High Fructose Corn Syrup Getting a Bad Rap!
As I was sitting at my desk last week getting caught up on my 1,000+ unread emails (as I've just returned from a 9-week maternity leave) ... I got the munchies for something sweet and salty. So what could be tastier than some Planters Trail Mix! As I opened the nommy snack bag, I noticed a big yellow label on the bag that said NO HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP. My first reaction ..."what on Earth is wrong with High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)?" And no ... I promise I haven't been living under a rock, I am completely aware that there has been a considerable amount of confusion on whether or not HFCS is "unhealthy" for consumption. Recently, I read that nearly 55 percent of Americans list HFCS among the top of their food safety worries right behind Mad Cow Diseease and mercury in seafood.
Are you SERIOUS?? Click here for the full article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Well how about I give my two cents worth on the issue for what it's worth. And full disclosure here - I am absolutely no expert on this issue. But I am a farmer, a wife, a journalist and a new mommy, as well as a consumer of food just like you.
Here are a couple quick items about HFCS:
-It is a sweetner made from corn and used as a substitute for sugar in many processed foods and beverages including soda and fruit juice.
-It is recognized as a safe and natural product by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA recognizes it as "natural" because it is made from a vegetable product.
-It contains the same number of calories as table sugar and is very similar in composition, as both contain approximately 50% glucose and 50% fructose.
Let's talk candidly about one of the biggest claims made against HFCS ...
Obesity and diabetesThere are studies that are beginning to pop up linking HFCS as a cause for obesity and diabetes. According to the American Medical Association, "it appears unlikely that HFCS contributes more to obesity or other conditions than sucrose," but the group has called for further independent research on the subject. The reality of the matter is that there is very little scientific evidence to suggest that HFCS is responsible for people becoming obese. In my opinion, overconsumption of fast food and sodas, as well of a lack of physical activity is to blame for obesity. HFCS should be taken in moderation, as well as anything else that we put in our bodies.
In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has indicated that per capita consumption of HFCS is actually on the decline, yet obesity and diabetes rates continue to rise. In fact, obesity rates are rising around the world, including in Mexico, Australia and Europe, even though the use of high fructose corn syrup outside of the United States is limited. Around the world, high fructose corn syrup accounts for about 8% of caloric sweeteners consumed.
It's not natural
Some folks claim that HFCS is not a natural product or that it contains DNA from genetically-modified corn. The reality is that HFCS is made from good old fashioned corn. The corn that my family raises on our farm. High fructose corn syrup contains no artificial or synthetic ingredients or color additives. And while the corn used to produce high fructose corn syrup may have been produced using genetically enhanced corn, existing scientific literature and current testing results indicate that corn DNA cannot be detected in measurable amounts in high fructose corn syrup.
Table sugar is betterWhile there are claims in about every direction on this front, it makes sense to me that honestly high fructose corn syrup is nearly identical in composition to table sugar — both contain approximately 50% glucose and 50% fructose. Sugar and high fructose corn syrup have the same number of calories as most carbohydrates; both have four calories per gram. Because they are nearly compositionally equivalent, the human body cannot tell the difference between high fructose corn syrup and sugar.
Again, I am of the opinion that whether you're eating a tablespoon of beet/cane sugar or a tablespoon of high fructose corn syrup, it is still a version of sugar and is NOT healthy in large quantities. For me, I'm not going to go out and eat an entire bagful of a healthy snack instead of one bite of a more sugary snack. Or I'm not to going to have one Big Mac meal at McDonald's and count that as the only caloric intake for my day. How about a nice balanced breakfast - I'm thinking a banana and SmartStart cereal with antioxidents, then a turkey sandwich on wheat with strawberry yogurt for lunch and chicken faijitas and rice for dinner.
Listen, I believe that consumers should make educated food choices based on the information that is provided. But in this case, I feel that misinformation about High Fructose Corn Syrup is spreading more rapidly than we can control. I wanted to take an opportunity to give HFCS the time of day because in the end it provides another market for the corn that we produce on our farm. And as you know, farming isn't always easy and we can't predict what the markets are going to do on a daily basis. But if America stops using HFCS in food and beverage, this is going to take a heavy, heavy toll on American farmers and I sure hope it doesn't come to that.
Remember, moderation is key - just read the labels and be aware of portion size. Keep your family healthy by providing three balanced meals a day and encourage physical activity everyday for not only your kids but for you too!