High-Fructose Corn Syrup: The Truth (?)

September 21, 2010

in 30-Minute Cook,30-Minute Mommy

skumer/flickr

Last week, I was invited to sit in on a panel discussion hosted by the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) regarding High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). With all the negative press HFCS has received in the past year or so, the CRA apparently is trying to do some damage control.

There were a couple of doctors and a couple of dietitians, all bent on convincing the audience (consisting of mommy bloggers such as yours truly) that HFCS is no worse for you than plain ole’ table sugar. In fact, some other forms of sugar are even sweeter than HFCS. On their website, they write, “Sugar is sugar whether it comes from corn, cane, beets, or bees. All are safe and natural. Your body can’t tell the difference between them.”

We were treated to molecular diagrams, multisyllabic words, and scientific reasoning, all of which sounded perfectly plausible. While I was firmly in the “No HFCS” camp prior to the call, I am now willing to entertain the idea that HFCS might not be the total evil we have been led to believe that it is.

BUT…

Isn’t it kind of like saying that drunk driving after taking a few shots of whiskey isn’t any worse than doing so after downing the same amount of vodka?

Or a menthol cigarette isn’t going to make you any deader than a non-menthol?

Or french fries from McD’s aren’t any worse for you than french fries from Burger King?

After all, we all know we, as a nation, are overweight. (In fact, one of the dietitians said, “We eat about 25% more overall than we did 25 years ago.” I am sure that includes more sugar — in all its forms.)

My point is this. I’m not a scientist. I’m not a dietitian. But I do have a brain, and my brain says:

-Don’t trust any “science” whose bills are being paid by someone with a vested interest in the outcome.

-Sugar as a whole isn’t so good for you. So whether HFCS is “better,” “worse,” or “the same as” regular sugar is a moot point for me. Sugar’s sugar, and too much of it isn’t good for you. Period.

-The closer we can eat to the way our grandparents ate, the better off we’re going to be.

So, I’ve got to say that I’m still on the hunt for eliminating added HFCS — AND SUGAR IN GENERAL — from my family’s diet.

What about you?

P.S. In exchange for writing this post, I was offered a $50 gift card from the CRA. I have turned it down. I did, however, win a $15 gift card “door prize” during the actual panel discussion. I’m taking that one in exchange for the horrible flashbacks I had to Organic Chemistry in college. It was a painful time for me…

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  • http://bcre8uv.typepad.com Tami
  • http://chefgaynol.com Chef Gaynol

    The CRA is scrambling madly to outrun the bad publicity surrounding HFCS, which they are lobbying the FDA to rename “corn sugar.” I don’t know if all the bad publicity surrounding HFCS is based on good science. One of my heros Marion Nestle wrote a great blog post on this http://www.foodpolitics.com/2010/09/corn-refiners-ask-fda-to-replace-hfcs-with-corn-sugar/

    I think the biggest problem related to this scramble (as you pointed out) is too much sugar overall in the American diet. Manufactures are getting rid of HFCS and replacing it with white table sugar as quickly as possible and then going to label their products as “Natural!” “Contains only cane sugar!” Nice, but it is still a product full of sugar that most of us don’t need. Taking out HFCS doesn’t turn a product into a health food.

  • http://chefgaynol.com Chef Gaynol

    Interesting article, I think by the time they do the further study to more fully explain their results, the point will be moot since HFCS has already been convicted in the court of public opinion. Again, not that I’m crying over this but their are a lot of factors contributing to the rising obesity epidemic in America. Getting rid of one ingredient and replacing it with another ingredient that has the same or greater caloric count won’t make the problem go away. The huge increase in portion sizes both in drinks and entrees along with more reliance on fast food (see my post on Ammonia Burgers http://www.chefgaynol.com/2010/08/ammonia-burgers-yum.html and I guarantee you’ll think twice before hitting the drive through) and processed foods along with lack of exercise are all factors that need to be addressed if we’re going to get America back into her skinny jeans.

  • http://some-thingscookin.blogspot.com Kelly Cook

    While I agree that sugar is sugar, I disagree with HFCS being the same. First, the process of removing the starch from the kernal leaves mercury on the corn. Here’s just one link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-fructose_corn_syrup

    Second, what about the studies showing that our bodies don’t recognize the calories in HFCS, therefore not sending out the “I’m full” signal, causing us to consume way too many calories. There’s a lot of info out there and if “we the people” ever caught on that this isn’t healthy and actually stopped consuming it, big biz would be out way too much money to lose.

    One more thing, saying that all sugars are equal is equivalent to saying all flour is equal. Anyone buying that one?

  • christine h

    I have spent the last 15 months reading and learning about nutrition…trying to eat healthy, not diet! I’m with you….sugar is sugar and we eat too much of it. I am really trying hard to eat things with very few ingredients, with ingredients I could identify prior to getting a nursing degree, and with ingredients that are essentially in their original form. My son and husband are resistant but are starting to give in….at least at home with me.

  • http://netbizbuilder.com Duane Ford

    I’m no child (63) and remember the eating habits of my grandparents. They basically didn’t worry about what they ate!
    Two of them, my dad’s parents, both live to be 91. They, in particular, ate a diet that was mostly fried meat as the main part of all meals. They’d have bacon or sausage and eggs, cooked in the greas from the meat for breakfast. If not sandwiches for lunch, they’d have some kind of fried meat usually cooked in Crisco. Evening was usually fried steak or roast beef or pork. Maybe once a week they’d have fried chicken.

    Terrible diet according to what we’re told today yet they lived far beyond the normal life span.

    To me, it doesn’t matter so much what you eat as other things in your life such as worry (maybe about what you’re eating) and stress.

    Duane

  • http://chefgaynol.com Chef Gaynol

    Duane,
    I agree stress plays a huge role overall in our health. But I also think genetics is the wildcard in all these nutrition dilemmas. Some people are just blessed with good genes and no matter what they do or eat, they enjoy good health. Another factor, I think is activity, I would bet your grandparents were much more active than the average American is today. In my classes, I tell people the key is moderation and there are no bad foods, try to make good choices and enjoy what you do eat. Cheers!

  • http://thergonzalezfamily.blogspot.com/ Melissa

    My 2 cents…And not only is the sugar a problem so is the fact that the are having to produce the corn at such a rapid rate. So I say no GMO foods! Thanks for the post.

  • Jamie

    Table sugar does not cause “Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver” ( scarring of the Liver ) whereas HFCS does. The Liver cannot process HFCS thus causing major damage to the digestive system. You are being lied to. Diabetes in children an epidemic? Children with IBS?? Really?? Young adults and teens having their gallbladders removed due to “sludge” and stones?? Really?? The CRA and other well paid shills must think I have Cognitive Dissonance! I grew up in the early 60′s and 70′s and NO ONE I knew ( peer or otherwise ) had diabetes, ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, Fibromyalgia, IBS, GERD, Autism, Sludgy Gallbladders, or any other “modern day” illness. We were ( for the majority ) slender, happy and healthy!

    Duane, my mother fried everything….even tomatoes, squash and dessert, yet we were all slim and healthy. I had a balance of activity and being sedentary ( I read voraciously as a young child and teen ) yet never once struggled with weight issues, and, we even consumed cola products on a daily basis…….hmmm…….I am beginning to smell a rat in the corn bin. We also spent quite a bit of time in front of the telly…..especially in the winter months yet me, my brother and sisters were all slender and free of attention disorders and behavioral problems.

    Things have changed so drastically in the last 20 years that I think most people must be insane to not remember that this is NOT the way it used to be.

    I ate copious amounts of sweets as a teen and never had an issue with weight and while my “genes” might have something to do with this I highly doubt that this is the case in general. Tainted/toxic “food” is not food at all and will eventually kill you.
    They ( those few brave scientists ) claim that HFCS is highly addictive so I can see why so many people would fight to have the right to consume it and see it in their children’s diets.

    It appears that illogical and highly addicted people ( motivated by greed and self aggrandizement in some cases ) rule the world and public forums. Disgusting and reprehensible.

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