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Monday, March 26, 2012

Are They Poisoning Our Children
With High Fructose Corn Syrup?
USDA Chart of Per Capita Daily Caloric Intake of Sweeteners
Courtesy of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is not, I repeat, not the same as sugar, unlike the Food Industry, and in particular, the powerful Corn Lobby, would have us believe, and are spending millions of dollars in national television ads and running websites with social networking to convince us otherwise. Though
it might have virtually the same effect on our taste buds, it is a man made chemical that may be dangerous to our health. Meanwhile, we are feeding this concoction to our children literally by the gallon in soft drinks, breakfast cereals, baby formula (!), and hundreds of other products.

(There have been lots of scientific studies, mostly funded by the Corn Lobby, and more often than not, the findings have been inconclusive. There was a Princeton University study that proved HFCS vs. the same number of calories in sugar water caused obesity in rats, but this study was challenged as not pertinent to humans. NPR reported that studies have found mercury in samples of HFCS, but the industry denies using mercury in domestic production. Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen talk about “a growing stack of research suggests that getting too much fructose in your diet interferes with telling your brain that you’re full and should stop eating”, but I’m sure that’s being challenged too.)

We’re not saying that refined sugar is good for you, but sugar (sucrose) is a natural compound produced from sugar cane or beets, and it might not be as bad for you as HFCS.

Corn syrup and HFCS are also not the same thing. Corn syrup is not particularly sweet and is used to soften texture, add volume, prevent crystallization of sugar, and enhance flavor. But if you see “corn syrup” and there’s no sugar or sweetener listed in the ingredients and the product tastes sweet, be suspect of mislabeling. HFCS is a product of corn, so the FDA allows the word, “natural”, but it is treated with genetically engineered enzymes and bacteria in an involved process that was invented in the 70’s, and has grown over the last 40 years into a multi-billion dollar industry. Before the 80’s, Coca-cola, for one example, contained only sugar. Then in a two step process, they changed the sweetener to first 50/50, sugar and HFCS in 1980, and finally to 100% HFCS in 1985.
Take a look at the above graph to see how the HFCS industry has flourished. Per capita consumption has grown to 63 pounds annually in the US. Since some of us don’t consume it at all, some of us must eat and drink considerably more. Incidentally, we are the only country in the world that feeds ourselves such a high percentage of HFCS vs. sugar. Here it’s close to 50/50, but in Europe, mostly due to production quotas in support of sugar, they consume well under 10% HFCS, as in the rest of the world. Coca-cola produced in Europe or Mexico, for two examples, still contains 100% sugar.

The Corn Refiners Association in the US, in order to push back against the critics and the increasing number of manufacturers who are wisely and responsibly choosing to remove HFCS from their ingredients, has embarked on a national TV ad propaganda campaign spending 20 to 30 million dollars with at least 3 websites,,, and (yes they’ve got lots of experts, in fact the Wikipedia article on HFCS references Dr. John S. White, one such expert) and social networking on Facebook and Twitter to convince us that HFCS is just as safe and practically the same as sugar. They say our body can’t even tell the difference.
Now we’ve got to talk organic chemistry and the manufacturing process, but we’ll try to make it as easy to understand as possible. 

The most popular sugar is sucrose, and is a compound made up of 1 molecule of glucose and 1 molecule of fructose bonded together. So sucrose is 50/50 glucose and fructose. The pro-HFCS people tell us that HFCS is 55% fructose molecules and 45% glucose molecules, so it’s practically the same as sucrose.

But this is how they get there, the manufacturing process. First, corn is refined into pure glucose, the sugar that is naturally found in corn. Then they take the glucose and, through treating it with genetically engineered bacteria and enzymes, turn the glucose molecules into 90% fructose molecules. Yes, this is modern day alchemy. Like magic, they change a molecule into something it wasn’t. And since they want to mimic sucrose so badly, they mix in some of the original batch of highly refined corn glucose into this batch of genetically engineered 90% fructose, so that it becomes their final product, a mixture of 55% fructose and 45% glucose. Yes, in percentages it looks almost the same as sucrose, but there is no bonding between the two different molecules. Because the molecules aren’t bonded together it doesn’t crystallize like real sugar, so HFCS is a liquid (and is easier to blend in food production). The whole manufacturing process is done on a huge scale in huge vats and conduits, and I’m sure it doesn’t seem very appetizing, but that goes for all processed foods.


(This slide is from a presentation (PDF) produced by Dr. LeBlanc, a USDA researcher, for a meeting on HFCS in 2008 apparently as it relates to beekeeping. There are lots of other slides equally as interesting, including slide 10, that talks about a manufacturing by-product called Maltooligosaccharides, which is toxic when HFCS contaminated with it is fed to honey bees, and a by-product of shipment and storage of HFCS called Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), which produces acids (slides 12-16), that are also harmful.)

The relatively few people who profit from the industry (represented by the Corn Refiners Association which is paying for the PR campaign) would stand to lose, if we ever became conscious and stopped eating and drinking this stuff. But remember that the 20 or 30 million they’re spending is like pocket change to them and their billions of dollars in profit. And these people are so arrogant, they think they can browbeat us and convince us and win, and their sales and profits will do nothing but go up.

We know why they don’t want us to stop consuming this product and feeding it to our children, but why should we go along with their movie?  Does it benefit us, the consumers?  It says under “simple facts” in, one of their websites, that one of the benefits of HFCS is that it makes our food “more affordable”. This is code in the corporate world for higher profits. If they save a penny or two vs. the cost of sugar on a six pack, will they really pass that on to us?  But on millions of six packs, now you’re talking real money.

So if it’s really not benefitting us, and to us sugar tastes as sweet, why should we keep buying products with HFCS? Why should we take the risk? Why should we risk the health of our children in a science experiment so that some corn tycoons can sell more corn and make more money? 

But how can we eliminate it completely from our diet? The only way is to read the labels. (Luckily, the FDA recently put their foot down when the industry wanted to change the name from “high fructose corn syrup” to “corn sugar” in the ingredients.)  If the ingredients contain the words, “high fructose corn syrup”, don’t buy it.  That’s not always easy to do. In some categories in many supermarkets in most parts of the country, like barbecue sauce for an example, they offer none without HFCS. Then, the only alternative is to go to the health food store or to make your own.  And if we eat in restaurants, or worse, in fast food stores, or buy from convenience stores, it’s even more difficult to stop consuming HFCS. But try, we must.

Next, we’ve got to reward companies that are doing the right thing, that are eliminating HFCS. I’ve noticed that Snapple has removed HFCS from all their soft drinks, and that General Mills uses only sugar in their breakfast cereal products, while other major cereal producers continue to use HFCS in almost all their products. These other cereal companies we have to punish by not buying their products. Short of legislation, which in my mind the consumer in this country should be protected, but short of legislation, the only thing we can do is with our pocketbooks, and maybe we can teach these tycoons a lesson.

We’ve got to maintain our own health, and we’ve got to eliminate HFCS from our diet. Whether or not that yields results in the marketplace is beside the point. It’s our job to make sure our health and our children’s health is protected, and that’s the priority. And if that changes the world, so be it.

Finally, if, God forbid, HFCS has anything to do with the major epidemic of obesity and diabetes in our country, if it impacts our health negatively in any way, then shame on the manufacturers, and shame on us for eating and drinking it and feeding it to our children!

Please read the attached article by Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Michael Roizen, entitled, “Is High Fructose Corn Syrup Bad For You? Yes, Says Dr. Oz”.  If you’d like to read an article that is very thorough, but inconclusive, here’s one from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. We urge you to do your own research and draw your own conclusions.

We are looking forward to seeing your comments.

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