Saturday, June 12, 2010

Corn Syrup Moderation

Often times people (RDs included) will say, "Anything in moderation is fine."  One place we have heard it a lot lately is in connection to High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).  I'm sure you have seen the commercials of the happy couple sitting on a picnic blanket eating a pop-sickle, or the moms at the birthday party debating the healthfulness of the kids juice drink.  Unfortunately, I have to disagree with the Corn Growers Association.  HFCS is not ok in moderation, and currently the average American is probably consuming more of it than what they think.  Here are just a few foods where you will find it: Catsup, Yogurt, Bread, Cereal, Pop, Ice Cream, Granola Bars, BBQ Sauce, Mustard, Pickles, Canned Fruit, Cottage Cheese, TV Dinners, Frosting, Salad Dressing, crackers, waffles...The list keeps going.  Which makes me wonder how we are supposed to consume HFCS in moderation when in reality it's in a whole lot of foods? And what does moderation really mean?  According to Webster's Dictionary moderations means: 1) to lessen the intensity or extremeness. 2) an avoidance of extremeness in one's actions, habits, or beliefs.  Well that all sounds extremely subjective to me.

First off HFCS is sugar, and wether or not scientists can find a statistically significant correlation between it's consumption and obesity/diabetes/cancer does not matter.  It's sugar, it's an additive, and we do not need to eat it.  Even in moderation.   When fructose is digested it is transported through the small intestine lining and travels through the blood stream to the liver.  In the liver it is metabolized and the end products are glycogen(our muscle/liver storage form of glucose), fatty acids, and triglycerides(think cholesterol).  By itself, fructose elicits a very small insulin response and has been recommended as a 'sugar substitute' for people with diabetes.  Honey and agave nectar both have high concentrations of fructose(38% fructose, 31% Glucose, and 30+% other stuff).  However, HFCS contains a high enough glucose (45%) that it still causes a significant rise in blood sugar and the need for insulin.  High levels of circulating insulin have been linked to obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes, as well as non alcoholic fatty liver disease.  Yes, fructose is found in fruit.  But remember, fruit also contains essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber.  HFCS does not.

Back to the formation of fatty acids and triglycerides.  Studies now show that consuming a single meal high in HFCS will show a marked increase in triglyceride levels 24 hours later.  For people with high cholesterol, especially high LDL cholesterol this is bad news since triglycerides are incorporated into Very Low Density Lipoproteins (VLDL).  VLDL then travels through the blood stream and deposits the  triglycerides in the lining of the blood vessels, ultimately leading to the formation of plaques and atherosclerosis (Heart Disease).  The VLDL is now LDL.

The reason HFCS is in so many foods is two fold. 1)The government placed taxes or tariffs on the sugar coming from mexico and other countries making it more expensive to use in foods.  2) The government gives subsidies to corn farmers. I'm sure you can connect the dots between the two.

Do you still want to consume HFCS?  If not here is a list of products that Ryan and I have on hand or choose to purchase when needed which do not contain it: Bread(Arnold, Nature's Own, Nature's Pride, Earth Grains, Publix Honey Whole Wheat)  Dairy(Stoneyfield, Fage, Breakstone's, Friendship, Trader Joes, Publix Organic, Breyers All Natural, Dannon All Natural)  Cereal(Barbaras, Kashi, Trader Joes, any cereal without added sugar)  Misc.(Annie's, Claussen Pickles, Uncle Stubbs BBQ sauce, Smucker's Simply Fruit, Bolthouse Farms and Newman's Own salad dressing)  Produce(Anything not found in a can, AKA Fresh)


  1. Thanks for sharing that list.

    Hienz has recently produced a ketchup without HFCS. It only has about five ingredients, hoping to appeal to the "clean eating" crowd. Good marketing move.

    [Heinz seems to make 3-4 different ketchups.]


  2. Thanks for letting me know Steve. I just bought a bottle of Annie's to salsa it's my favorite condiment. But Annie's is a little thinner than Hienz, when we run out, I might just have to try the new stuff.