Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Chased by High-Fructose Corn Syrup

That's how I feel sometimes as I'm shopping in the grocery store. It seems as though more and more products are made with high-fructose corn syrup. I have had such a hard time finding a single Kellogg's cereal without HFCS that I have stopped buying the company's cereals altogether.

What's the rub about HFCS? One of my complaints is simply a gut-level reaction -- don't screw around with my food by adding something whose real purpose is to artificially extend the life of the product (even beyond the chemical preservatives that are already in there).

Pepperidge Farm makes a good white bread with some whole wheat in it, but I was annoyed the other day to see that HFCS was one of the ingredients. What the hell is HFCS doing in a loaf of bread?

Another complaint I have is that using HFCS may allow processed food/beverage producers a back-door means of hiking the sweetness without indicating it on the nutritional label. I can't seem to confirm whether the presence of HFCS is included in the total grams of "sugar" listed on the nutritional panel. I strongly suspect it is not included. Dr. ChristopherMohr calls HFCS "one of the more popular aliases for sugar today."

My final complaint is focused squarely on health. Does HFCS contribute to health problems? I don't have the answer for that question. But this blog post on Consumer Reports' website reported that traces of mercury (which is unhealthy at any level) had been found in HFCS. The number of HFCS samples studied in this mercury analysis was small, which makes it hard to know how much of a problem this may or may not be.

There is also concern about a potential link between HFCS and obesity. The Mayo Clinic's website featured this post from a registered dietician:

. . . research has yielded conflicting results about the effects of high-fructose corn syrup. For example, various early studies showed an association between increased consumption of sweetened beverages (many of which contained high-fructose corn syrup) and obesity. But recent research — some of which is supported by the beverage industry — suggests that high-fructose corn syrup isn't intrinsically less healthy than other sweeteners . . .

Please note the phrase "some of which is supported by the beverage industry." CBS News has found strong links between pro-HFCS research and the industries that stand to gain financially from HFCS. I'm deeply suspicious of any research that is funded by the major food and beverage producers.

Even the Mayo Clinic dietician recommends "moderation" in consuming products with HFCS. And Carol Porter, who is director of nutrition at UC-San Francisco, says this:

One of the issues is the ease with which you can consume this stuff. It's not that fructose itself is so bad, but they put it in so much food that you consume so much of it without knowing it.

If our government didn't artificially hike the cost of sugar through price supports, HFCS probably wouldn't be used as much as it is in our foods and beverages. (Here is a good article from the San Francisco Chronicle -- definitely worth reading.)


Anonymous said...

Dear Friend!
I've read that so many people are getting fed up or vene frightened by high fructose corn syrup!
We don't have much of it in Japan, as the Japanese don't like their desserts so sweet, although a lot of sugar is used in traditional food here.
What do you people use it on?

Anonymous said...

I am afraid that HFCS is used in so many different foods -- mostly in processed foods like breakfast cereals, packaged bread crumbs, etc., because HFCS has been found to extend the shelf life of a product.