Dishing on High Fructose Corn Syrup

Heather says:

I live under a rock. Well, that’s not true at all let me rephrase it. When we moved from Minnesota to my home state of South Carolina, we decided to not pay for cable or satellite TV to save a little money after the expense of moving and buying a home. We live far enough away from Charleston that our reception is crap and besides with Hulu and Netflix, who needs broadcast TV?   When I’m traveling, commercials are almost enjoyable as I’ve never seen them. In January I saw this:

Let’s just say, I remained skeptical.

Yesterday my friend Paul linked to an article on a recent report from Princeton titled:
A sweet problem: Princeton researchers find that high-fructose corn syrup prompts considerably more weight gain

I’m not going to excessively quote the article, but the gist is this, in two studies rats given HFCS gained significantly more weight than those who ate equivalent amounts of table sugar. Furthermore rats on a high fat diet didn’t gain as much as those given HFCS.

Interesting, no?

Even if the Corn Refiner’s Association’s commercial is spot on, the problem is this:

High-fructose corn syrup is found in a wide range of foods and beverages, including fruit juice, soda, cereal, bread, yogurt, ketchup and mayonnaise. On average, Americans consume 60 pounds of the sweetener per person every year.

With HFCS in so many products, it’s really easy for a person to consume more than a moderate amount, which the commercial up there assures us is safe. Whether you believe the study or not doesn’t really matter, it’s far too easy to consume high fructose corn syrup in amounts that are unhealthy.

Read your labels, I know that print is small, but it’s worth the time.  There are companies out there who are listening and are adding eye-catching labels to make this easier. Thank them. Sure it’s just another form of marketing, but I kind of like this one. It’s a lot easier than breaking out the magnifying glass.

In our family we avoid HFCS in all of our daily foods, but we do allow it in some of our treats.

What are your thoughts? Do you think the controversy over HFCS is just a bunch of crap or are you becoming wary of the ingredient? Are you a label reader?

**Edited 3/22/2010 2pm** While researching and looking for the source of the mercury reference in the comments, I found the study published in the Environmental Health Journal, which I believe is peer reviewed, but please correct me if I am wrong.

From the abstract of Mercury from chlor-alkali plants: measured concentrations in food product sugar:

Average daily US consumption of HFCS for the year 2007 was approximately 49.8 g per person according to the US Department of Agriculture website [17].

That’s enough to give me pause.

**

Other Home Ec 101 ramblings on nutrition:



54 Comments

  1. Leesie on October 10, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    There is something worse about HFCS that is just coming out. Many people cannot absorb it well and there is now a medical condition that has been recognized called “fructose malapsorption.” In these people, fructose remains undigested in the intestines and the bacteria that live there have a field day on it, producing gas and causing diarrhea and all sorts of other problems.

  2. SandraMcKinley on October 9, 2011 at 11:01 am

    My youngest daughter (12) was recently diagnosed as being allergic to corn. It is not a life threatening allergy but enough to make her feel lousy when she eats things that contain corn syrup or HFCS. Corn is a very common ingredient in many processed items and is difficult to completely eliminate. I have had to resort to ‘scratch’ cooking for 95% of everything my daughter eats now.

  3. HeatherSolos on September 11, 2011 at 8:00 am

    @deneicer1 No, they are different although they are both made from corn. I want to be quite clear when I say I’m not concerned about sweeteners in occasional treats. (If I were, I’d never run the Sweets for the Season series 🙂 )

    There’s a big difference between making a sheet of peanut brittle and consuming HFCS unknowingly throughout your everyday food consumption.

  4. deneicer1 on September 10, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    Is HFCS and Corn Syrup the same thing? (I make peanut brittle from Corn Syrup!)

    • Leesie on October 10, 2011 at 1:58 pm

      @deneicer1 Regular corn syrup is glucose; high fructose corn syrup is made by a different process which produces fructose rather than just glucose.

  5. Jessica on March 19, 2011 at 4:26 am

    I have heard that the industry is trying to change the name from HFCS to "corn sugar." I don't know how true this is but it may be a good idea to keep this in mind as you read those labels.

  6. spunkyduckling @ kitchen labels on October 20, 2010 at 8:59 am

    Interesting. I never realized that looking at commercial when traveling kept me automatically entertained. Anyways just wanted to thank you for writing a post like this and helping others get more educated. I have never heard of this HFCS but better go raid my now and check up on those labels. And yes i am a label reader – half the time – lol.

  7. BLS on October 14, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    For years my husband has been suffering from hives. Doctors can't narrow it down as to the cause. So with not knowing the cause of his hives he continues to suffer. Great news! I ran into a lady who was apparently having a hard time reading the ingredients on the back of a cereal box. We struck up a conversation and she told me all about the HFCS and how she was making sure the ceral didn't have it. Her father-in-law suffered from hives for so many years and then someone told him about the HFCS. She reported that he hasn't had hives ever since he quit eating and drinking anything that contained HFCS. My husband today told me he will try starting today to remove all items from his diet that contains HFCS. I'm so excited! I do hope this will take care of his hive problem. Please wish us luck! Also, not only will my husband and I both be going off of HFCS but so will our 11 year old son.

  8. Beth D. on August 19, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    A new study came out this month proving that cancer cells use fructose exclusively to grow and proliferate (over basic glucose). http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/1008

    Besides the mercury, and the insulin production problems it causes, this just gave me a new and better reason to avoid HFCS. When the industry claims that "all sugars are the same" it makes me fume!

  9. Aexia on March 29, 2010 at 2:10 am

    Veeeery interesting commercial. Companies must be picking up on all of us who are not too happy with it. I've been working on eliminating HFCS for about 6 months now, it's been a little tricky because of my budget, but I want it completely gone from our diet!
    My recent post Linky Love for 3/29

  10. Aexia on March 29, 2010 at 2:10 am

    Veeeery interesting commercial. Companies must be picking up on all of us who are not too happy with it. I've been working on eliminating HFCS for about 6 months now, it's been a little tricky because of my budget, but I want it completely gone from our diet!
    My recent post Linky Love for 3/29

  11. sephysmomma on March 28, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    We are avid label readers in our home. My husband I avoid all corn products. It does make it hard to eat processed foods when you are wanting to eat something fast. Can't eat anything at Chick-fil-a and wow I sure miss that place. Once in a while I will treat myself to an ice cream somewhere knowing good in well I will pay for it later, but that once in a while treat I feel won't hurt me as much as if I kept consuming processed foods. The over all health of our family is more important than eating corn syrupy goodnesses that come in a box.
    My recent post Five Question Friday

  12. Links and Shout Outs | Musings of a Housewife on March 27, 2010 at 11:05 am

    […] If you're here for the first time, welcome to my humble home on the internet. Don't be shy. Grab a cup of coffee and jump right in. :-)There’s interesting info and discussion on this post by my friend Heather at Home Ec 101 — Dishing On High Fructose Corn Syrup. […]

  13. Liz on March 25, 2010 at 2:49 am

    Way to go for giving up TV. I'm boggled when I think of the annual cost of cable. Truth be told I watch way too much tv but have never seen this ad. I can't believe there's high fructose corn syrup in popsicles – bummer! Clearly I need to become a label reader because I really would like to cut it out of my diet.
    My recent post 18 Centre St Cambridge – The Ivy at Dana Hill

    • Nina on March 17, 2011 at 11:48 pm

      Last year I found some awesomely delicous popsicles that just have sugar and fruit – Edy's Fruit Bars. My favorite is strawberry 🙂

  14. Rebecca Goff-Giammona on March 24, 2010 at 11:28 am

    The biggee that hit me was when I read this page and saw the way mercury is intertwined with many of the things I love considering mercury and "unaccounted mercury losses"@FAWN up above I can't get my head around it. I have ms and I have always done my best (or so I thought) to stay away from mercury, I had no idea and now I'm so disgusted and I'm definitely going to have to wake up and start paying more attention to what im putting in my mouth and my kids' mouths. I'm so glad I read this because no one else has ever mentioned the way that hfcs was "laced" w mercury. thanks everyone for the wake up. It won't go to waste.

  15. Rebecca Goff-Giammona on March 24, 2010 at 11:28 am

    when I first read this I wasn't too concerned, I can't control every little detail of everything I put in my mouth. Plus I love to not know or not think about it, because I call coke a cola the nectar of the Gods. I'm so addicted and love coke so much I just can't seem to stop drinking it! BTW my belly fat is outa control and I know its the pop, I used to be a vegatarian and a label reader. I think after having a few kids I just got lazy and found it much easier to try not to look and over time I've really become good at that. I almost regret reading todays blog. I love coke.

  16. handipeep on March 24, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    thank you so very much for posting this. My son has allergies/asthma and yellow#5, tartrazine, gm corn protein, HFCS, etc…(so many terms for the same thing), and it's so frustrating to educate the doctors !! on this topic – it's hard enough to stress the effects and importance of maintaining a strict diet w/ family members and caretakers. Thanks for spreading the word.

  17. Jackie on March 23, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    I find that commercial (which I'd never seen before) horrible. There is so much research out there showing HFCS is NOT just like sugar. It's a lie. What makes it so difficult is it is in EVERYTHING. You have to eat basically a whole food diet to stay away from it (and there's nothing wrong with that) but try getting that to happen in school. While we stay away from it as much as possible and eat as whole as possible at home ~ my little one comes home bouncing off the walls ~ filled with hotdogs, cupcakes (for birthdays YOU KNOW), and all kinds of frozen processed crap they try to tell me is a well balanced healthy meal (created by a nutritionist no less). But I suppose that is a whole other rant. Thanks for bringing this to the table for discussion.
    My recent post Living the Law of Attraction and Parenting With It Too!

  18. Kat on March 23, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    We've totally eliminated HFCS and MSG from our diets. Just that alone has made a huge difference in our health. Of course it was easier for us because we didn't drink soda anyway. But still.

  19. Zhac Rahkonen on March 23, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    I have been avoiding (or attempting to avoid) HFCS for a long time, long before it became a topic of concern, when my now 21 year old daughter was still just a toddler. It is distressingly difficult to cut out, however. My first notice of HFCS was in fruit juice and I was dismayed to learn how hard it is to buy a concentrate fruit juice (cheaper for my budget) from a typical grocery store that does NOT contain HFCS. So far I have found only one commercial, widely available brand of frozen juice that does not add sweeteners. No wonder obesity is on the rise in this country, we add HFCS to everything whether it needs it or not! Hopefully as studies like this become more widely known, and now that we have a first lady who has taken up the cause of access to healthy food, some positive changes are on the horizon.

  20. Tinkerschnitzel on March 23, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    I try to avoid HFCS and MSG like the plague, which is what they might as well be. Growing up, I remember corn syrup in my mom's kitchen was used to make popcorn balls and pretty much nothing else. Princess Leia, I'm there with you! I love Nature's Own bread, and the fact that I can finally find sugar-free bread is amazing, since my mom is diabetic. Try your hand at making the white sauce. You'll be amazed at how quick and easy it is, and how much better it tastes.

  21. @Chells on March 23, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    I got my 'wake up' in regards to how many items HFCS is in when I learned I was Diabetic, but not. [make insulin, don't utilize it well]. I was actually annoyed during my first forays at the grocer's post diagnosis because so many things, mainly things you wouldn't think to need sweetener of some sort, had it in there. For the longest time, there was never a simple run to get something like soup, or a sauce because HFCS was an ingredient.
    My recent post Gifties

  22. @Eyebee on March 23, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    Firstly, I don't have much of a sweet tooth. I don't add sugar to very may things, and I never need artificial sweeteners, and wouldn't ever use them, as they all leave me with a nasty aftertaste.

    What bugs me with HFCS, is that you do have to be a label reader for one of the main reasons that you state in your article. It's in so much stuff! It's really adding calories that one can do without.

    Trying to find some English Muffins in the supermarket recently. We went for the wholegrain variety – but even they were full of HFCS – no doubt as it's a easy and cheap way for the manufacturer to make them look or come up browner when cooked.

    Also, recently, we were out grocery shopping, and needed some mayonnaise. We like Dukes. Initially I thought I'd be healthy and pick up the low-fat version – until I read the label. Both my wife and I have gotten quite into label reading, and often put stuff back on the shelves in disgust these days!

    It's a common use of HFCS. Removing fat and replacing it with HFCS. Of course, the debate could be which is the lesser of the two evils – the fat or the HFCS calories? Still, my answer there is don't use too much mayo – but I digress – we're then into the ball game of cutting back on portion sizes too.

    My own answer to the HFCS issue? We eat as little processed food as possible. We tend to eat mostly fresh fruit and vegetables, and meat. We also avoid wrapped bread from the supermarket, preferring to spend a little more on a decent product, or make it ourselves.

    So yes, all in all, read labels, make informed choices.

  23. LaRae on March 23, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    Over the last two years I have worked hard to change my families diet to a more "whole food" kind of eating. With two young boys I was concerned with all the chemicals and coloring I was seeing on the ingredient labels of their favorite foods. We have now cut out almost all the processed foods from coming into our home and eating fast food is a real treat for them when we get it on the rare occasion like vacation.

    Have any of you seen the documentary "Food Inc."? It's on Netflix. Also, Barbara Kingsolver has a book called "Animal, Vegetable, Mineral:A Year of Food Life". It is a great eye opener and was a great motivator for me to try my hand at gardening this year!

    I think this post was a great reminder that businesses NEVER have our best interests at heart. Only their bottom lines.

  24. Gigi on March 23, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    Related: A chemist/herbalist friend recently told me that all prepackaged salt, including sea salt (but not bulk unrefined sea salt) is processed with MSG. And that all vegetables sold frozen are as well, unless labeled "organic". I have not researched what she told me, but a single mention of this to my Husband caused him to switch totally to the bulk sea salt we had. I'll have to switch frozen vegs at my next purchase. She had remarkable results with her own mom's health by simply getting her off all sources of MSG. Of course, that not only meant changing her salt, but getting her off pretty much all processed foods as well. Which is what we should all do as much as possible, of course. Solves MSG and HFCS and transfats and and and.
    My recent post Hot Chocolate – Dairy Free

  25. @JayMonster on March 23, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Due to my wife having Liver problems she was told to give up all HFCS based products. Do you have any idea how DIFFICULT that is?

    Beyond that… contemplate this for a second. Something like 40% of the corn grown in this country is made from the genetically Modified Monsanto products, and due to price concerns, I would bet the amount used to make corn sweetener is higher than that. Now, look at the study that linked Monsanto's Corn to organ failure (http://huff.to/duOBki), or remember that this "version" of corn self produces "Roundup" (a pesticide). Take those two facts and consider how bad it must be once "boiled down" into this concentrated form.

    I am not happy why I had to learn all this about HFCS, but I am certainly glad I did.

  26. Malia on March 23, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    We simply are trying to be more healthful in our eating which includes reducing all types of sweeteners. HFCS gives me pause just because it's a manufactured product, it's not really natural. I get that it's cheap but if I'm going to have something sweet, I'd rather know it's sweetened with real sugar and not a substitute. And I don't like seeing it in things like breadcrumbs! Why do breadcrumbs need HFCS (or sugar for that matter?) My guess is the HFCS comes from the bread they use to make the breadcrumbs but then that begs more questions. When I look at a list of ingredients, I don't like seeing a chemistry experiment. Which means that more and more, I making more from scratch that we used to buy at the grocery store.
    My recent post My love

  27. Fawn on March 23, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    Not to be hysterical about it, but a dear friend of mine who is a naturopathic doctor recently shared this link with me: http://drjanicedaviend.blogspot.com/2010/02/high-

    In a nutshell, the processing plants that produce HFCS use mercury as part of the production. Every year, these plants report "unaccounted mercury losses" to the EPA. And testing on some of the foods that use HFCS has shown they often contain mercury.

    Mercury is neuro-toxic at ANY level; there's no safe amount.

    Can we say yuck? Not to mention nightmarishly scary?
    My recent post Michael-safe cornbread

    • HeatherSolos on March 23, 2010 at 5:45 pm

      I did a little bit of digging and found the primary source for her article. Definitely worth reading: http://www.ehjournal.net/content/8/1/2 and I'll be editing in some of the stats from the abstract, as they are relevant to the post. Thank you.

      • HeatherSolos on March 23, 2010 at 5:50 pm

        Also, I found the primary source by digging up the IATP article mentioned by the author of the blogpost mentioned by Fawn

  28. Paul on March 23, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Heather, since you're a NetFlix subscriber, I highly recommend watching King Corn (http://www.netflix.com/WiMovie/King_Corn/70080822… One thing they don't mention in that commercial is that the corn used in HFCS is inedible in it's raw state and requires a refining process that would make a Exxon chemist cringe. Thanks for the mention!

  29. Stacy on March 23, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    Oh yeah, and MSG.

  30. Stacy on March 23, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    Honestly, I don't know for sure one way or the other, but I have read enough to feel it's worth eliminating it. We've been avoiding it, or rather, I've been cutting out of my family's diet, for a couple of years. This goes along with hydrogenated oils for us, and pretty much most foods with preservatives, nitrites, and any chemicals I can notice. I'm not very informed or scientific in my approach because that's not my strength, but I figure our food should be just that–plain old (if possible whole) foods. My husband is not as into this as I am, so it's a bit of a struggle to get rid of some things he likes, but I keep trying to replace them with higher-quality foods that taste good.

  31. Agricola on March 23, 2010 at 11:58 am

    "In the 40 years since the introduction of high-fructose corn syrup as a cost-effective sweetener in the American diet, rates of obesity in the U.S. have skyrocketed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

    I'm interested in the possibility that HCFS is employed as a sugar substitute b/c sugar is more expensive as a result of legislation/tariffs that keeps sugar prices artificially high.
    My recent post Ain’t Happening For The Aint’s

    • HeatherSolos on March 23, 2010 at 12:04 pm

      I almost touched on that point, but I couldn't figure out how to bring it up and not address the labor issues that also surround sugar. I need to read more on these issues I know I am under-informed. The whole mess is rather depressing.

  32. @MrsBYork on March 23, 2010 at 11:34 am

    I'm so glad I'm not the only person who is highly cynical about this ad campaign. The HFCS industry seems to be doing a great job of glossing over the serious research on the health risks of their product. Hey, why wouldn't they? But if this were a campaign for cigarettes or alcohol the health industry and advertising standards people would throw the book at them.

    • HeatherSolos on March 23, 2010 at 12:06 pm

      Really the whole campaign left me with a foul taste in my mouth. I didn't post their first commercial as it has a nasty who is a better mom angle. This one was more benign, but. . .

    • @JayMonster on March 23, 2010 at 6:26 pm

      In all fairness at one time, the cigarette companies DID do the same thing while the gov't stalled, being afraid to "damage" these big companies (and their campaign donations). I am sure that the HFCS makers (and especially Monsanto since they probably provide the genetically modified Corn seed used to grow all of this), are heavily campaigning to support this "industry" much as tobacco did until they finally slapped down with enough "proof" that the problem became undeniable.

  33. Misty on March 23, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    those ads drive me crazy… We have eliminated it, except for the occasional treat as well. it's just too risky.
    My recent post being a RAD mom is the pits…

  34. Princess Leia on March 23, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    I'm in the process of cutting out HFCS, MSG, and red dyes (at least to start). By buying bread that states there is no HFCS (Nature's Own), and making my own spaghetti (etc.) sauce, we've GREATLY reduced it without having to read any labels!

    The MSG is harder in a way. I _know_ (without looking) that it's in all of the condensed soups, so I just don't buy them. But even though I have the recipe for "white" sauce (with all its variations), I never take the time to use it…and having grown up in a "condensed soup makes everything better" family, it's hard for me to come up with things to cook! It's also in broths and pre-packaged soups (have to read labels on those).

    The red dye is a little easier, as it's usually plain to see, but it's REALLY hard to avoid when you've got kids. My son was psycho the other day after a couple of cups of Hawaiian Punch Lite (so it was the added bonus of an artificial sweetener). It took most of two days to get that out of his system, so it's definitely worth the extra effort to minimize it.

    • Heather on March 23, 2010 at 11:06 am

      Let me introduce you to the joy of bechamel. Just substitute this whenever a cream of something is called for. I have a direct substitute for cream of chicken here, it’s easily converted to cream of mushroom.

  35. julie on March 23, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    I try to avoid HFCS as much as I can-especially in my child's diet….

  36. Jenn on March 23, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    You gotta give their ad agency points for cleverness. Playing on the mom and sibling competition in our culture. And the men are dumb oafs theme that tv loves so much these days. My food rule is pretty easy, if I can't buy it separately in a grocery store I don't want it in our food. And I'm not a huge fan of plain old corn syrup either.

    What's even more insidious is since this sweetener is in everything it raises our tolerance for sweet things. We want more things to taste sweet and they need to taste sweeter than sweet since we are so used to the flavor. Other flavors are excluded. (This isn't just a hfcs thing, it's a processed food thing, hence the trick of using extra juice concentrate to make drinks sweeter.) If I'm not on a sugar kick then other flavors taste heavenly. And I have to be careful because my base assumption, our culture's base assumption, is that my daughter will like x because it has a sweet flavor. But I don't think she's wired that way and I want to be careful not to change it.

  37. @shelnew19 on March 23, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    I have tried to cut it out, but it's difficult. It is in everything!

  38. Paul on March 23, 2010 at 1:12 pm
  39. Dontchyakno on March 23, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Didn't anyone see that PBS documentary? I think it was the year before last, maybe 2008 or 07 when a guy tried to grow corn on an acre in Iowa to see how much he could make doing it and it turned out that the most profitable product he could make was HFCS. Then, he showed exactly how to make it and when I saw that he had to use sulfuric acid to remove the sugars from the corn…well, I almost fainted. I'm not putting that garbage in my little boys' bodies! I'm glad to see others getting on the bandwagon! Finally! Calling it crap is putting it lightly. Poison unfit for human consumtion.

  40. Shawna Lee on March 23, 2010 at 7:59 am

    We have totally eliminated it. We are currently on the Feingold Program because of both the health effects and the behavioral effects. If my son even gets the smallest amount, for example ketchup, it will take up to 48 hours to get out if his system. He acts like a little pinball and is very irritable. That alone tells me that it just can’t be good for you, weight issues aside.

  41. @notdiyheather on March 23, 2010 at 11:45 am

    I've been vocal about avoiding HFCS but my extended family is exactly like the people in this ad. So I did more research. The problem with HFCS is that the body metabolizes it differently that glucose or sucrose. Fructose really causes the most damage in the kidneys. The kidneys don't know what to do with it when it is not accompanied by fiber. So fructose in fruit is digestable because there is fiber. But when we consume it in juices, etc, etc, then our bodies treat it like a toxin. The long term effects are similar to the long term effects of alcohol. No thanks!

  42. JanetLee on March 23, 2010 at 11:24 am

    What I found interesting in the study was that the rats that were given water sweetened with HFCS in HALF the ratio as is found in soft drinks gained more weight than rats given water sweetened with table sugar in a ratio equal to that of soft drinks.

    I cut out HFCS (except, as you do, in small amounts in occasional treats) and dropped five pounds over two months (a good rate for my gender and age) without doing anything else different in my lifestyle other than no HFCS.

    • HeatherSolos on March 23, 2010 at 12:07 pm

      I know! I was trying to not be too over-the-top with my summary, but yeah that bothered me, too.

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