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Just Say No: To High Fructose Corn Syrup

Lately there's been a advertising push on TV for High Fructose Corn Syrup. This commercial makes my blood boil, as two mom's discuss how "natural" this product is and how crazy all those health nuts are for being down on it. Hopefully you haven't been swayed by the lure of HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup)

I been trying to avoid HFCS for a while now, it's tough, it's in almost everything. Serious, go to your cabinets and pull out 5 packaged foods, I bet you most if not all contain high fructose corn syrup! Why is it bad you say? Well there is a ton of information about this controversial ingredient. Here's some highlights

*Because Corn is almost always genetically modified, high fructose corn syrup, made from corn itself is almost always genetically modified. Ew! This means that roughly 80% of all we eat is genetically modified on account for the high levels of HFCS in our diets.

*When studied in rats, those who ingested fructose (compared to other sugars) did not reach adulthood, DID NOT REACH ADULTHOOD! In addition, they experienced anemia, high cholesterol and heart hypertrophy (meaning their hearts enlarged until they exploded!)

*Sugar (regular) can be broken down in the body in all cells, but fructose can only be digested in the liver, causing excess strain on one vital organ.

In addition to the hazardous health concerns, there are environmental ones too! Due to the fact that corn is grown as a monoculture (the land is used only to grow corn) the crops are never rotated which may be cheaper in the short term, but long term it depletes soil nutrients ending up requiring much more pesticides and fertilizers. Michael Pollan (author of the much loved Omnivore's Dilemma) writes,

"The environmental footprint of HFCS is deep and wide, look no farther than the dead zone in the Gulf [of Mexico], an area the size of New Jersey where virtually nothing will live because it has been starved of oxygen by the fertilizer runoff coming down the Mississippi from the Corn Belt. Then there is the atrazine in the water in farm country -- a nasty herbicide that, at concentrations as little as 0.1 part per billion, has been shown to turn male frogs into hermaphrodites." (Source)

I hope that begins to give you some ammo to step it up yourself, do your research, check out the ingredients, and know what you are ingesting. The more energy, fuel and chemicals used to make your meal, the less healthy it is, you can be sure of that. Green your diet!

How to avoid HFCS

1. Avoid fast food, come on, do I need to give you another reason?

2. Kick your soda habit, switch to natural soda sweetened by sugar cane and other less harmful sweeteners

3. Read those labels, avoid whenever possible

4. Eat fresh and non-processed food



Missy said...

I'm so glad you posted this! I've seen those ads and they totally creep me out.
I'd like to add another nasty thing about this common ingredient: it has been shown to inhibit a persons ability to reach "full". It may actually trick your brain into thinking it's hungry... a lot like MSG.

Ryan Wanger said...

Have no fear about the commercials...awareness of high fructose corn syrup has SKYROCKETED since they started the campaign. It's pretty hilarious, especially since all the top google results make them look poor. Check out stats and analysis:

Brooke, R.D., C.D. said...

Well, I don't know where to start. Most of the information posted by both the author and the bloggers are entirely inaccurate.

Your right on one account! Corn is a natural grain product and you’re right again, corn makes up a large basis of not just all of our fast food supply, but corn also plays a vital role in our world food supply. Corn is natural and it’s an important carbohydrate in our food system.

Although, as a Registered Dietitian in private practice for many decades, I must respectfully disagree with the statement made by the author of the article, "Just Say No to High Fructose Corn Syrup".

In fact, As I have stated to my clients for many years, HFCS is simply a sweetener with a bad rap! There is a lot of solid research out there clearing up a lot of misinformation on this harmless and alternative sweetener. Scientists continue to confirm that high fructose corn syrup is no different from other sweeteners. Simply stated, it's not sweeter than sugar, it's not higher in calories and it's not metabolized in the body differently, there is no difference in fasting glucose, insulin resistance, nutrient intake, satiety, uric acid, appetite, leptin and gehrelin and there is no difference in food consumed the next day. Actually, most people don't realize that HFCS is composed of the same sugars found in table sugar and honey - fructose and glucose - in virtually the exact same ratios!

Did you know that? HFCS is used in foods and beverages because of the many benefits it offers. It's what makes our 'moist' breakfast and energy bars moist. It keeps food fresh, enhances fruit and spice flavors, retains moisture in bran cereals, maintains consistent flavors in beverages and keeps ingredients evenly dispersed in condiments.

Most importantly, what HFCS does not do for us is make us fat! If consumption of HFCS has increased, then so has all other food categories. Obesity is becoming a more global problem each day, yet high fructose corn syrup is used very little - or not at all - in many countries where obesity rates are rising.

Dr. Walter Willett, the chairman of the Nutrition Department of Harvard School of Public Health stated “…if there was no high fructose corn syrup, I don’t think we would see a change in anything important (i.e.: incidence of diabetes and obesity). I think there is an overreaction (to HFCS).”

Like sugar or honey, HFCS can only contribute to weight gain when eaten as excessive calories, regardless of the food source, and too little exercise. Replacing HFCS with sugar will not reduce obesity or improve health. As Americans, we are simply eating more, 24% more total food intake to be exact. We are not eating disproportionately more HFCS; we are eating more of everything.

The research involving rats you are mistakenly quoting is for pure fructose NOT HFCS. HFCS is half glucose/half fructose - there is a big difference between these two and totally seperate products. See how the name High Fructose Corn Syrup is a source of confusion? It is easy to misunderstand the credible research stating HFCS is no different than sugar/honey.

I recently saw an energy drink advertising that their product was made without using any HFCS, rather it used 'Agave Nectar' as its sweetener source. Well, the fact is that Agave Nectar is 74% fructose whereas HFCS-42 is 42% fructose and 53% glucose. Table sugar is 50% fructose and 50% glucose....So where is the misinformation here?

If fellow bloggers are sometimes surprised to find HFCS in particular foods or beverages, it may be because you guys don't have a full appreciation of its versatility and value. HFCS often plays a role in the integrity of food and beverage products that has little to do with sweetening.

As far as the environmental footprint. Research shows opposing thoughts to this concept too.

Lindsay said...

While I appreciate your slightly advert-esque viewpoint of HFCS, most that I know disagree with you and your theories about the highly processed "sugar".

I just finished a great article and want to quote it here

"Almost all nutritionists finger high fructose corn syrup consumption as a major culprit in the nation's obesity crisis. The inexpensive sweetener flooded the American food supply in the early 1980s, just about the time the nation's obesity rate started its unprecedented climb. "

Please see more at:

Anyway, you can think what you think about HFCS, but I've been avoiding it for years and feel healthier and as fit as ever.

Thanks for stopping by Urban Branches!