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The debate about HFCS continues

October 1, 2010 - Kathie Evanoff
It basically depends on who you talk to.

It’s not an exaggeration to say there is a lot of controversy concerning the use of high fructose corn syrup in many of our grocery bought foods these days.

Critics for the product claim studies that indicate our bodies do not metabolize sugar made from corn the same way it does what we call natural sugar that comes from other sources. So what exactly is sugar? Sugar is a sweet food additive loosely based on several numbers of carbohydrates, some of which are fructose, sucrose or lactose. Table sugar is sucrose that comes from either cane sugar or sugar beets, but we can find other forms other sources as well.

High fructose corn syrup began showing up in our foods in the 1980s. Companies that used sugar in their products embraced this new method of sweetener made from processed corn. Not only did it take less ingredient than cane sugar to sweeten their product, but it was cheaper to use.

Research has been conflicting in how the body metabolizes high fructose corn syrup versus common cane and beet sugar. Some studies indicate the liver reacts differently to HFSC, raising the risk of insulin resistance and causing diabetes, which is very close to becoming epidemic as our population continues to get heavier. Other studies, some of which were funded by the beverage industry, state that we metabolize HFCS exactly as we do common sugar. Recently the controversy has been raised even higher by the Corn Refiners Association’s request to the Food and Drug Administration to change the name on food labels from high fructose corn syrup to simply, corn sugar. You may already have seen the commercials. The corn refiners have begun using the name, even though the FDA hasn’t approved its use on labels just yet.

Groups have formed asking for a ban on HFCS in our food. These groups have been sending Internet petitions against the name change. They claim that a new name will simply mask the ingredient they feel is the source of much of our obesity problem.

I somewhat agree. Not because I believe we do metabolize the product differently (if scientists can’t agree, how can I make claims for or against the danger of this product?), but because high fructose corn syrup is hidden in so many foods that don’t even need sugar at all.

If you look at the ingredient list on the label of many of your grocery store purchases, you will find HFCSs in many things, from processed meat to tomato sauces. I’ve ranted before in this blog about its use in bread. When I make my own homemade bread, I don’t use any sugar, unless I’m making a sweetbread, which is supposed to be sweet. The reason it is “hidden” in these foods is because not only is it a sweetener, but it is also used as a flavor enhancer and a preservative. It increases shelf life, something food manufacturers are always ready to embrace in their products.

The best way to avoid these unnecessary added ingredients, that not only add calories to our diets, but increases our intake of unnecessary carbohydrates (they contain no nutritional value and are therefore called “empty calories), is to read labels carefully. Look for those hidden ingredients we don’t need.

Shop close to the way food is grown. Stay away from processed food as much as possible.

Don’t just look for fat, fiber and calories on our food labels, but look for sugar content as well.


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