Ketchup Catch-22: Why This Condiment Is The Worst For Diabetes

DiabeticsHealth & Wellness

Who doesn’t love a delicious burger every now and then? 

Whoever coined the phrase, “Baseball, apple pie and Chevrolet,” as an ode to American values should have also added burgers and fries. And of course, with burgers and fries comes that all-American condiment, ketchup. 

But if you have type 2 diabetes, and you’re trying to manage the condition to the best of your ability, ketchup poses a major problem. 

That’s because most commercial brands of ketchup, including Heinz, include high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Ketchup may taste delicious, and like a successful marriage, completes its partner, or in this case, partners: the burger patty and bun. But HFCS wreaks havoc on your blood sugar and insulin levels. 

Ketchup, High Fructose Corn Syrup and Hunger Hormones

According to this study, two hours after you eat something with HFCS, the level of blood sugar remains higher than what your blood sugar level was before the meal. That’s a serious problem if you’re trying to manage your diabetes. 

Because of how pervasive burgers, hot dogs and french fries are in the American diet, ketchup remains as one of the most popular condiments, especially for older Americans (Ranch dressing is more popular among millenials.) In fact, each year, ketchup sales exceed $800 million. [SOURCE]

And because of the fact that sales of organic ketchup, which typically does not contain HFCS, accounts for a drop in the bucket, most people who drown their favorite foods in the red stuff are consuming dangerous amounts of HFCS. 

HFCS has been implicated in the obesity and diabetes epidemic. (And by extension, it’s partly to blame for the coronavirus pandemic: Those with type 2 diabetes and high blood sugar levels are more at risk for developing more severe COVID symptoms.)

Because HFCS is unnatural, your body does not recognize it. When you eat things with natural sugars like fruit, your body has a hormone that tells your brain that you are full. This hormone is called leptin. But when you eat ketchup with HFCS, your brain doesn’t get the signal. That’s why even if you eat a huge meal, you can feel like you can keep eating. And this is why you want more and more french fries even after finishing your burger. 

More Calories, More Fat, More Heart Disease

Some people believe eating unprocessed, whole fruit is bad for diabetes because it contains fructose. Natural fruit is not bad for managing diabetes. When you eat a serving of fruit, so long as you’re not topping it with a sweetener with HFCS, your brain will receive the message from leptin that you don’t want anymore. But when you eat ketchup or anything else with HFCS, it causes you to eat more calories than you normally would. 

These extra calories cause you to become more resistant to insulin. This means that your pancreas will have to work extra hard to produce enough insulin to escort the blood sugar into the cells. However, once your cells are full of insulin and can’t hold anymore, the excess insulin stays in the bloodstream. This leads to higher blood sugar levels. 

Moreover, the extra calories will be stored by the liver as body fat. Extra body fat places a burden on the cardiovascular system, which can cause heart disease. 

Should HFCS Be Banned?

In 2015, artificial so-called ‘trans fats’ were banned by the Food & Drug Administration. The agency gave food manufacturers three years to phase out the substance, which was created to extend the shelf life of processed foods. Trans fats are horrible for health because they raise LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol, which raises the risk of developing heart disease. 

If HFCS has contributed greatly to the diabetes, obesity and heart disease epidemics, why hasn’t it been banned like trans fats? After all, the average person consumes 60 pounds of HFCS per year. 

Perhaps the influence of the corn/agriculture lobby has something to do with a lack of an HFCS ban? 

Whatever the reason, a few things are clear about HFCS’s deleterious effects on human health. It was designed to make people crave sweet things. In fact, HFCS is sweeter than pure glucose. The artificial sweetener floods the bloodstream with circulating, undigested fructose. This in turn causes leaky gut, weakening the immune system’s first line of defense: the mucosal barrier of the gastrointestinal tract. So not only is HFCS making Americans fatter, it’s making them sicker.  

As if these reasons aren’t bad enough, HFCS may contain mercury


Next time you eat a burger, hold the ketchup—especially if it contains HFCS. Instead, use a small amount of organic ketchup with only a few grams of added sugars per serving. Or better yet, just use mustard.

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