When Dr. Dana Flavin was asked by Life Extension magazine several years ago to write an article about high fructose corn syrup, she approached the idea a bit skeptically. Corn syrup, after all, had been around for ages, so could HFCS be much different? “I thought, that’s ridiculous,” she said, recalling how even her mother had used corn syrup to make cake icings.
But what Dr. Flavin, a former Food and Drug Administration toxicologist and physician subsequently learned about the “danger” and “toxicity” associated with high fructose corn syrup “flabbergasted” her. “When I began to read about it, it was like removing the wool from my eyes,” she told Food Identity Theft in a phone interview from Germany.
Flavin is no stranger to interpreting scientific literature. The founding director of The Foundation for Collaborative Medicine and Research, based in Connecticut, she is now headquartered in Germany researching the “basic molecular pathology” of diseases as well as the pharmacology of both natural and synthetic substances to treat and reverse ailments. Along with those obligations, she’s an adviser to cancer institutes in Germany, where she is also a practicing physician, and currently collaborating with colleagues in Israel, the United States, Canada and England. Her conclusion on the numerous studies about HFCS are quite firm. For her there is no debate on how this ubiquitous sweetener is harming the health of people, especially the young.
“If we don’t get this out of the American diet we are going to end up with a country of lazy, obese, sick young people…this is exactly where it is moving,” she said, “this is a horrendous problem…its toxicity is overwhelming and it’s completely destroying the youth of the U.S.”
This “horrendous problem,” according to Flavin, is due to the unnatural, excessive amounts of fructose delivered by HFCS. “I never realized that this ratio of high fructose to glucose made (such) a tremendous difference in the body,” she said. “We know sugar is not healthy, ” she added,” but I can’t say it’s detrimental.” But “high fructose corn syrup has shown toxicity way beyond sugar in my opinion as a former FDA official.”
The toxic effects of HFCS, says Flavin, include the “shifting (of) the biochemistry of the body, creating toxic byproducts (which are) detrimental to mental and physical health.” HFCS consumption, according to Flavin, leads to high triglycerides, high cholesterol, damage to blood vessels, diabetes and obesity.
“They thought this was just going to be a substitute for sugar, but unfortunately this is not the case,” she said.
Higher fructose, lower life expectancy
Although the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), the trade group representing the agribusiness behemoths that manufacturer HFCS, produced a long-running PR campaign with the mantra that HFCS is “virtually the same” as real sugar (which is a 50/50 combination of bound glucose and fructose), and has repeatedly asserted that the additive isn’t really high in fructose, both scientific studies and the group’s own admissions show otherwise.
A growing body of evidence has come to light showing that HFCS is apparently being used by food and beverage manufacturers in highly fluctuating fructose amounts, including a mega-90 percent version.
These findings led Citizens for Health to file a petition with the Food and Drug Administration asking the agency to take action against manufacturers using HFCS with fructose levels above 55 percent, the highest amount the FDA allows, and in the interim, to require the actual amount of fructose contained in an HFCS formulation to be specified on product labels. (To sign and support that petition, click here).
The CRA’s written response to the FDA regarding that petition was a shocking acknowledgment that, in violation of that agency’s regulations, HFCS-90 has been used in the food supply “with FDA knowledge for decades.” The letter, signed by the CRA’s then-interim president J. Patrick Mohan, also refers to “fluctuations in fructose levels above 42 or 55%” in HFCS that he apparently believed “would be expressly permitted” by the FDA.
The agency, however, has made it quite clear that it feels HFCS 90 “contains a substantially different ratio of glucose to fructose than…HFCS-55,” and that the FDA doesn’t have enough information to “ensure that this product is safe.”
Flavin supports the Citizens for Health petition, noting that “from what I’ve seen in the science, when you increase the ratio of fructose, you are completely shifting your body’s recognition of (what you are consuming)” leading to increased hunger “even though you’ve eaten, because it shifts those hormones that regulate satiation.”
While HFCS consumption is highest in the U.S., Flavin said she is seeing it work its way into foods in Germany as well. In her view, the mass amounts of this unnatural sweetener currently in the American diet are responsible for “creating a new population (suffering from) obesity, hypertension, high triglycerides, liver toxicity and early death.”
“I wish this weren’t the case,” she added, “because I don’t want to be the one to blow the whistle on this but I have to. It’s my duty and I have no choice.”