I recently attended a webinar that examined high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and its impact on weight gain, high blood sugar, high blood lipid levels, high uric acid levels, and increased blood pressure. The conclusion from the three health professionals was that we ultimately cannot blame HFCS for the previously stated health issues.
While I was working on my degree in nutrition, I was taught that HFCS was a bad ingredient in foods and that it should be avoided. Naturally, that has been my thinking, so I was taken aback by the new information in the webinar.
The research reviewed in the webinar basically showed that whenever humans ingest a diet that is calorically appropriate, they suffered no ill effects from replacing some of their carbohydrate intake with HFCS. Whenever diets were higher in calories than needed by the body; and some carbohydrate was replaced by HFCS, ill effects were present. The conclusion was that HFCS are safe; however, just like any other added sugar, eating too much will cause weight gain.
Keep in mind that these studies share the limitation that it is difficult to keep subjects on a specific diet for a long period of time. That fact makes it difficult to truly know the long-term effect of any diet.
I went back and looked at several studies to form my own opinion, and I have to say that the professionals in the webinar were really on target. This was truly surprising to me. However, the sentiment does make a lot of sense. We spend so much time trying to place the obesity/chronic disease epidemic on a particular nutrient, food, fast food chain, advertisement, drink, etc that we forget that all of these things work together. A bowl of ice cream certainly won't make you obese; however, always grabbing the low nutrient/high calorie food WILL make you obese.
Remember that HFCS is only in processed foods because it is a man-made sugar that includes glucose and fructose. It is very similar to sucrose (table sugar), but it doesn't occur naturally. Therefore, if you're eating a lot of HFCS, you are also eating a lot of processed foods. It is well accepted that the more whole foods and less processed foods you eat, the better off you will be.
In conclusion, eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. It is okay if you have a little bit of HFCS every now and then, just don't over-do it!