Monday, September 8, 2008


The Corn Refiner's Association and everyone's favorite refined sugar High Fructose Corn Syrup!

A recent campaign by the Corn Refiner's Association (an industrial group that protects and promotes corn based products) is defending the consumption of a natural sugar called High Fructose Corn Syrup or HFCS. This "natural" sugar is created by stripping corn of all its nutrients, separating out the sugar and then chemically treating that sugar so it matches the sweetness of sucrose, also known as table sugar (for a more accurate description of how it is manufactured click here). The ads feature every day people being served sugary treats and being comforted by the fact that corn syrup comes from corn. Other than the general "corniness" of the ads, I became slightly concerned. Over the past several years I have been taking HFCS out of my diet and replacing it with fruits and vegetables. I began to break out in a cold sweat. Did I make a rash decision leaving this wonderfully refined, processed and chemicalized natural product behind? I set out on a quest to find High Fructose Corn Syrup and possibly invite it back into my body.

This was not difficult. I found it everywhere at the grocery store. This sugar was found in breads, salad dressings, cereals, baby food, ketchup, juice and it even made it to the top of the charts on some ingredient labels. Soft drinks turned out to come away with the bragging rights of being the most HFCS power packed product. Later on I discovered that forty five thousand products in the average grocery store contain corn products, six percent of those corn products being HFCS (Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan Page 19). I was relieved. I did not want to be responsible for starting a trend that wiped out an entire denatured carbohydrate from the American diet. High Fructose Corn Syrup was alive and well and if I wished I could make sure it was present in every meal and drink I took in for the rest of my life.

I realized I needed to do more research. What were the potential benefits or potential dangers of consuming HFCS in large quantities? This is important to know, since the corn industry makes sure every single American is provided 78 pounds of HFCS a year. When you take out all the extraneous factors, we are all entitled to half a pound of HFCS each and every day for the rest of our lives (What to Eat, Marion Nestle page 319). I visited two websites launched by the Corn Refiner's Association, and I was blown away to see what I had been missing. High Fructose Corn Syrup actually enhances the flavor of fruit and spices. What have I been doing eating apples and bananas without dumping refined sugar on them?! My cumin, turmeric and curry powder simply are not enough on their own, they are all begging to be brought out of their flavor prisons and freed by the miracle of HFCS. According to the Corn Refiner's Association, the refined sugar known as High Fructose Corn Syrup does not contribute to rises in obesity or type 2 diabetes. It made me wonder why type 2 diabetes is often called "sugar diabetes", for all the facts about how people develop diabetes click here (for those who want a quick summary it says the more glucose, or sugar, that builds up in your blood the more your body becomes at risk for type 2 diabetes)
There were even leading experts in the field exonerating HFCS, including Dr. Walter Willett from the Harvard School of Public Health, Dr. Marion Nestle an NYU professor and author of Food Politics and What to Eat and Dr. Michael Jacobsen of the Center for Science in Public Interest. This is where I started to become confused. The website HFCSfacts quotes Dr. Marion Nestle as a friend of HFCS yet in Chapter 27 of her own book, What to Eat, she offers some pretty startling evidence that the increase in sugar consumption can be declared "guilty by association" for the rise in obesity in this country over the last twenty years. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the consumption of HFCS has jumped 1000% in the last thirty years, "far exceeding the intake of any other food or food group" (Sugar Shock, Connie Bennett and Stephen Sinatra page 88) . Dr. Walter Willett even claims that the HFCS does not satisfy our need for sugar, especially when consumed in beverage form, causing us to take in more processed sugar than is healthy for us. His landmark project, The Nurse's Health Study, showed that "women who increased their intake in soda or fruit punch over a four year period gained weight" and "woman who consumed one soda or a glass of fruit punch per day had nearly a two fold higher risk of type 2 diabetes" (Eat, Drink and Weigh Less page 69). I actually receive Dr. Michael Jacobsen's Nutrition Action: Health Letter, where he states that all processed sugar, including HFCS, "undermines our diets because it supplies us with empty calories" (Nutrition Action Health Letter: January/February 2008)
This was all becoming very complex to me. I was diving deeper and deeper into the world of sugar and my intellectual cortex was expanding. I could feel myself becoming tired, cynical and in need of something to eat. On the way downstairs from my personal library, I remembered what Positive Eating was all about. Eating is supposed to be a positive and enjoyable experience and the things we put into our body should be as positive and enjoyable as possible. I grabbed an apple and came upstairs to write this blog post. I decided to look up a picture of High Fructose Corn Syrup and see if it brought up the same feelings of wholeness and goodness I was getting from my apple. This is what I found:

The Corn Refiner's Association is correct. Sugar is a natural occurring substance and the sweet taste was meant to be enjoyed by human taste buds. I enjoy it thoroughly every day...however it looks a little bit more something like this:

Please let me know what your thoughts are. If anyone from the Corn Refiner's Association is out there please send me a bottle of High Fructose Corn Syrup...I am curious of how much it can enhance the flavor of these remarkable tasty farm fresh locally grown peaches I've been eating daily.

As always eat positive,



JoAnn said...

WOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOO!!!! Eat that, Corn Refiners Association!!!
Just the other day I saw one of their HFCS promotions and I was appalled. Here’s the scenario: A woman tries to offer her significant other some of her popsicle. He suggests that she doesn't love him, because the popsicle contains high fructose corn syrup. She challenges him to tell her what “they” are saying about it. He stammers a little, but doesn’t answer. She says, “it’s made from corn, has the same number of calories as sugar, honey, and it’s fine in moderation.” Ahhh…I see. A little of the old "if everyone else jumped off a bridge.”

Even though food claims are notoriously fickle, HFCS has become increasingly unpopular. Conveniently enough, the FDA recently anointed HFCS with "natural" status, which means almost nothing, but does allow the CRA to market and label its product under a whole new guise. Opponents say that HFCS should not be considered natural because its chemical bonds are broken and rearranged in the manufacturing process. Just the word “natural” seems to describe something that you could find or encounter in nature. Nothing about a corn refinery suggests that it has any association with the natural world.

Reacting to the FDA decision, Audrae Erickson, president of the Corn Refiners Association, said, "HFCS contains no artificial or synthetic ingredients or color additives and meets FDA's requirements for the use of the term 'natural.' HFCS, like table sugar and honey, is natural. It is made from corn, a natural grain product."

Okay, when exactly did bees get lab coats?!

For some insight on how “natural” has been diluted and reformulated by the food industry, check out this site:

Caitlyn Clark said...

I actually was watching TV yesterday and in just the short time span I counted 6 of those pro-HFCS commercials. I was confused...

Thanks for the clarification (again)!

Problem for you to blog on:
Fruits and veggies perish rather quickly, especially without added preservatives... so, what is the positive eating take on frozen foods? Any recommendations? What are some meals that require minimal produce, more non-perishables, and still keep the same value? Any strategies to get more for your money. I bought tomatoes, and had to toss some because they didn't keep long enough... How can I avoid this and still have a positive relationship with food?