Sunday, May 2, 2010

High Fructose Corn Syrup Has An Image Problem


It was bound to happen.

The seeds of public disillusionment and potential demise of high-fructose corn syrup, and corn syrup in general, were sown at the moment they were introduced to the market and food manufacturers realized that they could put them in almost any product that might benefit from the introduction of sugar. Just like processed fats and oils, salt, MSG and modified starches, Red Dye #2 and dozens of other food additives,  corn syrups became ubiquitous and overused.

So as the millions who were already on their way to handing over complete responsibility for the construction of their food to corporate others, became obese and developed  high blood pressure and diabetes, it was only natural that many of them would blame corn syrup as a culprit.

 Never mind that the real reason they were experiencing health problems was that they were being duped into eating too much sugar, salt and fat by manufacturers who added these ingredients to everything they produced.  Disregard the fact that people were being suckered into overeating by companies (To whom they had ceded responsibility for their diets, don't forget!) that kept increasing portion sizes because they wanted to sell more food and knew that most people will eat until their plate is clean. In the tortured  logic of an increasingly vulnerable  processed food addicted public, its choice to entrust its diet to companies who don't give a flying f--k about anything more than making their stockholders happy, it's the ingredients in the food that are the cause of their health problems.

 So now there is an outcry from some of these poor souls to replace corn syrup -which is made by breaking down corn starch into sugars with acids and enzymes- with something more "natural" like cane sugar.

Well, I say "good luck with that" because while there may be valid environmental and economic reasons to reduce production of corn syrup, substituting cane sugar isn't going to make junk food any healthier and less likely to cause obesity and diabetes. Ketchup (see the article below) or soda pop made with cane sugar isn't any better for you than the same product made with corn syrup. Oh sure, there may be differences in the way one's metabolism responds to some of the monosaccharides (e.g. glucose, fructose) in corn syrup relative to the sucrose in cane sugar. But at the end of the day, too much sugar in the diet is too much sugar. So instead of obsessing about the stupid ingredients in the processed food that we are shoveling into our every expanding gullets, how about not buying and eating so much processed food? 

For High-Fructose Corn Syrup, Sweet Talk Gets Harder -


Tags said...

The only studies the HFCS sellers cite are the ones they sponsor.

Tyrone B, said...

I agree.

But on the rare occasion that I drink soda, I like the taste from the cane sugar better...but then again I have been doing without (soda)quite fine!

I remember tasting a few 'sodas' in Honduras and saying WOW! that's nothing like back home.

Jennifer S said...

As Pollan says, why do we keep looking at individual ingredients? Because we don't have to actually look at who's responsible!

Jason Sandeman said...

Honestly, it all comes down to money and health. One needs to ask themselves, why switch from a product that we used for a long time, to one that actually costs us more after you factor in the costs of subsidies?

Both are bad, but the jury is still out on HFCS. Sodas had been around for a long time before the gradual replacement of the sweetening agent. Diabetes is on the rise, an epidemic.

If one was to sweeten the foods with aspartame, do you think there would be an uproar? You bet!

I agree though, we rely way to much on the junk. One thing that Diabetes has blessed me with is the change in the way that I eat.

Tags said...

The problem with HFCS is that it's cheaper, so the manufacturers have a strong motive to fudge the facts because they charge the same but make more profit.

If money is a boat, BS is the wake.

Natalie Sztern said...

If only I had an encyclopedia for all the different types of 'sugar' on the market...being diabetic type 2, 'sugar' was the forbidden fruit.

The only knowledge I have of sugar is that if I am going to indulge - it has to be a 'sugar' that is long acting....??? dextrose or maltose or some shit like that and then when I read the front label it says "sugar-free"!

corn syrup is supposedly a no-no for me whatever corn syrup is: (i always thought of it as the Aunt Jemima syrup)

Tags said...

Well, it's almost the end of the day, and Bob's original assertion still stands above anything else said - the best way is to stop buying and eating so much processed food.

I don't drink many sodas anymore, and when I do I dilute them with ice water I keep in the fridge (it's much more refreshing, and I use a Sears water filter under the sink instead of subsidizing soda manufacturers by buying their water)

Justin Wilson said...

You couldn’t be more right when you emphasize that this isn’t about an ingredient or two. This is about our entire diets; everything we eat. Replacing one sugar with another sugar isn’t going to fix anything, especially if you are eating too much sugar to start with. Both table sugar and high fructose corn syrup are indistinguishable to the human body. You know what our bodies are able to distinguish? How much we eat and how much physical activity we get.

Tags said...

Actually, studies that aren't sponsored by the HFCS manufactures show that HFCS causes a spike in the blood sugar faster and more pronounced than plain table sugar.

Jason Sandeman said...

@Justin - It is not really as simple as that. What it boils down to is insulin resistance. Diabetes is not necessarily caused by diet alone. To say so is to spit in the face of a lot of people who get the disease regardless of how they eat.

HFCS has been shown to cause a great deal of concern regarding blood glucose spikes when compared to regular table sugar. In fact, table sugar ranks 55 on the Insulin index verses HFCS 120. The two are completely different, and dangerous as well.

Exorcise is definately lacking in this country, but so is accountability. It seems that while you can shrug off drinking cola to avoid consuming HFCS, you are not so lucky when it comes to other articles that you use every day. The name changes, but the product is the same. Did you know that even breads, cereals, yogurts, condiments, sauces and others have HFCS? It is really hard now to say that, unless you really make it yourself, that it does not have some form of this stuff in it.

The other question comes from food safety - who are you going to trust that it is safe? The people who are paid to assure us that it is "essentially the same?"

Great question indeed.