Have you guys seen that commercial where the guy and girl are about to share a popsicle, and he’s like, “wait, doesn’t that have high fructose corn syrup in it?” and she’s like, “yeah, so?” and he can’t come up with a reason it’s bad, but he thinks he remembers hearing something about why he should avoid it, and she’s all, “It’s nutritionally the same as sugar and is fine in moderation!” And then the tagline appears, and the ad is sponsored by the Corn Refiners Association’s “Sweet Surprise” campaign (SHOCKER), wherein they encourage you to visit their website and find out the facts! You’ll be in for a sweet surprise!
So this guy should listen to his gut. Yes, high fructose corn syrup is bad. It’s in nearly every processed candy or soda or junk food, because it’s sweeter and cheaper and easier to process than real sugar, and corn is subsidized by the government. Yes, it’s linked to diabetes and obesity. You probably know all that. But this ad is annoying, because they’re saying that it “has the same number of calories as sugar and is handled similarly by the body.” Yes, it has the same calories as sugar, and yes, it will jack your body’s natural blood sugar levels the same as sugar, but what they’re leaving out is that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is highly processed and that much of the corn we grow here in the US is genetically modified. It’s not even close to being a real food. Of course, much of the sugar we consume in junk food is refined as well (it doesn’t start out crystalline white), but not nearly to the effect that HFCS is processed. Also, HCFS hits the bloodstream faster than sugar because of its chemical structure, and studies show it raises triglyceride levels (fats in the bloodstream) more than sugar.
Additionally, there is concern about the fact that nearly every processed food contains some kind of corn: your McDonald’s beef comes from corn-fed cows, your potato chips were fried in corn oil, your soda contains HFCS, and your bun has corn starch or corn flour. So much corn in everything you eat can lead to food allergies from a homogenous diet. We thrive on variety. I talk more about this in my post on the Cornification of America.
The wesbite (http://www.sweetsurprise.com) says that “High fructose corn syrup provides many consumer benefits.” Like what, diabetes? Look, I’m not going to going into excruciating detail about why HFCS is the devil. The fact is, the food industry puts this stuff in processed food because it’s cheap to produce, it’s cheap to process, it makes things sweet, adds structure to food and baked goods, makes sodas sweeter than sugar, etc. And yes, it is up to the consumer to take charge of his/her health and practice moderation, but this stuff is in everything. It’s everywhere. Kids are drinking this in juice, getting it in cereal, ketchup, fast food products. Here is a surprising list of foods in which you’ll find corn syrup or HFCS:
stove top stuffing
capri sun juice drinks
breads (like Pepperidge Farm’s line of 100% whole grain breads)
tons of cereal, mostly Kellogg’s
Eggo breakfast stuff
pop tarts (no surprise there)
nutrigrain cereal bars
cottage cheese & yogurt
ben & jerry’s ice cream
Oscar Mayer Lunchables
The issue is that this ingredient is everywhere, and yes, it does lead to obesity because it causes high levels of insulin to be released in the bloodstream, and insulin triggers fat storage. It also sets you on a cycle to crave more sugar or sweets. In a perfect world, we’d all be eating whole foods that aren’t processed, but in the meantime, the food industry could stop poisoning us with highly processed chemicals that cause myriad health issues.
The website even has a section where nutritionists and dieticians state that HCFS is the same as sugar and blah blah blah the body can’t distinguish it from sugar and it’s fine in moderation. This is just irresponsible. As a holistic nutritionist, I would never advise anyone to eat HFCS — in moderation or otherwise. Look, avoid this junk. Really. If you want something sweet, choose foods that are naturally sweetened with honey, raw sugar, or stevia. Make your own desserts so that you know what goes into them. Don’t poison yourself with this crap and don’t feed it to your family. This is what’s wrong with our food supply: the majority of it isn’t even real food. It’s been manufactured in a lab to artificially flavor foods or increase the shelf life, as is the case with hydrogenated fats. When did we get to a world of foods with corn syrup and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils? Because it’s acceptable to choose cheap food production over our own health? Let’s stop the obesity and diabetes epidemic not by “moderation” but by avoidance of all non-foods.
Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. In addition to her coaching practice, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and kick nagging digestive issues for good. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.
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