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    Archive for the ‘high fructose corn syrup’ Category

    Q & A Roundup

    I thought it would be fun and informative to feature some of the more interesting questions I have received via email and social media over the past few weeks. Here they are — with my answers, of course — for your perusal.

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    2011: A Year to Remember (and Forget!)

    It wasn’t until I started compiling stories for this post that I realized just how much had taken place this year on issues of food, agriculture, and nutrition. While by no means a definitive list, I think it covers the most substantial events.

    So, if you’ve been spelunking in Antarctica for the past twelve months — or just want a short trip down memory lane — let’s review 2011, the year where:
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    You Ask, I Answer: High Maltose Corn Syrup

    063121I just grabbed a granola bar that contains high maltose corn syrup.

    I looked up that ingredients and it looks like it’s basically the same as high fructose corn syrup. I also read that it also goes by the name “maltodextrin.”

    This granola bar lists both high maltose corn syrup and maltodextrin in the ingredients.  Why would it contain both?

    Lastly, should I avoid high maltose corn syrup as much as I try to avoid high fructose corn syrup.

    — Beth Longwell
    Via Facebook

    High maltose corn syrup (HMCS) and dextrose are utilized for slightly different purposes.

    Usually, HMCS is used for sweetening, while maltodextrin is used for texture/mouthfeel purposes (sometimes along with the intent to add sweetness).  That explains why they are listed as separate ingredients.

    Much like high fructose corn syrup, HMCS is highly processed and usually made from genetically modified corn, so I don’t see any reason to seek it out.

    If the only time you consume it is two times a week in a granola bar, though, I wouldn’t be too concerned.  Environmental and political issues aside, the alarming fact about high fructose corn syrup is the obscene amount in which it is consumed.  The average American takes in almost 38 pounds of it in one year!

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    Numbers Game: One of These Things Is Not Like The Other…

    corn-field-schuyler-nebraska-neb168One and a half percent of U.S. cropland is devoted to vegetables, 1.6 percent to fruits, and _____ percent to corn that is exclusively used to produce high fructose corn syrup.

    a) 1.2
    b) 0.5
    c) 2
    d) 1

    Source: Recipe for America by Jill Richardson

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Sunday for the answer.

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    You Ask, I Answer/In The News: The Highly Controversial High Fructose Corn Syrup

    syrup2190I was wondering if you saw this weekend’s New York Times article about high fructose corn syrup.

    The author seems to minimize the scientific concern surrounding it.

    In your opinion, is the anti-HFCS movement just a bunch of hype or rightfully concerned?

    Thank you.

    — Edrie Moore
    Orlando, FL

    At the risk of sounding cliche, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

    New York University professor Dr. Marion Nestle — who I greatly admire and respect — is absolutely correct when she states in the article that, despite being no fan (and that’s an euphemism, if I ever heard one!) of the Corn Refiners Association, “they have biochemistry on their side”, since high fructose corn syrup and sugar are, from a chemical make-up standpoint, practically identical.

    FYI: Dr. Nestle has a PhD in molecular biology (her knowledge of nutrition science is top-notch) AND is highly critical of the food industry; she is the farthest thing from an airhead industry shill.

    My (and other nutrition experts’) concern with high fructose corn syrup goes well beyond chemical composition.

    For starters, high-fructose corn syrup is a genetically modified food, and one that is consumed in large amounts (the national average is 15 teaspoons per capita, per day) by millions of people.

    Here is what frightens me: there isn’t an iota of data on possible health effects from long-term consumption of high fructose corn syrup or genetically modified foods in general.  I prefer to err on the side of caution.

    Another good reason to avoid high fructose corn syrup?  It’s usually found in highly processed foods which also offer high amounts of sodium and unhealthy fats, and very little nutrition.

    It’s important to point out, though, that nutrition is only one part of the high-fructose corn syrup puzzle.

    Many people — myself included — equate the purchasing of products that contain high-fructose corn syrup with financially supporting agribusiness monoliths like Monsanto (I HIGHLY to the nth degree recommend reading this eye-opening, and infuriating, Vanity Fair article on Monsanto).

    It worries me that some people think that substituting high-fructose corn syrup with sucrose (table sugar) is the answer.  It isn’t.  The real answer is to significantly reduce consumption of all added sugars (honey, maple syrup, agave, brown sugar, etc.)

    Added sugars are problematic because they add calories but do absolutely nothing towards satiety (AKA: helping us feel full).  It is entirely possible to down 500 calories of soda (which gets all its calories from added sugars) in a matter of minutes… and still feel hungry half an hour later!

    On the flip side, try eating 500 calories’ worth of oatmeal — which offers fiber and protein — in one sitting.  I have a feeling you would have a very hard time. Even if you managed to achieve that “goal”, you would not be hungry for several hours.

    I choose to avoid foods that contain high fructose corn syrup, for the multitude of reasons listed above.  That said, I am not convinced that high fructose corn syrup intrinsically “causes” obesity, nor do I think that consuming 15 teaspoons of cane sugar a day is any healthier than that same amount of high fructose corn syrup.

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    In The News: Is Sugar’s "Time Out" Over?

    The New York Times recently profiled sugar’s triumphant return.

    “Blamed for hyperactivity in children and studied as an addictive substance, sugar has had its share of image problems,” the paper reports, “but the widespread criticism of high-fructose corn syrup has made sugar look good by comparison.”

    As much as the The Sugar Association loves this shift in consumers’ attitudes, I am absolutely dismayed that the issue at stake is whether sugar is more nutritious than high fructose corn syrup.

    A much more accurate — and healthful — concept would be to simply decrease the intake of added sugars, period.

    I understand the political, economic, environmental, and farming business implications behind high-fructose corn syrup that make it a bigger threat than sugar, but the fact remains that eating 100 grams of added sugars each day — whether as high fructose corn syrup or sugar — adds up to 400 extra calories.

    Dr. Robert H. Lustig of the University of California, San Francisco Children’s Hospital sums it up perfectly: “The argument about which is better for you, sucrose or HFCS, is garbage. Both are equally bad for your health.”

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    In The News: Not-so-Extreme Makeover

    The New York Times reports that Snapple is not only changing their tea’s label font as well as the shape of their bottles — they are also axing high fructose corn syrup and replacing it with sugar.

    Although both sweeteners are equal from a caloric standpoint, high fructose corn syrup brings other issues to the table — genetically modified crops, unbalanced farm subsidies, and such low commodity prices for corn that it’s no wonder you can get 24 more ounces of soda for two additional pennies at any fast food joint!

    What’s most interesting, though, is that Snapple is also slightly decreasing the sweetness of its tea.

    This is the old ingredient list for Lemon Snapple Iced Tea:

    Water, high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, tea, natural flavors.

    Calories: 200.

    Here is the new ingredient list:

    Filtered water, sugar, citric acid, tea, natural flavors.

    Calories: 160.

    Reminder: the lower calories are not due to sugar being less caloric than high-fructose corn syrup.  The new Snapple formula simply contains fewer grams of added sugar.

    Unfortunately, thee lower-calorie news is counter-balanced by developments that bother me — the new Snapple bottles have the words “All natural” and “Made from green & black tea leaves” in larger font.

    Meanwhile, PepsiCo will roll out limited quantities of Pepsi Throwback and Mountain Dew Throwback in April.

    The selling point? A nostalgic logo and the replacement of high fructose corn syrup with sugar.

    Although calories — and sugar grams — will go unchanged, at least mercury contamination won’t be a concern.

    By the way, Pepsi Throwback is not a brand new idea — it takes several pages from England’s Pepsi Raw.

    The impetus behind all this? Easy — company executives are seeing consumer backlash to high fructose corn syrup and this is one way to prevent profit margins from shrinking.

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    In The News: Mercury In High Fructose Corn Syrup

    Here’s some unpleasant news.

    The Washington Post is reporting on two recent studies published in Environmental Health which found that “almost half of tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) contained mercury, which was also found in nearly a third of 55 popular brand-name food and beverage products where HFCS is the first- or second-highest labeled ingredient.”

    Ranges varied from 0.005 to 0.57 micrograms of mercury per gram of high fructose corn syrup.

    Keep in mind that Environmental Protection Agency figures, for instance, consider 0.1 micrograms per kilogram of body weight to be the upper limit for safe intakes.

    This means, then that a 140 pound adult (63.6 kilograms) should consume no more than 6.36 micrograms a day.

    The problem here comes with the high amount of high fructose corn syrup consumed by the average child, teenager, and adult in the United States — 12 daily teaspoons on average.

    Let’s do some math.

    Twelve teaspoons of HFCS equal 48 grams.

    If those 48 grams came from the sample with the highest amount of mercury, that totals 27 micrograms of mercury in a single day!

    Two more things worth pointing out.

    First, sodas were found not to have any mercury in them despite consisting of mainly water and high fructose corn syrup. Perhaps this is due to some processing step?

    Second, controversy is arising due to rumblings that the lead author of one study allegedly alerted the Food & Drug Administration about her findings several years ago but, for reasons not known to anyone, these findings were reportedly not followed up on.

    The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy — which participated in both studies — is actively pushing for immediate changes in manufacturing that would not taint high fructose corn syrup with the infamous heavy metal.

    Yet another bullet point for the ever-expanding “important issues in food safety” list…

    And, more importantly, even more of a reason to limit the amount of processed, nutritionally inferior food (which is usually laden with added sugars, mainly in the form of high fructose corn syrup.)

    PS: Thank you to reader Dennise O’Grady for providing me with the second link in this post.

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    FNCE 2008: Out of Towners

    Some of the booths at this year’s American Dietetic Association Food & Nutrition Conference and Expo struck me as very out of place:

    Slimshots: A vanilla-flavored appetite suppresant. Maureen McCormick (Marcia Brady) istheir spokesperson. Appetite suppresants at a food conference?

    Corn Refiners Association: Despite current ADA president Martin Yaddrick’s statement that “The American Dietetic Association had no involvement with the recent Corn Refiners Association advertisements. ADA did not review or approve the ad in question, nor any wording in it; nor did ADA have advance knowledge of the advertisement,” the people behind this campaign were present at FNCE with all sorts of literature claiming high fructose corn syrup is just dandy.

    GNC and Vitamin Shoppe: Although these stores sell legitimate vitamins and minerals, they also hawk supplements (which are unregulated) that often succumb to nutrition quackery in their advertising.

    Coca Cola: I am completely at a loss as to how carbonated water with high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners belongs at a nutrition conference. Sprinkling corn fiber into it does not make it “healthy.”

    Thoughts?

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    Survey Results: Label Detectives

    The latest Small Bites survey asked visitors to identify particular ingredients they consciously try to avoid when purchasing food.

    Partially hydrogenated oil (44%) and high fructose corn syrup (43%) led the pack, while artificial dyes seemed troublesome to less visitors (9%).

    MSG, meanwhile, received 24% of votes.

    Three percent of respondents weren’t fazed by any of those ingredients, while 38% do not feel comfortable consuming any of them.

    The #1 enemy on that list is certainly partially hydrogenated oil.

    There is clear evidence showing the harmful effects it has on lipid profiles and, consequently, heart disease risk.

    The high fructose corn syrup situation goes beyond nutrition. Although it contributes as many calories to food as sugar (16 calories per teaspoon), its environmental effects are far worse.

    Additionally, because it is such a cheap ingredient, companies liberally include it in a variety of processed foods, in turn increasing total calories.

    It also doesn’t help that it is in everything from bread to Gatorade to pasta sauce.

    The important thing to keep in mind is that the more of these ingredients you see on a nutrition label, the more processed — and less nutritious — a given product is.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    A 16 ounce can of energy drink SoBe Adrenaline Rush contains 16.5 teaspoons of added sugar — all in the form of high fructose corn syrup.

    Yikes!

    By comparison, 16 ounces of Coca Cola offer 13.5 teaspoons of added sugar.

    And since this energy drink — like all others — does not contain fat or protein, its entire caloric content (264 calories) is derived from high fructose corn syrup.

    We’re basically talking about soda infused with caffeine, amino acids, and vitamin B12.

    I find that many people are unaware of the caloric punch these drinks can pack.

    For example, I am often greeted with surprise when I tell someone that one SoBe Adrenaline Rush drink and two shots of hard liquor add up to 460 calories.

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    Numbers Game: Sugar Rush

    A 16 ounce can of energy drink SoBe Adrenaline Rush contains ______ teaspoons of added sugar — all in the form of high fructose corn syrup.

    a) 16.5
    b) 12

    c) 14

    d) 22.5

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Tuesday for the answer.

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    Sensible Nonsense

    The folks at Nabisco advertise some of their products under the “sensible snacking” monicker, meaning “they not only taste good, but you can feel good about eating them, too!”

    One of these products is Ritz Toasted Snack Chips, which, Nabisco points out, “are not fried [and] have 40% less fat than potato chips.”

    Very well, but an ounce of these chips only offers 20 fewer calories than an ounce of potato chips — and an additional 100 milligrams of sodium!

    The main ingredients?  White flour, sugar, and high fructose corn syrup.

    The flavored varieties’ ingredient lists, meanwhile, boast no less than 25 ingredients.

    The dictionary defines “sensible” as “acting with or exhibiting good sense.”

    Perhaps Nabisco would be better off using another adjective for these products?

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    In 1980, average per capita consumption of high fructose corn syrup in the United States clocked in at 19 pounds. In 2005? 59 pounds.

    That’s a 310 percent increase in 25 years!

    A few other figures jump out for less than stellar reasons.

    Shortening (trans fat central!) consumption jumped from 18.2 pounds to 32.6 pounds in that same amount of time, and sour cream/dips more than doubled (from 3.4 half pints in 1980 to 7.9 half pints 25 years later.)

    It goes without saying that increased consumption also means increased caloric intake.

    And the increasing obesity rate over the past two decades is a mystery because…?

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    Numbers Game: The Syrup Spike

    In 1980, average per capita consumption of high fructose corn syrup in the United States clocked in at _______ pounds. In 2005? ________ pounds.

    (Source: US Census Bureau)

    a) 19, 59
    b) 10, 31

    c) 5, 48
    d) 25, 38

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Tuesday for the answer!

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