Wednesday, March 31, 2010

HFCS=Autism? Weighing in on the Sugar Debacle

On Facebook recently, I saw an ad for a group saying that HFCS should be banned. They say that obesity and autism are linked to HFCS use. I'm not a scientist or geneticist, but I'll do my best to work through this tangled web.

Now, we all know that anything in excess is bad. Too much smoking, drinking, pill taking, catch my drift. Everything in moderation is key. We know this. There are articles which say that HFCS is essentially  bad for you in any way, shape or form. There are those who say that it's not natural. Some think that the Corn Growers are to blame. Let's break it down.

HFCS is a disaccharide or a double sugar.   A double sugar is a combination of two monosaccharides (fructose and glucose) which are bonded together with an glycosidic bond to make sucrose. The body breaks down the disaccharide with the help of sucrase . The sugars are then pumped through the blood stream as glucose for fuel. That's part one of your science lesson.

Part two is where we talk about how HFCS is used as a sweetener, how sometimes folks can have difficulty breaking it down and it may lead them to not be able to produce the hormone Leptin, which regulates energy intake and output. Leptin helps our body recognize when it's full and it's said that HFCS wreaks havoc on that hormone and doesn't send the proper signal and tells us to put more food in.

Part three is where the autism part is introduced. The article says that HFCS is manufactured in plants which are not regulated for mercury grade chlor-alkali chemically produced products. They go on to explain that the government uses the Total Diet Study to investigate potential contaminants in food and food grade products, but that it is not always as thorough as it should be. The FDA requires all food products to list their ingredients in descending order as to how much of each makes up that particular item. The article describes that Chocolate Syrup has HFCS as the first ingredient and hence forth, could potentially have mercury if it was indeed manufactured in a mercury grade chlor alkali plant. Going back to this article, the potential mercury that may be in items that have HFCS may cause autism and/or mercury poisoning in children.

Well, now that we've got that out of the way, let me weigh in a bit.

I am not a fan of HFCS. I used to consume it with wild abandon as a child and as a young adult. But now, I am trying to be more conscious of what I eat and put into my system. Nathan is included in this equation. I like to read the labels on food. I want to know what I'm consuming. Things like tomato sauce and ketchup are loaded with it. It made me squirm to think of what else could be in there. I have made some strides in that department and am proud of them. I am no saint, people. We went to the movies today and had some candy, which was portioned, but I have no doubt it had HFCS in it. We don't eat it every day (or even every week) and it's not in everything we eat. We need to be more aware of HFCS, not to ban it. Smoking can kill you. Drinking can kill you. But they're not banned. We make these choices on our own. We are consumers. If you don't want it, don't buy it. I'm not saying that it's the best product out there and you should buy everything laden with HFCS, but, be aware and alert of what you do purchase.

I do not believe that eating HFCS by itself will cause autism. My personal belief is that it is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. I think that I passed it to Nathan in a variety of ways. The mercury amalgam in my fillings, lead paint exposure and consumption (we all ate those McDonald glasses with the paint back in the 70's), various psychological genetic precursors and the like. I don't KNOW the cause. And frankly, I don't care how he got it. I don't think there is one simple answer for everyone's autism.  Just like one therapy will work for one child but it won't work for another, I think it is the same with how autism is caused. But HFCS is not the Rosetta stone of autism. We may one day find out what may be the root cause of autism, the one common denominator that will be the starting point to unlocking many inaccessible places. Think of doors of autism with individualized locks and many crafty lockpickers honing their skills to see what works. Let us keep working at finding it. The more keys we have, the more opportunities we have to try to open them.

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