Not So Sweet: The Hidden Danger in High-Fructose Corn Syrup

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By Deirdre Imus

High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is widely used as a sweetener and preservative in some of our most popular food and beverages.

Just open up your fridge and pantry and you will find HFCS topping the list of ingredients in many of your family's favorite processed foods. Soft drinks, candy bars, breakfast cereals, breads, snacks, soups, spaghetti sauce, yogurt, luncheon meats and many condiments.

HFCS is high in calories, but has almost no nutritional value. Numerous studies suggest it is linked to the growing epidemic of childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes - conditions that can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.

But who knew the sugary sweetener also contains mercury, a heavy metal and known developmental neurotoxin?

Last year, U.S. researchers found mercury in over 30 percent of the HFCS-containing products they tested.

While we were all worrying about the importation of toxic toys from China, our kids are consuming foods and beverages that contain mercury purchased right in our own local grocery stores and restaurants.

Needless to say, this revelation has parents, physicians and health officials concerned.

Each day, most adults consume about 12 teaspoons of HFCS. Teenagers, often with poor eating habits, can devour as much as 80 percent more HFCS than adults.

Some will argue that the mercury from HFCS is safe because the amount is so small. However, mercury falls into a category of heavy metal toxins known to be persistent and bioaccumulative.

The more mercury a person is exposed to the greater the risk of adverse health affects and experts agree it is particularly dangerous to the fetus, infants and children.

Alarmed by the HFCS studies' findings, Dr. David Wallinga, from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, a non-profit consumer group and co-author wrote in a prepared statement, "Mercury is toxic in all its forms. Given how much high-fructose corn syrup is consumed by children, it could be a significant source of mercury never before considered. We are calling for immediate changes by industry and the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply."

There are many reasons to avoid HFCS, and mercury exposure is yet another one.

To limit the amount of high-fructose corn syrup in your diet_

-- Read the package labels and eliminate processed foods containing HFCS.

-- For my breakfast suggestion- I like to eat a bowl of organic rolled oats cooked with cinnamon and I add my chai tea with coconut milk and a minced up date- great winter breakfast!

-- Reduce or avoid fruit-flavored beverages and soft drinks.

I recommend juicing -- start with getting a juicer and make this part of your everyday food regimen. I like to juice 2 carrots, a bunch of beet greens, 3 inch piece of ginger, 2 celery stalks, 1 green apple and a dash of fresh squeezed lemon juice (all organic).

Buy fresh or frozen organic fruits all year round. For example- if you live in a climate with a cold winter and berries are out of season stock up on frozen fruits to add to smoothies and desserts. For those who are more adventurous in the kitchen I recommend you jar (preserve) fruit for the winter months. Example: make apple sauce and seal in glass ball jars and store in a cool, dry place.

Deirdre Imus is the Founder and President of The Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology (r) at Hackensack University Medical Center and Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer. Deirdre is the author of four books, including three national bestsellers. She is a frequent speaker on green living and children's health issues, and is a contributor to For more information go to