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How better information translates into better choices

Although we hope that better/clearer information translates into healthier habits and choices by consumers, is this really the case ?
Although we hope that better/clearer information translates into healthier habits and choices by consumers, is this really the case?

Dr. Hoffmann from TellSpec leads a Company that also works on translating informations into citizen-friendly and easy accessible useful knowledge and tools. According to her. the answer to the question stated above is: this is not the case. Only rarely, having the full knowledge that something is good or bad for our health, this translates into better choices or changing habits. Especially if these changes imply higher costs, or spending extra time; the average citizen is not willing to translate what he/she has learned into something to do differently, if this requires an extra effort. Why is this ? Let’s go through this example, to explore this aspect.

High fructose corn syrup and its health impact

Have you ever heard about High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)? Would you consume something that is involved in multiple metabolic issues, such as high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, obesity, and insulin resistance? I bet that you wouldn’t, right? But have you ever drank a soda? Perhaps once a week, or do you eat a cookie once in a while? Bet you love cookies, don’t you? Then, you are consuming HFCS.

HFCS is a liquid sweetener produced from corn syrup. The corn syrup, which is primarily glucose, is processed to yield a higher quantity of fructose. This type of additive can be vastly found in our foods, such as sauces, ice creams, cookies, dips, soft drinks, processed meats, breakfast cereals or even soups (see reference 1 in the see also material).

This sweetener was first introduced to the food and beverage industry in the 1970s, primarily because of its sweetness comparable with that of sucrose, to its improved stability and functionality, to its ease of use and due to the escalating cane and beet sugar costs (see reference 2).

HFCS is a dangerous sweetener, contains no essential nutrients while it contains plenty of calories – more than normal added sugar (see reference 3). When we talk about calories, there’s a point that we need to consider: there are good and bad calories. Calories are the physical units for measuring energy. The nutritional energy contained in fat, protein and carbohydrates is expressed in kilocalories and makes up your daily caloric intake. We need the energy from these three macronutrients in order to have a properly function body.

So, the question is: which are the good and which are the bad calories? Good calories are the ones that can be found in things like fruits, vegetables, nuts, or eggs. You can fill up on these foods without giving much thought to your daily caloric intake limit. Variety amongst these foods is the key concept. Also, it’s okay to have a few non-clean treats every now and then. Bad calories can be found in fast food or high-sugar foods. These kind of foods offer you almost no nutrients, but are very rich in empty calories. The concept here is simple: try to avoid highly processed foods.

Around the world, many experts are alerting people to reduce the amount of added sugar, such as HFCS, from their diets. Not only it’s bad for our health, due to the large amount of fructose that it supplies (see reference 4), but it also increases the risk of heart diseases (see reference 5). The liver, being the only organ that successfully metabolizes fructose, when overloaded by this component, turns fructose into fat (see reference 6). Some of this fat remains localized in our liver, thus contributing to the unhealthy condition of a fatty liver (see reference 7). Many other conditions and diseases are related with HFCS consumption, such as metabolic syndromes, insulin resistance, obesity and type-2 diabetes (see references 8 and 9).

At this point you may be asking yourself: if fructose is bad for my health, why am I eating fruit? Fruit contains fructose, you are right! However, let us clarify that fruit are whole foods. They have plenty of nutrients, antioxidants and fibers that are good for our health. Moreover, it’s very difficult to overeat fructose if we are only consuming it from fruit (see reference 10).

Our final message is: you should absolutely avoid HFCS, but you also need to avoid all forms of sugars equally, by reducing the intake of these products. This may be one of the most effective ways to improve your health and lower your risk of disease. It’s important for you to start living with healthier habits.

Make small adjustments in your lifestyle: start exercising, drink plenty of water, don’t smoke, don’t exceed with alcohol, try to sleep well and head outdoors for a hike! And exercise your brain and mind learning something new. These are only examples of healthier habits that can help you improve your health, as they help you control your weight, improve your mood, combat diseases, boost your energy, and improve your longevity!

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