Ban the use of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

altThe Consumers Association of Penang calls on Ministry of Health to ban the use of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) in food products.

 HFCS is a toxic substance with an innocent name which food producers are using as a cheap substitute for sugar in processed food.

HFCS is widely used in a wide range of foods  such as jams breads spreads, chocolate, baking and cooking ingredients, packed fruit juices soft drinks, beverages, energy drinks, bread, breakfast cereals, sauces, snacks and soups.
Beverages and processed foods made with HFCS are high in calories and low in nutritional value. Regular intake of these products in the diet has the potential to promote obesity — which, in turn, leads to serious health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease

Like sugar, HFCS is a nutritionally-empty product that damages health and can trigger serious diseases and health disorders. Scientific evidence shows that HFCS could be even more toxic to human health than ordinary sugar.

This is because HFCS has to be converted in the body first before it gets used and this conversion takes place in the liver.  In other words, fructose bypasses normal routes of digestion and is metabolised by the liver.

The liver quickly converts the fructose to fat which, unlike glucose, is stored in nearby tissues, or within the liver itself (which can lead to fatty liver disease). While this process may not cause obesity, it may accelerate the rate by which people already suffering from obesity gain both fat and extra pounds.

Studies have found that liver-metabolised fructose can impair release of insulin and the enzyme leptin, both of which send signals to the brain that we’ve had enough to eat. Because insulin production is not stimulated to create a sense of being full, we may eat more than we should and thus gain unnecessary weight.

When too much fructose enters the liver, the liver is unable to process it all fast enough for the body to use as sugar. Instead, it starts making fats from the fructose and sending them off into the bloodstream as triglycerides. High blood triglycerides are a risk factor for heart disease.

There is growing evidence that excess fructose consumption may facilitate insulin resistance, and eventually Type 2 diabetes.  Some of this effect may be from chemicals in soft drinks which react with HFCS used in the drinks.

Because fructose must be processed completely in the liver, if taken in excess, HFCS not only floods the bloodstream, it can also overwhelm the liver’s processing capacity.  This can lead to liver damage not unlike the kind that affects alcoholics.  In studies, animals given a diet high in HFCS suffer severe cirrhosis of the liver — scarring, dead tissue and poor liver function.  In fact, their livers look a lot like those of alcoholics.

Among other consequences, HFCS has been implicated in elevated blood cholesterol levels and the creation of blood clots.  It has been found to inhibit the action of white blood cells so that they are unable to defend the body against harmful foreign invaders.

Malaysia has the most overweight and obese people in Asia. 54% of the adult population is either obese or overweight, compared to only 24.1% 10 years ago. As a result 7 out of 10 Malaysian adults suffer from chronic diseases.

For example, according to the International Diabetes Institute, Malaysia has the fourth highest number of diabetics in Asia. From 800,000 recorded diabetics in 2007 the number is expected to increase to 1.3 million in 2010.

Diabetes and end-stage renal failure are already a big health problem in Malaysia. It is estimated that there are 13,000 kidney patients are undergoing dialysis and every year 2,500 people join the ranks of end-stage renal failure patients.

Another major health concern is that 4 out of 5 people with diabetes will die of heart disease (the number 1 killer in the country). Six new cases of stroke occur every hour in Malaysia.

In view of the toxic nature of HFCS and the alarming health condition Malaysians are facing, the Consumers Association of Penang calls on the Ministry of Health to ban its use in food products.

Press Statement – 27 October 2010