Monday, September 8, 2008

High Fructose Corn Syrup

As I have examined Evaporated Cane Juice and Sugar in these posts, I thought I might start a discussion about High Fructose Corn Syrup (HCFS). HCFS has recently become a bad word in nutrition circles, and many folks are starting to avoid it at all costs. Here are two commercials that are intended to start a bit of a dialog, and perhaps question that conventional wisdom:

What do you think? Do these videos and the accompanying website spin the truth? Is High Fructose Corn Syrup that much worse than regular sugar? Perhaps we should not take a commercial enterprise at its word...I did some preliminary searches for medical studies:
CONCLUSIONS: Sucrose and HFCS do not have substantially different short-term endocrine/metabolic effects.
CONCLUSION: There was no evidence that commercial cola beverages sweetened with either sucrose or HFCS have significantly different effects on hunger, satiety, or short-term energy intakes.

In addition, animal studies have shown a link between increased consumption of high-fructose corn syrup and adverse health effects, such as diabetes and high cholesterol. However, the evidence is not as clear in human studies.

Despite the lack of clarity in research, the fact remains that Americans consume large quantities of high-fructose corn syrup in the form of soft drinks, fruit-flavored beverages and other processed foods. These types of foods are often high in calories and low in nutritional value. This fact alone is reason to be cautious about foods containing high-fructose corn syrup.

Do you avoid HCFS? Perhaps avoid all simple carbohydrates? Maybe you eschew carbs altogether? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Other Sugar posts:
Evaporated Cane Juice: Part I
Evaporated Cane Juice: Part II
Caramel Apples
Sugar and the Environment
A Look at Agave


Nimic said...

I choose to avoid all simple carbohydrates that I can. If I have to use a natural sweetener, I use sugar.

On the other hand, I won't be surprised if eventually researchers find something that sticks on corn syrup. I tend to think the corn lobby is pretty strong in the US, so the research might come out of another country.

Soy protein for example acts like synthetic estrogen in the human body. Point being, not all grams of nutrients are created equal.

Review Home Business said...

the fact is that Americans are suffering from obesity. we've eaten "off the fruit of our land" for so long now that we've gotten lazy. lazy eaters, lazy exercisers, lazy with our money (govt bailout), ect...
my fellow americans :)... we need to fight for our health. if that means avoiding foods with HFCS in it - then so be it.

I do not like the way the picture is painted in the pro HFCS commercials - makes it look as if the mom who is concerned is stupid for wanting to provide a healthy life for her children.

The message in the commerical contributes to our societies obese issues.

just my views...


Chief said...

Thanks for the comment. I think if it were as simple as not eating HFCS, we would not have much to worry about. Boiling complex problems down to singular solutions helps no one.

Anonymous said...

I thought we were eating healthy before I became aware of HFCS. We've been trying to figure out why my 6-year-old son had been gaining weight (to his belly). He is extremely active and eats healthy. We've come to the conclusion that it is because of the HFCS. His body doesn't break it down/dispuse it properly. That stuff is awful and NOBODY should consume it. After a few days he lost a few pounds and his tummy is getting flatter and flatter! It's crazy how bad HFCS is.

Chief said...

It sounds as though you should take your son to a medical professional.

Eric J. Schwarzenbach said...

Whether or not they are correct about HFCS being no worse for you than sugar (and it is not clear--there are studies that support both sides), these commercials / this website, being from the Corn Refiners Association, are clearly propaganda and not unbiased. They aren't to "start a bit of a dialog" they are PR damage control.

However, I think the fact that there is so much HFCS in our food IS a problem, and it is directly due to it being unnaturally cheap, due to federal agricultural policy, especially since Nixon, which encourages (virtually forces) farmers to grow more corn and keeps the price of it down.

I avoid high-HFCS foods, not because an equivalent amount of cane sugar would be necessarily better, but because a food with a lot of HFCS likely has more of it than it needs to, and more than I need in my diet. I think of it as a red flag that says "this food probably isn't very good for me."

Chief said...

I agree that HFCS is prevalent in foods due to its price advantage over other sweeteners. The rise of corn in Americans diets is covered quite well in Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma.

The flip side to the "cheap corn is bad" argument comes when food prices rise. Despite spending less on food (and consuming more calories) than ever before, Americans are very vocal when food prices rise, as highlighted last summer. This leads politicians to continue to support policies that tend to create large quantities of cheap food.

I also agree that HFCS could be used as a flag for unhealthy foods, but food manufacturers/advertisers are a tricky bunch. I am reminded of a recent Snapple commercial - "Now with BETTER Stuff - REAL SUGAR"

Stiofan said...

Watch Dr. Lustig's (Prof of Endocrinology) presentation on HFCS and regualar sucrose. They are basically the same, both chronic poisons. He explains how Americans are 25 pounds heavier than our grandparents at the same age, all due to 10 times the sugar in our diets since the 1950s. You'll never look at fructose (sucrose is 50% fructose) the same.

Anonymous said...

HFCS - I still don't understand why I should be finding it in so very many foods one does NOT need to sweeten. My gosh, why does Reser's need to put HFCS into its potato salad for crying out loud? You don't need to sweeten EVERYTHING. It's not really that HFCS is just sugar, but that it's virtually impossible to 'moderate' when food manufacturers put it into so many unexpected foods.

Anonymous said...

My body can't handle HFCS at all, I now mal absorb fructose (fructmal) and have issues with other foods. I can have glucose/fructose syrup they use in Canada but not HFCS. I think a lot of people are fructmals and don't realize it.

Anonymous said...

My daughter used to throw up and get terrible stomach aches when ever she went to a party, reception or holiday. Other times also. So we tried everything- first soda went, then we let her bring home a few things she would like, thinking she was just very anxious or something at the event. We tried cutting wheat and milk to no avail. One day we cut out all corn products and for 6 months was pretty pain free (this was at 12 yo). Since then we have seen medical professionals who encouraged her to test some of the corn product and now she can tolerate anything but corn syrup in any form. She tolerates other forms of sugar fine and now that she has rid her diet of the corn syrup on a normal basis, she can have some without pain. At first we were going crazy, because breads, ice-cream, sauces, dressings, canned fruit....... all contained HFCS. It is getting easier to find products without paying the natural food prices. I believe it is due to corn being used for ethanol, raising the cost for food production.