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Honey Is Not Better than HFCS

Honey has the same harmful effects on your health as any other form of concentrated sugar, such as the High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) found in most soft drinks (Journal of Nutrition, September 2, 2015). Researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture got a grant from the honey industry and gave 55 people daily doses for two weeks of each of three sweeteners:
* honey,
* granulated table sugar from sugar cane, and
* high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
At the end of the trial, all subjects had the same levels of blood sugar, insulin, body weight, cholesterol and blood pressure. Blood levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, used to predict a person's chances of suffering a heart attack, were the same for all three sources of sugar.

Why Excess Sugar (from Any Source) is Harmful
When you eat any concentrated form of sugar, blood sugar levels rise. If sugar levels rise too high, sugar sticks to the outer membranes of cells which can damage every type of cell in your body. To protect you from a high rise in blood sugar levels after meals, your pancreas releases insulin which:
* helps cells to utilize a small amount of sugar for the energy to power your body,
* drives a small amount of sugar into muscles and the liver to be stored as glycogen.
The remaining sugar is converted to triglycerides (fat) for storage, or continues to circulate in your bloodstream where it can attach to the surface membranes of cells, increasing your risk for diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and certain cancers.

Percentages of Fructose and Glucose
Regular granulated table sugar has about 50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose bound together in a single molecule. High Fructose Corn Syrup is a misnomer; it is not particularly high in fructose. It averages 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose, which is not significantly different from table sugar. So far, nobody has shown that this makes any difference to your health or risk for any disease. Honey averages 48 percent fructose, 41 percent glucose, and 11 percent other sugars. Nobody has shown that honey is more healthful or harmful than any of the other concentrated sugar sources.

How Your Body Absorbs All Carbohydrates
All carbohydrates are single sugars and sugars in combinations of two or more sugars. Starches are up to thousands of sugars bound together, and fiber is millions of sugars bound together. Your intestinal tract can only absorb single sugars. Of all carbohydrates, only four single sugars can be absorbed: glucose, fructose, mannose and galactose.

Of these four sugars, fructose and galactose cause the most cell damage because they turn on your immunity the most to cause inflammation more so than glucose does. However nobody has ever convincingly shown that the different concentrations of glucose to fructose in honey, table sugar or HFCS make any health difference whatever. We do know that the foods that cause the highest rise in blood sugar levels cause the most cell damage and the most disease. The problem with HFCS is that it is so cheap that food manufacturers put huge amounts of it into all kinds of foods and drinks. Sugared drinks are particularly harmful because the sugar in liquid causes a higher rise in blood sugar than the same amount of sugar in a solid food.

Harm from Sweetened Beverages
Tufts University researchers estimated that sugary beverages cause 133,000 deaths from diabetes, 45,000 from heart attacks and 6,450 from cancer per year (Circulation, June 2015). A study of 800,000 Japanese showed that the more money people spent on carbonated beverages, the more likely they were to suffer from heart attacks (European Society of Cardiology Congress, September 2015). Don't think that drinking diet soda is a good idea either. A study of 749 people, 65 and older, showed that those who drank diet soda had gained almost triple the abdominal fat over nine years as those who did not drink diet soda (Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, April 2015;63(4):708–715). Having extra belly fat can lead to diabetes. See Artificial Sweeteners: Root of Diabetes and Obesity Epidemics?

Don't Blame Just HFCS for our Health Problems
HFCS was first introduced in large quantities into the American diet in the 1970s. By 2003, the sales of HFCS equaled that of table sugar. The Food and Drug Administration’s website says that there is no difference in the health harms between table sugar and HFCS. HFCS consumption has dropped steadily since 2000 and that is good. The Panera chain announced a ban on corn syrup in May 2015 and Taco Bell promised to drop corn syrup by the end of 2015. However, all types of extracted sugars are harmful to your health. It is wrong to believe that only HFCS causes diabetes, heart attacks and premature death. You should restrict all forms of extracted sugars: table sugar, fruit juice concentrates, HFCS, honey and any other added sugars you may find in a list of ingredients.

Checked 10/4/17

September 21st, 2015
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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