It was probably within the past two years that my husband came home from work and told me about one of his coworkers that stopped eating any foods with HFCS (high fructose corn syrup). I laughed and thought, “What a loon!”
Fast-forward to having a child and breastfeeding my baby. I started to have to supplement with a little formula when he was around six months old. One day I was looking at the ingredients of the formula and I noticed that HFCS was right up there in the ingredient list. That broke my heart!
As a mother, I just want my kid to get the best food possible with the least amount of cheap additives. And here my baby was so small and getting a lot of this corn product straight. Something felt wrong to me.
What do you know about HFCS? Are we overreacting about how it might change students’ classroom behavior?
71 thoughts on “HFCS”
I agree with Amber & the others that HFCS in and of itself isn't evil. The "high fructose" label is misleading, as the percentage of the various kinds of sugars is not that much different than in cane or beet sugar. Check out postings on the junkfoodscience blog (which appears to have gone offline as far as recent posts but still has excellent articles). It's the ubiquity and amounts that are in prepared foods that is the problem. And the politics & impact on corn farmers, etc., etc. But as a substance itself, not "evil" just a convenient scapegoat.
I stopped eating HFCS a few years ago after having a personal health scare. I was just trying to eat healthier foods, and I had heard that HFCS was "bad." That's about all I knew at that point. After a month or two, I began to notice that the ubiquitous cravings I used to have for sweets subsided, and I lost about 30 pounds. I started to do some research, and found information that said a diet high in HFCS is now believed to cause insulin resistance, gout, high cholesterol and fat to accumulate in the body. It causes gout because HFCS raises the uric acid levels of the body. Over consumption of fructose also leads to high triglycerides, which can be a sign of heart disease and diabetes. A diet high in high fructose corn syrup also raises blood pressure. If you can avoid it, I think it's all for the best. The subsidized corn industry doesn't want us to know any of this, or we'd stop buying their products. That's why you keep hearing about research that it's not so bad, but when you track the source of that research, you discover the conflict of interest.
I think another point to consider is that HFCS is in some foods purely as a flavouring agent. It doesn't matter if it's sugar or HFCS, NEITHER belongs in, say, a can of soup.
I live in Canada, so we don't really have the HFCS problem, but I personally avoid buying products that include sugar in things that are really meant to be savory. There are exceptions, of course, but my general rule of thumb is "would I put sugar in this if I made it at home?". If the answer is no, I don't buy it.
I'm doing an experiment with myself by cutting out anything with HFCS in it (but do nothing other than what I normally do, light exercise and walking everyday – which I've been doing since 2006 when my car quit on me and I've have not been able to afford another one, and so far I haven't lost weight) and I'll see if the talks are true. I've read where within a 3 months time individuals have seen from 20 up to 45 pounds lost just from cutting that man made sweetner out. So we'll see..I'll email you again in May to let everyone know my progress with this experiment of mine. From Laurel
Major labels are starting to pull HFCS, due to "consumer demand" – yay!
I know this is an old forum but here are my two cents. The major problem that I see with HFCS is that when it appears in a food it is a sign that the food is overly processed. To me overly processed food means less nutritious food. This is the best reason in my mind to skip out on HFCS. I can't take credit for this either this is one of Michael Pollens rule in his new book "Food rules".
Here's my take on HFCS. First of all, let me say this. The body doesn't digest HFCS. So, it sends it to the Liver. The only organ in the body that can process HFCS is the liver. HFCS is broken down to a chemical that tells the brain that the body is starving and needs to eat more food. As a result, children who are consuming foods that contain this product that is sending these signals to the brain, end up with "beer bellies" or "soda bellies". Other than this chemical, the rest of the product that's going through the liver, your body doesn't know what to do with it. So, it stores it for later as a fat until the body finds a use for it. Then the fat builds and doesn't stop because you're always hungry with this stuff.
The next thing I want to point out is that your body doesn't digest Beer. So, it sends it to the Liver to process it. Now, we don't give beer to our children because studies show that it's unhealthy and causes beer bellies if it's consumed in large quantities.
I can only see a relation here. Both HFCS and Beer are processed through the liver and no other organs. Both give you big fat bellies. We think twice about giving our children a beer, but now we need to think twice about giving our children products that contain HFCS.
I recently have become aware of the evils of high fructose corn syrup.
First, I read an article about HFCS and how it ravages the body. We're not supposed to consume such a high amount of fructose and it's hard for our bodies to process.
Recently, with Passover approaching, I bought some bottles of soda with the Kosher-for-Passover formula (sugar only, no HFCS). While I realize that one could choose a much better thing to drink than a sugary, fizzy soda, the HFCS is so much worse for you that sugar.
AND, after hoarding a few Kosher products made WITHOUT HFCS, (I'm not even Jewish) I have come to realize just how ubiquitous HFCS has become in our diet. It's really appalling.
Coke and Pepsi say that people can't taste the difference between the HFCS and sugar formulas. Even if that statement is 100% true, OUR BODIES KNOW THE DIFFERENCE.
And, I'm outraged our country still allows us to consume this garbage while other countries will only allow Coke or Pepsi to sell their drinks with the original formula with sugar only.
The healthcare debate has been raging for a year, and we need to dig a lot deeper than insurance reform. Our food and drink need to be manufactured with nutritious ingredients, and then we will have a healthier population. We need to be able to shop for food with the confidence that it doesn't contain harmful ingredients that are cheaper to make than the traditional ones. And, these items must be available at every major supermarket, and not only specialty health food markets.
Thank you very much.
For what little I know about HFCS, all I can say is this; people who cut it out of their diet also cut out highly processed foods anyway. So of course they're going to lose weight. I don't know if HFCS can be blamed as the sole contributor to their weight loss/gain.
The other food that people are unaware is in everything, and screws up all kinds of things? Wheat. Take a look at a label. there is wheat in nearly everything we eat. And with the amount we've screwed with it, and made it higher in gluten, to make it go farther in our food, our bodies are protesting it like crazy.
we were on state aid when i was a child and my mother chose the cheapest/easiest route with buying the generic versions of the cereals we wanted(of course they were Xtra sugary) canned pastas, microwavable dinners, and sugary snacks. so i was one of the many people who never really read labels and just bought what i wanted cause it tasted good. but when i became pregnant i wanted to do the best i could for my child by eating healthier. i still didnt know much about nutrition; so i just started eating more fruits and veggies and less junk food. but then i found out i was gestationally diabetic. i had to start reading labels and counting carbs. i was amazed at what i had actually been eating. it was quite disturbing the things they put in to foods. when i cant even pronounce half of the ingredients; something is majorly wrong. so even though im still not totally educated in the nutrition department; i do read labels and try to avoid anything that has HFCS as well as any of the other modified corn products; but also ive been trying to avoid these preservatives i cant pronounce, the genetically enhanced whatevers, and anything thats been modified in general. it has changed our grocery bills; and coming from someone on an Xtremely tight budget, it is amazingly hard to find healthy food that tastes good and wont break my wallet! but ive seen the difference within my own quality of health; which gives me hope that i have started my daughter on the right track towards better health than i had in my childhood. i had poor health and was obese. i dont want my daughter to go through that! i will do what i can for her as best as i can.
BTW; just found your blog today and have read most of it so far. gonna finish as soon as im done posting this… it really is a great thing your doing trying to raise awareness about the lunches at schools nowadays. our children count on us to do right for them. but it just seems the schools are getting worse and worse as time goes by… student/teacher ratio, little to no exercize, nutritionless lunches, the loss of extracarricular classes…. its just scary when i hear my cousins 2nd grade daughter tell me they're doing algebra instead of gym or art class!!!
While a lot of you say that HFCS is just like sugar, the science does NOT support this notion. In a different setting I'd bore you with the science, but as a biochemical nutrition major, HFCS is different from sugar-both in how it's metabolized and in how our bodies react to it. Dyslipidemia, insulin resistance, visceral adiposity, fatty liver disease, obesity, diabetes… So it irritates me to read people who haven't read the research say it's just like sugar or that they don't feel it is evil. You don't have to feel it. It's called evidence-based nutrition. Also, and just to be fair, there is research that claims it is not that bad…research done by companies that use HFCS.
The URL I provide will give you some good answers. I hope you get to read this because I honestly don't think HFCS is "bad". I do like looking at things in a scientific viewpoint and even though it is a PROCESSED food product (in general, I try to avoid processed foods, but that's near impossible on a budget.) It DOES have the same Calories as sugar.
I do agree with the article on monitoring long-term affects as this was created by humans. Overall, what CAUSES obesity is cheap, sugar/HFCS very very dense foods that people can get easily. That and other lifestyle habits…but that's another topic. Moderation is key for our children. They need to get out and PLAY.
HFCS is the chemical byproduct of the production of ethanol. Which means, at some point, someone noticed that this waste product was sweet and edible and then – poof – it was in everything. Since it's a byproduct (rather than a primary product), it costs almost nothing to create, and is so much sweeter than sugar that a smaller amount of HFCS can be substituted for the same sweetness.
The other disturbing thing about HFCS is that it is fructose, whereas sugar is sucrose. Fructose is processed by the liver, the same as alcohol, so consuming too much pure fructose (as opposed to sucrose, which the body processes differently) with create the same negative effects as too much alcohol. Fruit-derived fructose is different as it is more complex, and is thus dealt with differently by the body, but should still be limited in its processed form.
My partner and I gave up HFCS three years ago when we realized that we didn't want to be putting so many chemical additives in our system. This has meant abandoning many of our favorite foods (Wheat Thins, how I miss thee), but we feel so much better for it. The best discovery: organic ketchup. It's much richer and flavorful than the stuff with HFCS in it.
Of course, I grew up in a household where we rarely had sugar, and when we did have something sweet, it was often sweetened with orange juice or apple sauce, rather than white sugar. I just don't have a sweet tooth, and don't see the need to put sugar (or a sugar-like additive) in everything.
I just stumbled across your blog and I am loving it. My husband and I decided a few years ago to stop eating HFCS and everything because 99% more difficult, we had to buy sugar free and organic.
We felt great not eating it and if we did happen to get some when we were eating not at home we felt bloated and not well.
Something needs to be done, the stuff is poison.
We've known for a couple of years now that HFCS is linked to obesity. In the last several months I read an article called "Children of the Corn" which detailed about the mercury levels found in the stuff. Not only can those levels be high, but they are also made of the most dangerous type-organic mercury, which is very easily absorbed by the body. Barring the basic toxic nature of mercury, and the reasons it's been banned from things like thermometers and classroom demonstrations, mercury now could be linked to serious developmental issues, such as autism. I'm doing my best to stay away from the stuff. I certainly don't want to be eating any of it. Unforunately, it seems that every other food label I read states that the product contains HFCS. Everything from salad dressings to chips…even "healthy" food has the stuff in it. It's a shame to think that probably every single item served to children for lunch every day contains this crap. As for school lunches, they can very easily be so much better than they are. I used to skip lunch entirely when I found that eating them wreaked havoc on my blood sugar (not diabetic, but I do have blood sugar issues). Luckily, senior year of high school, they started serving food that was a little better. There were soups, and a salad bar, and a sandwich station, as well as the usual garbage. It was food I could at least stomach and didnt have such detrimental effects on my body. In any case, I love this project. I think it's great that a teacher is taking on such a huge challenge to understand the true and horrible nature of the average school lunch. Kids have been complaining for years, but unless you're over the age of about 30, it's rare that anyone will give you any credit, and by then, most have forgotten the crap they ate during school. By the way, I've heard great things about the lunch program Google has in place for its employees. Might be worthwhile to check it out.
How can we say it's okay in moderation when it's presented in our society NOT in moderation? It is almost like telling a cigarette smoker or crack user that it's okay in moderation. Theoretically, that might be true for them too, according to some research I have read.
I know it's not a great analogy I used, but I think we need to rebel against it until it is not so prevalent in foods that choosing it in moderation isn't even an easy option.
And by the way, in that commercial paid for by the corn people, the popsicles they eat are usually supplied in ten pound bags.
For anyone who says that HFCS is metabolized in a drastically different manner from cane/beet sugar (sucrose), do you also think Honey is a dangerous form of sugar? Because Honey is mostly free fructose and glucose, with a few other sugars thrown in. Fructose is digested differently from glucose, only being metbolized in the liver, and studies have shown that pure fructose can be bad, but that is not the same as HFCS. Don't get me wrong, I agree that we don't need added sugars in everything we eat, but even if producers were banned from using HFCS and replaced it with sucrose or honey or fruit juice or whatever sweetener you claim is "better" we wouldn't all magically become skinny. If you consider fructose to be evil, you'll have to stop eating fruit and you'll have to switch to regular corn syrup, since it's about the only caloric sweetener I know that's pure glucose.
When that commercial about HFCS came out, I literally saw RED! They make it sound like you're stupid if you have questions about eating HFCS because "it's just like sugar, has the same amount of calories and is fine IN MODERATION". Well, that's just spiffy, but if you start reading labels, HFCS is in almost EVERY darn thing you eat. It's in bread straight from the bakery at Publix. It's in BBQ sauce. I have started checking labels and if it has HFCS and I can get the same product without HFCS (like ketchup or bread or BBQ sauce or even soda) I will buy that product from now on. I am slowly but surely eliminating as much HFCS as I can. I have lost 14 lbs.
Challenges with Fructose versus Sucrose
1) Fructose is entirely processed by the liver. See Wikipedia on Fructose for more immediate information. Many studies are available on PLoS.
2) Sucrose is first broken down into glucose & fructose in the stomach.
Sucrose is 50/50 fructose & glucose. HFCS is generally 55/45 in favor of fructose. The result is a higher proportion of fructose in the diet of people eating processed foods.
Generally, this is not a good thing.
I know that I'm the 70th comment, and very late at that, but for what it's worth, Princeton recently published a study on HFCS.
Fast forwarding to 2012 and the current drought our country is experiencing and the meager corn crop that will be available to harvest this year. Could this “disaster” be the answer to our hopes that companies would stop putting HFCS into all of our processed foods because it now just costs too much and people won’t pay the higher prices? Will we soon be seeing more and more “Contains NO high fructose corn syrup” labels on the front of packaged foods? Cheaper, healthier… sounds like a win-win for the American public.
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