I was watching TV the other day when a commercial came on that caught me eye. (full disclosure: actually, it was a different commercial from the same group, it was two guys sitting around, almost like a Sunny D commercial, but I digress… the content was essentially the same, and I can\’t find the one I saw on youtube) WHAT??? So the backlash against HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) is so bad \”Big HFCS\” had to create an ad campaign? The most chilling part of the ad is: \”like sugar it\’s fine in moderation\”. Wait… HFCS is in everything… as evidenced by HFCSFacts.com. But doesn\’t the information there contradict itself? \”As HFCS use increased in the United States, it replaced sugar in various foods and beverages on a nearly one-for-one basis, as the chart (below) illustrates. Yet because sugar and HFCS share a common composition, the ratio of fructose-to-glucose in the diet has remained relatively unchanged over time.\” According to this website that isn\’t true: \”In 1980 the average person ate 39 pounds of fructose and 84 pounds of sucrose. In 1994 the average person ate 66 pounds of sucrose and 83 pounds of fructose, providing 19 percent of total caloric energy. Today approximately 25 percent of our average caloric intake comes from sugars, with the larger fraction as fructose.\” Another quote from Big HCFS: \”This confirms that the approximate overall sugars mixture in the foods and beverages we consumeâ€”principally glucose and fructoseâ€”is nearly the same today as it was 30 years ago, before HFCS was introduced.\” Well looking at the graph, it certainly looks like the Total Caloric Sweeteners line (red) is much higher today than in 1978. By more than 10 pounds per person. Big HCFS also states: \”HFCS contains approximately equal ratios of fructose and glucose, as does table sugar, honey and many fruits.\” That\’s not true either. Their own website even says: \”HFCS is sold principally in two formulationsâ€”42 percent and 55 percent fructoseâ€”with the balance made up of primarily glucose and higher sugars\”… Is a 10% increase really \”approximately equal\”? As for Big HFCS\’s archrival, \”Big Sugar\”, they say: \”It is becoming more common to further process fructose-enriched corn syrups to increase fructose content. These enhanced fructose corn syrups contain at least 95% fructose by weight.\” One other thing to consider is Fructose Malabsorption. With all of this contridictory information, I found a good even-handed site: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-corn-syrup.htm \”Corn syrup is almost exactly as sweet as the granulated sugar (sucrose) it often replaces in recipes. Corn syrup can be naturally light in color which is often used in candymaking or darker which is usually used for general baking purposes. The light form of corn syrup may have vanilla flavoring added, while the dark corn syrup has a stronger natural flavor. The advantage of corn syrup over sugar is its resistance to crystallization. A candy lollipop made with corn syrup will retain its smooth texture, while a similar treat made from pure sugar may turn into a hardened rock candy. Corn syrup also prohibits crystal formation when sugar is added to a cake or fudge mixture. Light and dark corn syrup both have a balance of dextrose, fructose, malt and glucose to keep them chemically stable, although corn syrup does have a limited shelf life compared to other sweeteners. The most controversial form of corn syrup, however, is rarely sold directly to consumers, although it can be found in a majority of processed foods sold in grocery stores. Welcome to the world of high fructose corn syrup.\” And http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-high-fructose-corn-syrup.htm \”[after a discussion of the expensive and complicated process it takes to make HFCS] Amazingly enough, all of this processing does not significantly add to the cost of producing high fructose corn syrup. Partially because of high tariffs placed on imported cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup is still cheaper than sugar and can be inexpensively shipped in tanker trucks. From an economic standpoint, everyone from the corn farmer to the food processor to the consumer wins with the use of high fructose corn syrup.\” … \”However, not everyone is sold on the benefits of high fructose corn syrup. Some health experts express concern over the level of genetic modification and processing used to create the finished product. Even though consumers associate fructose with natural fruit sugars, the concentration of fructose found in high fructose corn syrup is not necessarily natural. Diabetics and others who must monitor their blood sugar levels may not get accurate glycemic readings after ingesting fructose. Others point out the association between processed foods containing high fructose corn syrup and obesity.\” My take: The key is \”processed foods\”. It doesn\’t appear that HFCS is as much of a health
menace as Trans Fats has turned out to be. However there are enough questions that it is worth reconsidering. Three points are important to keep in mind: a) most people find that foods made with cane sugar taste better than those made with HFCS; 2) HFCS is cheaper than cane sugar due to tarriffs; and iii) Fructose doesn\’t produce insulin which can prevent one from feeling full (although how much this influences is up for debate). If you prefer the taste, and can afford making the switch, it\’s worth doing. If you can\’t tell the difference or can\’t afford to pay more… at this point in time the science doesn\’t quite support it. One should focus on removing processed foods from your diet (which in turn will lower your HFCS intake quite a bit). Limit or quit drinking soda (diet soda with aspartame is probably even worse than HFCS). And lastly, apparently we should all start eating more liver… or pennies.