Image adapted from yaybiscuits123, Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0Would you like some mercury with that soda? Oh goodie, because it’s already included, along with a healthy dose of hydrochloric acid. Thanks, high fructose corn syrup!

It’s hard to believe that almost two years have passed since the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health released a monumental study reflecting the massive health impact of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). We’ve known for years that HFCS may lead to diabetes, obesity and other heart conditions, but this was the first time we were told about the chemicals involved in making HFCS — including caustic soda, hydrochloric acid, alpha-amylase, gluco-amylase, isomerase, filter aid, powdered carbon, calcium chloride and magnesium sulfate.

We’re used to seeing funny ingredients in our processed foods, and while we may not prefer it, many of us sadly accept it. Ingredients like hydrochloric acid should be a giant red flag. Researchers at Environmental Health saw the flag, and they studied it. Hydrochloric acid, a necessary chemical in the creation of HFCS, yields traces of the heavy metal mercury in processed foods like sodas, and the levels of mercury are high enough to cause some serious damage.

Mercury is a neurotoxic chemical (translation: toxic for your neurons). It’s been linked to brain damage, heart disease and a slew of degenerative diseases. Pregnant women are advised not to eat fish containing mercury (such as tuna), as are women who ever even plan on getting pregnant, ever.

And when the average American is consuming 12 teaspoons of HFCS daily, in everything from sodas to candy bars and cereals to frozen dinners, all that hydrochloric acid and mercury may be building up.

High fructose corn syrup probably isn’t going away, but thanks to consumer awareness, certain name brands have begun taking it out of their products — Hunt’s, Snapple and Gatorade, to name a few. Support products that have removed HFCS from their products and spread the word on how nasty this sweetener is.

Image adapted from yaybiscuits123, Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0