels on pre-packaged food and condiments. Fast food also has heavy concentrations of HFCS, so try to eat fresh food as much as possible, whilst avoiding fruit heavy in natural fructose.

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Testing for Fructose Sensitivity

The hydrogen or H2 breath test is often used. However many doctors now regard this test as unreliable.

The doctor may also use stool analysis to check for HFI. If you find you are Fructose-sensitive it is vital to rule out HFI as there may be serious health issues.

However the simplest, most reliable and accurate test is the Elimination Diet (Journal Method). . . . as used in our Healing Program >

Comments: A simple Journal identifies the offending food - whether it is Fructose, Lactose or something else. It is important to keep a journal because reactions can be delayed up to 3 days.




Further Reading:

High Fructose Corn Poison; Curtis R. Crim; 2009; USA; Schpleee Books

Sweet Poison, David Gillespie, 2008, Melbourne, Penguin Books


1 ‘A sweet problem: Princeton researchers find that high-fructose corn syrup prompts considerably more weight gain’; Hilary Parker; 2010;

2 ‘High-Fructose Corn Syrup Prompts Considerably More Weight Gain, Researchers Find’; Science Daily; 2010;

3 ‘Could Soda and Sugar Be Causing Your Depression?’; Emily Deans; 2011;

4 ‘Fructose-and sorbitol-reduced diet improves mood and gastrointestinal disturbances in fructose malabsorbers’; Ledochowski M, Widner B, Bair H, Probst T, Fuchs D; 2000;

5 ‘Could Soda and Sugar Be Causing Your Depression?’; Emily Deans; 2011;