Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The end of HFCS

There is a lot more to it than blaming high fructose corn syrup for our nation's obesity epidemic. But, needless to say, recent research is really putting the nail in the coffin about its health effects.

In spite of those commercials unleashed by the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) stating that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is really just like sugar and should be eaten in moderation, it isn't really just like sugar. In fact, it's not at all just like sugar in its chemistry as well as how it is processed in the body. But the CRA, a trade group consisting of companies like Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland, everyone's favorite mega-corps, or should I say mega-corpse, doesn't want you to believe that.

However, a recent study out of Princeton has shown that HFCS is not all that the CRA claims it to be. Rats given access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same.

From the article:
In addition to causing significant weight gain in lab animals, long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup also led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen, and a rise in circulating blood fats called triglycerides. The researchers say the work sheds light on the factors contributing to obesity trends in the United States.

"Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn't true, at least under the conditions of our tests," said psychology professor Bart Hoebel, who specializes in the neuroscience of appetite, weight and sugar addiction.

"When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they're becoming obese - every single one, across the board. Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don't see this; they don't all gain extra weight."

...rats on a diet rich in high-fructose corn syrup showed characteristic signs of a dangerous condition known in humans as the metabolic syndrome, including abnormal weight gain, significant increases in circulating triglycerides and augmented fat deposition, especially visceral fat around the belly.

Male rats in particular ballooned in size: Animals with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained 48 percent more weight than those eating a normal diet.

So, is high fructose corn syrup dead? Well, PepsiCo is taking it out of Gatorade and some brands of Pepsi. Starting in May, Hunt's Ketchup will contain sugar, not HFCS. Kraft is removing it from their Wheat Thins and Snapple is HFCS free. The list of products with HFCS removed from them goes on and on.

The ax is falling slowly but, after this report, I think we'll see a lot more products touting the fact that they are HFCS free. What kind of impact do you think this will have on the obesity rates? Do you think it will matter much or do you think the obesity problem has more to do with eating habits and lack of exercise? Is it even rational to blame it all on HFCS?

36 comments:

Wonder-ful said...

I'm glad you touched on those "HFCS is good...in moderation" commercials. They bug me to no end (and I don't even watch tv that much). Anytime I happen upon one, I find myself arguing with the commercial about their claims.

Deb(bie Debbie Doo) said...

that bit about the rats getting fat on less than what's in one soda - WOW! I will be renewing my requests to have no more HFC products coming into our home!!!

Juliana Crespo said...

I swore off HFCS a couple of years ago. I have read, too, that HFCS has traces of mercury (a by-product of the intense processing that goes on). Big culprits were Yoplait yogurt, Hershey's chocolate syrup, and Coca-Cola. No wonder Americans are prone to obesity and cancer! Not only is the crap bad for you because it makes you gain weight, it also introduces mercury into the system, mercury being one of the most (if not the most) toxic chemical out there. Thanks for the blog, and I look forward to reading more.

Juliana Crespo said...

Oh, by big culprits, I meant those foods with high traces of mercury.

Rachel B. said...

I'm glad Hunt's is taking HFCS out of their ketchup! And I like the Pepsi throwback and am considering it as my soad of choice (if I start drinking soda again).
"But it's natural!" To me, there is nothing natural about HFCS.

Peak Oil Hausfrau said...

ha ha ha! the sweet maiden laughs -it's just corn! it's just sugar!

Disgusting!! Isn't there some kind of truth in advertising law?

knutty knitter said...

I've never actually tasted anything with that stuff in - it isn't used here. Is it very different to ordinary sugar? Taste wise I mean.

I do use ordinary sugar as sweeteners have a totally different form of sweet and I'd much rather just lower my intake instead.

viv in nz

Kristi said...

It's amazing to see everything that now has HFCS in it. Bread, tomato soup, canned beans, pancake syrup. When that study came out, I told the family that I wasn't buying anything that contained it anymore. I forgot to read the label on some lemonade I bought today - yup, it's in that, too. Hardest hit is hubby and his Coca-cola habit.

Dale said...

YES!!!!! There is still the possibility of justice in consumerism.

Laura said...

It's not rational to blame our obesity on HFCS alone,no. Weren't we all getting heavier before HFCS came along? It is part of the problem not the problem in entirety, I say.

On the 'HFCS' free bit, are we going to run into the "it says there is no HFCS in here but that just means that less than x% of the sugars come from HFCS and so the company gets to call it 'free' of the stuff" run around? I hate it when they do that.

I am glad to hear that the ads failed and companies are backpedaling to get it out of their products! Good stuff. :)

Corinne said...

Hopefully this is the start of something good.

Mommypotamus said...

This reminds me of something Michael Pollan said in his interview with Oprah: "That’s what I love about this issue. It’s so empowering. We all can vote for our forks. We get three votes a day, right? And you don’t have to get every one of them right: But if you get one of them right a day . . . if you vote for food that has been sustainably grown or humanely grown, whatever your values are, whatever values you want to support, but with consciousness . . . you will change the food system. It’s happening now."

Woot woot for small changes that could lead to bigger ones!

Sharlene said...

We don't do any HFC in this house. As a mother of a child with special needs I have seen the difference HFC makes in sensitive kids. It is so toxic. There is nothing good about HFC.

debi9kids said...

WOOHOO! Our home has been HFCS free for a few years now and I have been tooting this horn for a long time! I am THRILLED to hear that studies are finally producing what we already knew.
It's about time!

Adrienne said...

Heinz is coming out with no HFCS ketchup too, but first they're getting snarky about it in this article I just happeend to read this morning. http://consumerist.com/2010/04/ask-heinz-if-it-makes-non-hfcs-ketchup-get-health-and-diet-lecture.html

Maybe this will make us all a tiny bit healthier, but really I don't think it's going to do much for obesity, b/c it is about habits as you say.

Audrae Erickson said...

You might be interested in reading what others have to say about the Princeton study before accepting the results.

“So, I’m skeptical. I don’t think the study produces convincing evidence of a difference between the effects of HFCS and sucrose on the body weight of rats. I’m afraid I have to agree with the Corn Refiners on this one. So does HFCS make rats fat? Sure if you feed them too many calories altogether. Sucrose will do that too.” Marion Nestle, Ph.D., Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health, New York University http://cli.gs/Jrsys

“The researchers concluded ‘over-consumption of HFCS could very well be a major factor in the ‘obesity epidemic,’ which correlates with the upsurge in the use of HFCS.’ It might be. But to my mind, these experiments hardly prove it.” Karen Kaplan, Science Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times http://bit.ly/buSWxb

“This study is poorly designed and poorly controlled and does not prove or even suggest that HFCS is more likely to lead to obesity than sucrose [table sugar].” Karen Teff, Ph.D., Associate Director, Institute for Diabetes, Obesity & Metabolism, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine http://bit.ly/bkD52b

Consumers are being misled into thinking that there are nutritional differences between high fructose corn syrup and sugar, when in fact they are nutritionally the same. Whether from cane, beets, or corn, a sugar is a sugar. Read what other experts have to say about sweetener switching. http://bit.ly/bkD52b

You can also learn more about high fructose corn syrup at www.SweetSurprise.com.

Audrae Erickson, Corn Refiners Association

Azulao said...

Looking a little more carefully at the methods, I'm not sure that the researchers showed *definitively* that HFCS was any worse *for rats* than sucrose.

That's not saying much for the health benefits of HFCS, is it?

HFCS is so cheap that we CAN put it in everything, which is why overall in the biggest possible picture, it's such a worse problem than sucrose.

Mel said...

I'm with Michael Pollan. Whatever the science says about HFCS versus sucrose may be open to interpretation. But generally, HFCS is contained in low quality, food-like substances rather than food. So, give me REAL food EVERY day, with the occasional splurge on REAL food made with real sweeteners, and get that processed horse shit away from me.

Mel said...

Dear Ms. Corn Refiners Association: Nothing personal, but I can't wait until there's no longer a reason for you to hold your current job. I hope you consider organic farming as an alternative career!

Stephany said...

Did you see Duke's study which links the stuff to liver scarring.

http://www.dukehealth.org/health_library/news/high_fructose_corn_syrup_linked_to_liver_scarring

e4 said...

BREAKING NEWS: Corn refiners defend HFCS. Tobacco companies defend cigarettes. Republicans defend Glenn Beck. Pope defends... er, well... nevermind.

More studies to ponder: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mercola/sugar-may-be-bad-but-this_b_463655.html

Robbie said...

I read somewhere that we eat 60lbs of sugar a year. Will it help to get rid of HFCS? Maybe. But I think it's part of a larger problem we have with food in general.

VHMPrincess said...

THERE IS HFCS IN MY WHEAT THINS?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Amber said...

I find HFCS alarming on many levels, and not just because of this study. It's a highly processed food, produced from a food plant that is often genetically modified and sprayed with vast quantities of pesticides. Even if it isn't causing the obesity epidemic, I want to steer clear.

I think that, as more of us feel that way, we will naturally see a reduction in HFCS use. Just as we saw a big reduction in trans fats a few years ago. All the same, the better solution would be to avoid processed foods. As long as we're eating those in quantity, our health will be compromised.

Lisa Sharp said...

Audrae Erickson: Real sugar doesn't cause liver damage and doesn't have mercury in it!

Also in the studies with rats on weight EVERY rat gained while with sugar just some did.

Liz said...

Told my 8-year-old about the Princeton study and she has decided to do a mouse experiment of her own, including mice on corn syrup, mice on sugar solution & mice just having water... stay tuned for next year's science fair...

Robj98168 said...

When I forst saw the title of your post in my reader... I thought it read "the end of KFC" which wouldn't hurt my feelings any. These commercials are evil, misleading and of course put out by the CORN syrup Association.

PatRD said...

As a registered dietitian, consultant to the food and beverage industry and a college professor I say let’s deal with the facts. High fructose corn syrup, sugar and honey all contain the same number of calories (four calories per gram).

According to the American Dietetic Association, “high fructose corn syrup…is nutritionally equivalent to sucrose. Once absorbed into the blood stream, the two sweeteners are indistinguishable.” Like table sugar and honey, high fructose corn syrup contains no artificial or synthetic ingredients or color additives.

One study on rats does not convince me that mass changes in the food supply are warranted.

Condo Blues said...

But the one thing that defenders of High Fructose Corn Syrup aren't saying is that the body had to work harder to digest it and break it down. HFCS is broken down by the liver not the stomach like regular sugar and HFCS makes it work harder to digest it. That is why diabetics have to avoid it like the plague.

Julie Mains said...

Ohhhhhh Dear.

Just because you have a lobby and a lab that can tweak results to your liking - so you can then go and influence the government, etc does not mean that what you are doing is right or good or moral.

Making your fellow humans unhealthy on purpose is immoral and unethical.

Shame on you High Fructose Corn Syrup Lobby. Or Corn Refiners Association.

Anonymous said...

Making your fellow humans unhealthy on purpose is immoral and unethical.

I hope you enjoy your paycheck, Corn Refiners Association.

Jenn said...

OK - assuming that HFCS is innocuous to the human body, having the same nutritional value and amount of calories as any other sugar - let's talk about

- the amount of energy expended to produce HFCS compared to other kinds of sugar
- the amount of water used to produce HFCS compared to other kinds of sugar (using nutritional equivalents, of course)
- the amount of acres of non-edible corn required to create this highly processed product that we can't even produce in our own homes (I could produce maple syrup or honey on my own, even extract cane sugar, given the equipment & materials)

- let's talk about how our system of agricultural subsidies of corn for fuel and HFCS has completely fucked up food production in this country and resulted

- GMO corn, anyone care to touch on that?

- oh - and how about, finally, pollution from chemicals used in producing this corn for HCFS

Screw all that - I will stick to maple syrup, honey, agave & unrefined cane sugar.

Stephany said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephany said...

The American Dietetic Association...the organization that brought us the school lunch. Nice job with that *snort*

Mel said...

If you really want to inform yourself about the dangers of sugar (fructose, specifically), set aside some time and listen to Dr. Robert Lustig here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM&feature=player_embedded

Len said...

HFCS is a bad one, but its death will be slow, I think. Economics are part of it.

But let's not discount the effects of processed foods in general, from the over-abundance of dense carbohydrates to excessive saturated fat and chemicals that we should not be putting in our bodies (or even land fills).

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