Friday, April 3, 2009

HFCS, Leptin and Weight: Avoiding the Slippery Slope

Recent media ads informing you HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) is safe might lead you to believe consuming a soft drink made with HFCS poses no health risks. When you look at the current research, nothing could be further from the truth.

To understand the truth, we need to look a little at the chemistry of different sugars and hormone interactions. HFCS was developed in the 70’s from cornstarch that is made from genetically modified corn. This process results in a product that is less expensive than sugar, and is used by the major food companies to sweeten their products – anything from sodas to jams, ketchup, juices, and processed packaged foods.

Table sugar is composed of 2 sugars – glucose and fructose. All the cells of our body can readily metabolize glucose, but fructose is only metabolized via the liver. Large amounts of fructose going to the liver causes fatty liver leading to high cholesterol and triglycerides.

Since HFCS contains more fructose than sugar, the fructose is more readily available since it is not bound up with glucose, as is the case with natural sugar. Therefore it has a straight shot to the liver.

Now enter the hormone leptin. Leptin is one of the main hormones regulating appetite. I like to state that leptin lowers your appetite. Several recent studies revealed a diet high in HFCS increased the level of triglycerides, which blocked the brain’s response to leptin.

Therefore, if your body becomes insensitive to leptin, and in fact, develops a leptin resistance, the brain will continue to signal your body it needs more food and continue to store fat.

Judith Altarejos, Ph.D. a researcher at Scripps states “obesity results when the brain becomes ‘deaf’ to the leptin signals.” If your brain is continuing to tell you to eat, you will have a hard time losing weight.

Turning this situation around is not as hard as you might think. Consuming protein at each meal and snack, along with healthy sources of carbohydrate like fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds and healthy fats will do wonders for turning on the leptin switch. Keeping refined processed sources of carbohydrate out of your diet is essential and necessary to keeping or restoring balance to the body.

So look for HFCS on labels and stay clear of the slippery slope. Your body and arteries will thank you.


  1. Thank you for the concise report. Now I understand the problem.
    Best, Mike

  2. Thank you for this nice layperson's description of the hormonal issues with HFCS.