Monday Musings: Fructose, Not HFCS; Serenity Now, Death Earlier?

I’ve always been a bit leery about the overwhelming amount of attention paid to high-fructose corn syrup in the media and among the online health-conscious community. Sure, it’s bad stuff, maybe even especially bad when compared to other forms of sugar, but it is not enough to simply ditch the “corn sugar” and use “healthy cane sugar” (even if it’s evaporated!) instead. Sugar is the issue – fructose. Namely, excessive amounts of it (I’m not going to lambaste blueberries and raspberries) are what you need to avoid. Focusing on HFCS alone and not the general “fructose” is an incomplete and, frankly, counterproductive mode of opposition.

You knew that already, though. It’s just nice to see others – like a couple of renal (to the best of my knowledge, that word does not carry an ulterior meaning – unlike “anal”) MDs from the University of Colorado, for example – do the same. Drs. Johnson and Nakagawa conducted a comprehensive study of the most recent medical literature regarding the effects of fructose intake on kidney health, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. Can you guess what they determined? Yeah, you got it – all of the above. They even mention the correlation between the introduction of HFCS to the US in the 70s and the country’s corresponding rise in obesity, but instead of suggesting it was solely due to HFCS intake, they use more nuance and posit that increased fructose intake (due to increased exposure, affordability, and availability) was the problem. It’s a subtle but vital distinction that might help folks realize an equally excessive amount of cane sugar isn’t a healthy alternative.

Next on the musings list, Seinfeld fans know not to mutter “Serenity now” to themselves in order to deal with stressful situations; your bottled up rage will eventually gush forth, leaving in your wake a Manhattan apartment filled with obliterated PC parts (or a popular LA comedy club gone suddenly silent after your inexplicably racist rant). This is also sound advice, it turns out, in other aspects of one’s life. Like when you argue with your spouse.

Preliminary results from a recent survey find that married couples who “express” their “distaste” with one another “directly” and “verbally” during “spirited disagreements” live longer than married couples who bottle it all up. Of 192 married couples, 26 were “suppressor couples,” meaning both husband and wife failed to express their anger during disagreements or arguments. Over a 17-year period, 25% of suppressor couples died, while 12% of expresser couples died. Standard health factors (smoking, weight, CVD risk, blood pressure, age, bronchial and breathing problems) were accounted for.

Lesson? Bottling up stress and anger is like feeding a seagull alka-seltzer, where you’re the seagull. You might fly around for a little while, but you’re going to explode (and you’ll have terrible gas until then). Anger is a natural emotion. It probably exists for a very good reason, perhaps as an indirect motivator to improve an organism’s survivability. Grok gets disrespected, taken for a fool, cuckolded, or smacked around, and anger tells him to stand up for himself. Whatever the reason for its existence, anger is meant to be released. You hold it in and it just turns inward. Appropriately expressed, the world can handle your anger unleashed. Your insides? Maybe not.

What do you think? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comment board and thanks for reading!

TAGS:  Aging

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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59 thoughts on “Monday Musings: Fructose, Not HFCS; Serenity Now, Death Earlier?”

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  1. Once again, stress and anger are shown to be KEY to overall health. Keep that in mind everybody! Deep breaths. Things are rarely as bad as they seem.

  2. Too bad there weren’t more suppressor couples in that study. They’re basing the statistic on only 13 out of 52 deaths. I wonder what the margin of error (or confidence interval?) is for that study. I’m no statistician but that seems like too low of a sample size.

  3. One thing a lot of people don’t understand, and what I JUST lived through last night *as a type 1 diabetic who does not produce insulin naturally…

    Fructose may have a lesser impact on blood sugar short-term than glucose, but it still remains – it is sugar, and will be utilized as such, just at a later time.

    As for stress, your adrenal glands stimulate your liver to give you a boost of glucose through gluconeogenesis. Now, if you are able to produce your insulin, you have nothing to worry about. If you are like me, you have a big problem. After my sprints where I pushed to hard last night, I saw my blood sugars soar to 3 times the amount of what a non-diabetic would have.

    Think on that for a second: even without the sugar or glucose, fructose, or whatever… if you are stressed, and in a constant state of fight-or-flight, your liver is happily producing the required fuel for you to “get outta there.”

    Interesting stuff, indeed. Namaste!

  4. I grew up in New Jersey where venting one’s anger was par for the course. I now live in Seattle the land of the passive aggressive where venting one’s anger, or any other external show of emotion for that matter, is viewed as some form of cultural abnormality. I had a very stressful job a few years back where I would vent regularly and paid the price by losing that job because I upset the locals. Truth be told losing that job was probably what prevented me from having a heart attack from the stress. Since that job I have come to realize how poorly I actually do handle stress and am trying to figure out how I can lead a relatively stress free life. One method I have found is by trying to spend more time with my family and ignoring people who waste my time, I do not suffer fools gladly. The lifestyle changes provided in the Primal Blueprint are also helping immeasurably.

    1. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Doug! Validation, at last. My husband is from Detroit, where they are *very* forward with their anger, and I am from Texas, where you get it between the eyes. We are both transplants to Seattle and our stress levels are through the roof. I had to quit a stressful job to save my health (heart patient). Sometimes it takes that kind of change to protect yourself. My husband writes to vent his anger. I “play house,” making my home a haven of solitude and peace. Thank you, Brother Grok, for the affirmation.

      1. Or you could just try some meditation. It only takes 15 minutes a day to make you feel loads better. I know, I know, most people think it’s a crock, but you wont know until you try!

    2. lol, yep, my husband and I are both transplants to the emerald city as well. He’s from Boston and I am from the Baltimore/DC area. We use the term “pansy-ass” a lot.

  5. I would only say that anger should not be released without control. Anger indeed exists for a reason, it is natural, and it should not be bottled up or ignored, but it should be released as a positive emotion.

    See past the anger to the reason for the anger. Convert the anger into peace and deal with the reason.

  6. Paul Jaminet, author of The Perfect Health Diet, now believes that fructose intake may be one of the major contributors to gout.

    1. After educating himself via the plethora of information from MANY others for many years now about the fructose link to gout. but at least one more is wking up to reality.
      Mercola has been talking about this for years, “Fructose is the ONLY Sugar that Raises Uric Acid”
      Excellent Mercola interview with Dr. Richard Johnson re fructose.
      “Increased production of uric acid is the result of interference, by a product of fructose metabolism, in purine metabolism.”

  7. Interesting point about the fructose! I was fructose intolerant for years, had IBS, and was forced to cut all fruit and fructose-containing products out of my diet for that period.

    I’ve reintroduced it into my diet but can only handle about 1 fruit a day.

    That whole situation made me angry and stressed out… not a good combo!

  8. Interesting stuff, was Grok monogamous? What did he do, argue and express his distaste, or just move on?

  9. Grok was probably not monogamous; or if he was, he was serially monogamous, and the items in the series were many. Same for Groketta.

    Finding a way to express anger without driving everybody away is tricky. I use NVC: Nonviolent communication, invented or at least explained by Marshall Rosenberg. In NVC, you don’t bottle up your feelings: you tell people about them, and the reasons behind them, and then you make a request. Here’s an example from this past weekend: “When you ignored your dad all weekend, even though he just had surgery, I felt bad and sad, because I want him to have more support and love from his family. Would you be willing to call next time he has surgery, and to spend more time with him when you’re home from college?”

    Reader, it worked: the youngster apologized and promised to call more and spend more time with poor Dad Grok.

    1. Big thumbs up from me for mentioning NVC. It was my first thought when reading this post. Getting in a rage and yelling at someone only generates more tension and anger inside as you go away and stew on the argument, at least IME ;-). It’s just as much about how you do it, as whether you do it, I think. Anger in my opinion is a secondary emotion that we experience when we aren’t happy with an emotion someone else’s actions have triggered in us. Only seeing the anger, and lashing out in blame doesn’t really help anyone. Much better to shut up and look inside and then express what’s really going on. There’s a book if you want to learn more.

  10. I agree and disagree with the HFCS thing. While I agree that HFCS and fructose should not be substituted for one another, my experience – with extensive experience within my family and some genetic testing – is that HFCS can turn suppressor couples and children (especially children) into people for whom a mental health diagnosis could probably be gotten. If I have to choose (and thankfully I don’t) I would eliminate HFCS before the fructose.

  11. Speaking of Seinfeld, we can bring it all back to fructose. Anyone remember this episode, where Kramer is being interviewed by Calvin Klein for a modeling gig?

    KLEIN: Sit down, eh? (Kramer, misjudging one side of the couch, sits down uncomfortably) You’re very lean, but muscular.

    KRAMER: You know, I try to take care of myself. I – I watch what I eat. Ah, just recently I cut out fructose.

    KLEIN: You’re spectacular.

  12. Releasing negative emotions and stress is so important. A great way to reduce build up is to have frequent periods dedicated to renewal. A day dedicated to nothing but relaxation once in a while, without multitasking or work, just pure leisure.

    1. so true, i need 4 july days in the forest right now with my fly rod, mtn bike and cooler…guess i’ll settle for painting hot wax on fabric and then stirring it in vats of dye..strangely soothing

  13. I am very much in favor of venting one’s anger so long as you vent it at someone else.

  14. I’m skeptical about this marital study. My own “anecdotal research” (which includes my happy 20-year marriage, my parents’ divorce after 27 years, and several other marriages I’m well-acquainted with)suggests that couples that express their anger often (or loudly) do it in ways that raise tension rather than lower it. I also think a certain amount of suppression is inevitable and that it doesn’t always lead to too much internal stress. Obviously spouses have to be honest with each other, but treating each other with kindness, no matter what the issue is, plays an important role in long-term harmony. Many people cross the line from “healthy venting” to mean-spirited abuse without even stopping for breath, so I think some self-editing (= suppression) is an important tool.

  15. About the fructose thing: It gets even better. Apparently, fructose is more likely to cause deleterious health effects in the presence of choline deficiency. We know fructose increases the likelihood of fatty liver disease. Well, choline apparently plays a role in signaling the liver to let go of that fat and release it back into the bloodstream, where it can be used for energy or whatever.

    Best source of choline, as far as we know right now? Liver. Third-best is egg yolk. Second-best is wheat germ, although there are very good reasons not to bother with wheat germ–it tends to be rancid right off the shelf, if nothing else.

    But people have been scared away from eating liver and egg yolk, when they like liver in the first place, for the past thirty years or so. Heaven forbid anyone ever eat choelsterol.

    By the way, I thought HFCS had about equivalent proportions of fructose and glucose to sugar. Well, a university in California just tested a bunch of name-brand sodas. Turns out the HFCS that was supposed to be 55 percent glucose in those drinks is actually more like 65 percent. That’s a significant difference in fructose intake from what you’d get with table sugar, not that that’s a health food either.

    Explains why rats get fatter on HFCS in the lab than they do on sucrose…

    Well, here’s my own take on the anger thing. Anger turned inward is depression. Supposedly, women are more likely to get depressed than men. Women are also more likely to meet with societal disapproval if we express anger outwardly. Coincidence? Probably not. In my own experience I catch a lot of crap for expressing anger, even from supposedly “progressive” or “liberal” people; meanwhile, guys who behave as angrily as I do, or more so, are not judged as harshly. It’s difficult to do what’s healthy when society weighs against you when you try. It’s not any healthier to always be in a situation where your own social group harshly judges you day in and day out.

    Of course this is the same culture that declares meat-eating a masculine pursuit (did you notice how gendered the ads were for the KFC Double Down back when it first came out? I sure did), and looks down on women who eat more than 1500 calories a day. These are our cultural imperatives: don’t make noise, don’t take up too much space, don’t use up too many resources or you will face censure. Not fun. And not everyone can ignore the imperatives; not all of us have the resources under us to smile and give the idiots the finger. It is very frustrating.

    1. “Turns out the HFCS that was supposed to be 55 percent glucose”

      Fructose. 55 percent *fructose*. What I get for trying to write when anyone else is in the room. Sigh.

  16. I want to know more about this exploding-seagull thing. Are they unable to pass gas? Does it happen immediately after they eat it? I want to know if feeding Alka-Seltzers to seagulls is a good way to get a free-range poultry dinner.

    1. That’s right, birds can’t fart. Or burp either. Bird-watchers discourage the feeding of dry rice to birds for the same reason, which is why you see more and more weddings using birdseed bags for party favors rather than the more traditional rice.

      I wouldn’t count on Alka-Seltzer as a bird-hunting device, however. The rupture would probably taint the meat, and anyway, seagulls wouldn’t taste very good. They’re carnivorous.

    2. DO NOT google this, especially if you hate seagulls. I knew that was a bad idea including that line in the article. Not sure I’d want to eat a seagull, exploded or not…

  17. From my life’s experience after 38 years, I’d have to agree that bottled up negative emotions are a recipe for disaster on all levels.

    In psychology, it’s called “collecting red stamps” or, “why’d my spouse just go berserk because I left the cap off the toothpaste?!” 😉

  18. Good thing neither my fiance and I bottle things up, sometimes I think we over communicate… which may be a better problem to have! 🙂

  19. Haha, my husband and I will live a long time! Seriously, there is a big difference between venting frustration and punching someone in the face or abusing them verbally.

  20. Very good points regarding fructose. In fact, when glycogen (animal starch reserves) reserves are depleted (in the liver or muscle), a combination of fructose and glucose will greatly stimulate the synthesis of glycogen from both.

    In rat liver tissue, the speed of conversion of glucose to glycogen is 200% higher when fructose and glucose are taken together. The speed of conversion is increased by 50% for fructose.

    Because of this, taking fructose and glucose together will speed up the clearance of glucose from the blood, as long as glycogen needs to be made. In other words, it will make people more insulin sensitive. On top of that, fructose doesn’t lead to any insulin response by itself.

    Fructose and glucose nearly always come together in fruits. If one eats 3 meals per day, each time liver glycogen will be partly depleted, even if the person doesn’t exercise. In this case, the sugar from 3 apples will never become fat; both fructose and glucose will become liver glycogen, and fast.

  21. It’s hilarious the way the Corn Refiner’s Association is backpedaling in response to the public’s growing trepidation surrounding HFCS.

    “Hey, let’s change the name to corn sugar and tell everyone that it’s just as healthy as cane syrup!”

    Unfortunately, cane syrup ain’t health food.

    However, The Daily Lipid had a great post last month showing how honey fructose, at least, doesn’t seem to be as dangerous as purified fructose.

  22. French people are famous for being “fire-e” at one another when in love (or married)…

    From the study—“The key matter is, when the conflict happens, how do you resolve it?” […] if you bury your anger, […], and you don’t try to resolve the problem, then you’re in trouble.”

    I reckon the French paradox isn’t all the red wine and light activity the french get – it is their “conflict resolution” skills. Yell and scream at each other for having an affair – then have a smoke and glass of wine to reminisce… Thoughts?

    1. One day years ago a work friend grabbed me by the sleeve and said “Let’s go outside & take a break, I need to unload some stress.” Then she asked why the call center we worked at didn’t stress me out, how could I be so relaxed all the time?
      I told her “I guess I think of myself as a duck in the rain & let it all roll off my back. The secret is to not collect all that stress in the first place, then you don’t have a huge oppressive *self imposed* weight on you that builds up over time & gets so big that it forces you to engage more work to unload.”
      Life is often hard enough on it’s own & it makes no sense at all to get lazy with your mental & habits & let yourself slip into patterns of thought or action that serve no useful purpose, add no value to life & instead only add to your own life burden. The unexamined life is not worth living because it gets to be so damn much meaningless work that it takes all the joy out of our short existences. Another wise friend told me his life philosophy: “We’re not here for a long time, so you gotta be here for a good time!”
      So being too lazy to do all that extra collecting & unloading work serves to protect me from myself & lets me concentrate my energies on the people & things that matter. I find it easier to keep my psychic loads as light as possible at all times. The lighter the load, the faster you can move, physically & mentally, it’s a kind of freedom that I find essential for a happy life.
      Just think of all that stress as a mental form of carbs & fructose you don’t need & that doesn’t add to your health & quality of life. Maybe it’ll help you get out of the stress business so you can focus you energy on the business you WANT to be in.

  23. It does make me laugh when junk food is marketed as “natural” because it contains sugar cane instead of HFCS. It’s still make you fat son!

  24. Any thoughts on Agave? From what I have read it is basically fructose with very little if any glucose (remembering out of my head, I don’t have any links handy).

    And of course it is pretty processed to get it to the state it is sold in too (similar to maple syrup).

    Obviously it is still an added sweetener and while I consider it better than the chemical sweeteners like splenda I wonder how bad is it really? I see a LOT of people say things like ‘I can’t eat sugar so I use agave’ and so on.


  25. “Whatever the reason for its existence, anger is meant to be released.”

    “Released” is a problematic word. Acknowledge and be with your anger, don’t suppress it, bottle it, build on it, live in it.

    It’s there. It happened. That’s that.

    Like someone above said, just breathe. How you RELATE to your anger and related thoughts and emotions is really what we’re talking about; not some idea of “releasing” or whatever.

    Thank you.

  26. I’m glad Mark touched on Richard Johnson’s research. Dr Johnson has a book called the sugar fix which has quite a few parallel’s to the Primal Blueprint. He ties in research from the study of uric acid and its role on hypertension, diabetes and the metabolic syndrome. Whats sure to warm any primal enthusiast’s heart, his book discusses a pre-paleolithic ancestor who lost the ability to break down uric acid, and how this may have contributed to our inability to tolerate sugars. I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on the book.

  27. I feel so great avoiding fructose. If I eat too much fructose it just makes my hungry. I just can eat enough if I’ve had too much.

    1. Amen…the more sugar I eat the more I want. There is some element of addiction for me I think…

  28. Anger is such a weird subject. Maybe I just don’t have too many stressors in my life right now, but I have gone through quite a few life changes (including some level of Primality) over the last couple years. One result of these changes was a marked ability to roll with the punches and really not worry about the little things that COULD anger me if I let them.

    I don’t feel like I’m bottling it up, rather I’ve completely changed my outlook on life and on how I rank the importance of the little events in my life. For instance, one (perhaps cliche) example of common anger is road rage. But take a step back from that kind of thing… Is the problem really that jerk that cut you off? Or is the problem the fact that we’ve set up a very very terrible transportation system and all the cut-offs and speeding and accidents and traffic are all part of that system as it is designed to be (which they are)?

    This change in my attitude and perception of our big reality mess has helped me take the focus away from the symptoms of problems (which I could be angry with) and focus on what I can do to improve the system as a whole.

    As far as something like the marriage/death study, I certainly agree that immediately confronting issues is amazingly effective, though. Get it all out there, talk about it, take a step back from it, make sure you’re focusing on the problem and not the symptom of the problem. Resolve. 😀 Live happy!

  29. My wife never gets mad, she isn’t long for this world I guess. She sometimes looks like a seagull that has swallowed a whole bottle of alka seltzer. Gonna miss her…

  30. I think you ought to be careful about the kind of conclusions you draw the anger study. It’s one thing to say it’s healthy for couples to communicate their negative feelings to each other (especially if it’s in a positive way), it’s another thing entirely to say that it’s healthy to vent anger. We tend to think that “bottling up” anger is bad and we need to express it via catharsis to “get it out of our systems,” but this hasn’t been shown to work. In fact, it actually leads to *more* aggressive behavior, not less. Take a good look at this study (actually two studies):

    I definitely think it’s important to communicate effectively with your partner about your emotions, but how you express them matters. I wouldn’t be so quick to advocate catharsis or make broad assumptions about why the expressive couples live longer, without first narrowing in on many of the relevant factors (like how the anger was expressed, how communicative these people were in general, or other correlations that could confound the results).

    1. Or even whether or not the couples who supposedly didn’t express their anger weren’t expressing it in subtler ways. Their “bottled up” anger may actually have been manifesting itself in other, less direct behaviors, like being stingier with affection or something of that sort, which could create more stress and theoretically account for the higher death rate. Without such things being controlled for, it’s hard to make any reasonable conclusions from this study.