Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mmm...Fructose. by now, many have seen the commercials from the Corn Refiners about how safe & normal High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is. I hate to be the one to continue to poo-poo their ideas, but I thought I'd take a quick look at their fact sheet & maybe point out a few things they aren't discussing.
  • The American Medical Association (AMA) concluded that "high fructose syrup does not appear to contribute to obesity more than other caloric sweeteners."
  • The American Dietetic Association (ADA) concluded that "No persuasive evidence supports the claim that high fructose corn syrup is a unique contributor to obesity." if you're watching all sugar intake you should be okay? Not so, according to clinical nutritionist Melanie Pearsall who says, "The way that fructose is metabolized can lead to high triglyceride levels and that can lead you to be overweight, a marker for heart disease if you have got a lot of high triglycerides floating around in your blood." Additionally there is a theory that suggests HFCS is more easily converted to fat by the liver.

  • Research confirms that high fructose corn syrup is safe and nutritionally the same as table sugar and honey.
  • High fructose corn syrup has the same number of calories as table sugar and is equal in sweetness. It contains no artificial or synthetic ingredients.

Cane and beet sugars are mostly sucrose. The glucose and fructose which are the two components of HFCS are monosaccharides, sucrose is a disaccharide composed of glucose and fructose linked together with a relatively weak glycosidic bond. A molecule of sucrose will be broken down into a molecule of glucose + a molecule of fructose in a weakly acidic environment. Sucrose is broken down during digestion into fructose and glucose through hydrolysis by the enzyme sucrase, by which the body regulates the rate of sucrose breakdown. Without this regulation mechanism, the body has less control over the rate of sugar absorption into the bloodstream.
The fact that sucrose is composed of glucose and fructose units chemically bonded complicates the comparison between cane sugar and HFCS. Sucrose, glucose and fructose are unique, distinct molecules. Phew. That's my chemistry lesson for the decade. (I had to read about 30 different website to even understand the little bit that I put in here! Then later, I found almost this exact explanation in wiki...oh why oh why didn't I wiki first??)

  • In 1983, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration formally listed HFCS as safe for use in food and reaffirmed that decision in 1996.

Acid was "safely" used in hospital experimentation at one time. But it's illegal now.

  • High fructose corn syrup offers numerous benefits. It keeps food fresh, enhances fruit and spice flavors, retains moisture in bran cereals, helps keep breakfast and energy bars moist, maintains consistent flavors in beverages and keeps ingredients evenly dispersed in condiments.

Things are kept "fresher" longer b/c HFCS is a preservative. Embalming fluids keeps corpses fresh, but I don't want it in my food, ya know? I have a miracle ingredient that enhances the flavors of's called salt! Or you could even, you know...use real, fresh ingredients. Then the flavors wouldn't need to be enhanced. And if a lot of the unnatural ingredients were taken out of our foods, our taste buds would change. It would be easier for us to enjoy & taste the natural flavors without the need to enhance them. It does disperse more easily in beverages, have you ever tried to stir sugar into cold tea?? So...that's um...the one thing they've got going for it.

My issue with HFCS is not necessarily any of the issues already presented. My main issue is it's saturation in the food market. It's in almost EVERYTHING! I can understand the use of it in things like soft drinks. It's cheaper than sugar, it's easy to mix into the liquids, the syrup stays "fresher" longer. But it's not just in my's also in my hamburger bun, the condiments, and it might even be mixed into the coating on the fries! Nearly every item I pick up in the grocery store has it. Although, I believe the kosher foods are still free of if you see a little "K" marked on things, you'll know it's Kosher, and if you check the ingredients list, it's unlikely that you'll see HFCS in the ingredients list.

Now...for the biggest issue, and one that I feel has contributed to a lot of the obesity issues, even if HFCS doesn't necessarily CAUSE obesity. When you are full...your tummy lets your brain know, "No more, thanks!" You feel full, and push your plate away. HFCS suppresses that connection. You eat and eat...and realize, "Hey, I'm not really feeling full!" When you see your plate is empty, you get seconds...or you wait an hour & have a snack (which is likely filled with HFCS). And then what? The connection continues to be suppressed - unable to tell your brain to, "Put the fork down, you're killing us!"

So...draw your own conclusions. I won't tell you to avoid it or to eat it. But at least know what you're eating. ;)


Cynthia1770 said...

My google alert for HFCS picked up your post. You have been doing a lot of good reading. I preach the treachery of HFCS so my bias is clear. has an extensive list of HFCS-free foods and beverages. Arnold's bread is HFCS-free. Ditch HFCS, especially HFCS-55 which has an extra bolus of fructose and is found in all national brands of soda, fruit drinks, and, ironically, sports quenchers. To your health.

Maegan said...

Thanks Cynthia! I appreciate the info...and am glad there are others out there doing some good work. I have always been a fan of Arnold bread...but bread is one of those things I don't check labels on, cuz I need it if I need it, and can't always be picky! I will be sure to check out the website you've listed, too!