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Party Talk

March 24, 2011

Yesterday was All Over Albany’s third birthday party. And I got home really really late after spending all evening with wonderful and interesting people. Even so, there were a lot more people there that I really wanted to spend time with, but never got the chance. Luckily, I know there will be other opportunities.

I was very encouraged by how many people said they were planning to come on the Tour de Soft Serve and/or attend the Jewish Food Festival.

Anyhow, I got home far too late to actually write an entire original piece. But spending all night making cocktail party chitchat reminded me of this recent bit from Saturday Night Live. In it, one mom confronts another mom about the evils of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), and without any facts to back up her argument the mom who expressed concerned about the food additive looks positively foolish.

Well, it just so happens that a year ago today I posted links to a bunch of interesting studies on HFCS. Learn the facts, and don’t look like an ass should someone call you to task.

Crazy About High Fructose Corn Syrup

Originally posted on March 24, 2010

You know sometimes you just have a crazy feeling about things. Sometimes that crazy feeling is just that, crazy. And other times you may find out you are right.

Long before people became widely aware of the dangers of partially hydrogenated oils, I was scouring the markets for products without the dreaded ingredient. There had been some early reports that showed potential health concerns, so avoiding these manmade fats just felt right to me. At the time, my snack food options were limited to Mi-Del Ginger Snaps. Luckily, they were pretty tasty.

My crazy feeling du jour involves genetically modified organisms. Nobody is really paying that much attention to it today. But since the largest genetically modified crops are corn, canola and soy, GMOs are in practically everything. Most consumers have no idea this is going on, because in this country products that contain GMOs do not need to be labeled.

But for now, let’s focus on the present. Because there has been recent news about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) that I thought would be interesting to share with the class. And even if you’ve seen the research already, now you can get my take.

Basically, for the first time a study has been conducted that definitively shows that HFCS is worse for you than sugar. Well, at least it’s worse for rats. But that’s good enough for me.

Most informed people should know that eating any form of sweets is a treat and that eating too many sweets isn’t a good idea. A diet high in table sugar (sucrose) will most likely make you fat. A diet high in HFCS will most likely make you fat. And until now there hasn’t been a direct comparison between the two forms of sweeter that has controlled for overall caloric intake.

Let me put that last part another way. When the two groups of rats consumed the same amount of calories, the ones that had HFCS instead of table sugar got significantly fatter.

Princeton professor Bart Hoebel, who specializes in the neuroscience of appetite, weight, and sugar addiction, said the following about the research:

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.

Source: Science Daily
Note: Bolding added for emphasis.

Granted, they do not know exactly why this happens yet, but they know that it happens. Clearly the research involving HFCS has turned a very significant corner. You can track it over time. This is a rough sketch of some research reports on the subject.

August 2, 2005 – Research May Provide New Link Between Soft Drinks & Weight Gain
July 30, 2007 – Not Enough Evidence To Indict HFCS in Obesity
February 12, 2009 – Women Who Drink Lots Of Soda At Higher Risk For Early Kidney Disease
March 23, 2010 – HFCS Linked to Liver Scarring, Research Suggests

It’s a slow steady drumbeat towards the conclusion that many people have intuitively drawn for years: that consuming HFCS, a cheap sugar substitute made in a laboratory and used primarily to lower ingredient costs, isn’t good for people. On the other hand, up until now it has been very good for food manufacturing companies.

Naturally the president of the Corn Refiners Association maintains that HFCS is safe.

Of course the problem is that today HFCS is ubiquitous and in the most unlikely of places. Almost all sliced sandwich bread on store shelves contains it. And even brands that avoid HFCS in their bread still use it in their rolls and stuffing mixes. Several brands of yogurt are full of the stuff, and so are “healthy” cereals like Special K, Smart Start and Raisin Bran. I tried to wean my family off conventional Heinz ketchup for their organic version that uses sugar instead of HFCS, but they rebelled.

My primary concern isn’t necessarily health at this point. If you want to eat healthfully, it would be prudent to stay away from sweets in the first place. My primary concern is all the mucking around that is being done to our food supply for the sake of corporate profits.

Maybe next time you are at the grocery store you will do me a favor and read a few labels. You might be surprised at what you find. And perhaps you will decide to start voting with your credit card and leaving those products that contain HFCS on the shelves.

Although for me, some of the concern is the information that is not included on the label: Like the presence of genetically modified organisms or the use of BPA in can liners. While this may feel like crazy talk, I remember feeling the same way about partially hydrogenated oils and HFCS.

Let’s give it ten years, and then we’ll see.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 24, 2011 1:48 pm

    Thank you for posting this. I think it’s important for all people to read food labels. The bread issue is tricky. My six-year-old son likes the soft, whole wheat style of bread. It can be a challenge to find one that doesn’t have HFCS. Even the bread without the HFCS is too sweet. The rest of us eat Rock Hill Bakehouse, which makes wonderful sourdough and farm bread. No sugar or HFCS. The way bread should be, really.

  2. March 26, 2011 10:44 pm

    I’m that parent in the grocery aisle comparing ingredients in products and making sure there’s no HFCS. Almost 10 years ago, I did a power point presentation in college about genetically engineered products and how there was/is a need for them to be labeled as such because of the ramifications they can have on our bodies long-term. Still waiting on those labels. Never saw that HFCS SNL commercial, but I feel like that is how it is at every kids’ party or conversation I have with other parents. I’m the one getting dismissed for trying to be healthier. Guess I should start drinking wine at 10 a.m. just to deal with those parents that want to say to my face what that mom does. Any suggestions on wine? (or ports?)

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