Montana Public Radio

The Food Guys Discuss High-Fructose Corn Syrup And Colon Cancer

Jun 23, 2019

The Food Guys, Jon Jackson and Greg Patent, discuss an article published in the March edition of the journal Science about a study linking the consumption of high fructose corn syrup with colorectal cancer. According to the study, drinking a modest amount of high-fructose corn syrup -- the equivalent of about 12 ounces of a sugar-sweetened beverage daily -- accelerates the growth of intestinal tumors in mice, independently of obesity.

Earlier research had already demonstrated a relationship between added sugars and human cancers, but the authors of this study claim it shows that the mechanism is the sugars themselves, not a hormone like insulin.

Jon and Greg -- who've long harbored skepticism about drinking added sugar in general and high-fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, in particular -- point out that HFCS is a manufactured combination of glucose and fructose whose proportion of fructose ranges from 55% to as high as 95%. Short of downing straight shots of honey, humans couldn't swig this concentrated a dose of liquid fructose every day before the invention of HFCS. We tended to eat it in relatively small amounts in fruit and some vegetables, along with fiber, nutrients and minerals.

From an evolutionary standpoint, fructose in the human diet has signified a bonanza - or at least a counter to the lean times ahead. Jon says: "Basically, it was a hedge that animals employed very eagerly against famine, which comes seasonally, if on no other occasion, but in most of human history - up until about fifteen minutes ago - we endured famine constantly. It was a constant part of our environment. This is no longer the case - it's not the case at all. As a consequence, we're consuming way too much fructose because it's being produced in this liquid form. It's like mainlining."

(Broadcast: "The Food Guys," 6/23/19. Listen weekly on the radio at 11:50 a.m. Sundays, or via podcast.)