The Corn Refiners Association, known for bringing us high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), is on the move to buff up the image of this bastard sweetener. Long felt to be a contributor to our growing obesity problem, HFCS has been referenced as “the crack of sweeteners.” You can see one of the CRA’s YouTube videos here. Propaganda? Look at the video, read on and make your own decision.
So what’s the scoop? Is HFCS really the evildoer that some would have us believe? Here’s what you need to know:
Processed sugar 101. HFCS is a processed sweetener made from corn starch and it contains a high level of fructose (found in fruits and honey) and glucose. HCFS is made up of about 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose, which is about the same composition of table sugar. While it may be from corn, HFCS’s refined composition results in remarkably quick absorption which can impact a child’s insulin levels quickly and drastically. And this stuff is everywhere, from ketchup to twinkies. Manufacturers love it because it’s 75% sweeter than sugar, it blends well into foods and it’s cheap.
HCFS and the obesity link. The consumption of HFCS has increased 250% over the past 15 years which has lead some to assume that HFCS is the core thread in our obesity problem. Further, we consume approximately 300 more calories per day than we did in 1985. According to data cited by Michael Pollan in his book, In Defense of Food, about a quarter of this caloric increase comes from HFCS. But another quarter come from fat and about half from grains. So while corn syrup isn’t helping matters, it definitely isn’t operating alone. Beyond it’s pervasive presence in just about everything our children eat and it’s propensity for quick absorption, there’s nothing specific about a HFCS calorie that puts a child at higher risk for getting fat.
Bottom line. So while HFCS may not represent an independent threat to our children, it’s the volume of consumption and the context in which our children consume HFCS that represents a problem. Processed foods high in calories and fat taken in quantity will put any child at risk for overweight. If you really want to minimize HFCS, read your labels. But be prepared to find it everywhere. Your best general move is to minimize processed foods and offer whole foods whenever possible.
For a little fun check out A Life Less Sweet and follow one family's journey to eliminate HFCS from their world.
Photo via Wikipedia.