If you have listened to the mainstream media you may have been misinformed. HFCS has been labeled “the Devil’s candy,” a “sinister invention,” and “bad for you, crud.”
But is it really all that bad?
Simply stated, the answer is “NO.” Actually, most people fail to realize that HFCS is composed of the exact same sugar combination found in table sugar and honey (fructose and glucose) in virtually the exact same ratios. The name “high fructose corn syrup” simply distinguishes it from other forms of corn syrup, meaning it isn’t any higher in fructose than sugar is. I say it was a bad name choice; maybe they should have named it, “Bob?” Regardless, many credible studies have been published clearing up a lot of the misinformation on HFCS. The American Medical Association concluded, “There is no difference in how the body metabolizes high fructose corn syrup, table sugar or honey. They are indistinguishable once they reach the bloodstream. High fructose syrup does not appear to contribute to obesity more than other caloric sweeteners.”
As a derivative of corn, this alternative sweetener was created in the late 1960’s in order to be used in foods and beverages because of the many benefits it offers. HFCS is 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. Over the last 30 years it has become a hard-to-avoid staple of the American diet. HFCS provides the sweet zing in everything from Coke, Pepsi and Snapple iced tea to Dannon yogurt and Chips Ahoy cookies. It also lurks in unexpected places, like Ritz crackers, Wonder bread, Wishbone ranch dressing and Campbell’s tomato soup.
The news media and a myriad of web sites and blogs continue to mistakenly report that obesity and diabetes rates have climbed at a remarkably similar rate to that of HFCS consumption. Yet, the nutrition science community reports that if the consumption of HFCS has increased in America, then so has all the other food categories. In other words, we are eating more, 24% more total food intake to be exact. We are not eating disproportionately more HFCS; we are eating more of everything! HFCS can only contribute to weight gain when it is eaten as excessive calories, regardless of the food source. Replacing HFCS with sugar, in our processed foods, will not reduce obesity or improve health.
In fact, many parts of the world, including Australia, Mexico and Europe, have an obesity epidemic and rising rates of diabetes despite having little or no HFCS in their food and beverage supply. This supports findings by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the American Diabetes Association that the cause of increasing rates of obesity and diabetes in America is not HFCS. Rather, inactivity and excessive calories, from whatever source, promotes weight gain and therefore, diabetes.
Dr. Walter Willett, current chairman of the nutrition department of the Harvard School of Public Health stated “If there was no high fructose corn syrup in our food supply, I don’t think we would see a change in anything important. I think there is an overreaction to HFCS. There is no credible evidence to support the idea that high-fructose corn syrup is somehow responsible for the increasing trend of obesity and diabetes in America.”
Unfortunately, some people have found it easier to look for one single ingredient to blame, like high fructose corn syrup, for all of America’s weight gain woes. Even former critics of HFCS have dispelled myths and distanced themselves from earlier speculation about the sweetener’s link to obesity in a comprehensive scientific review published in the December 2008 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Respectfully, to all the ‘naturalists’ out there, the real science does not support the bad rap! Whether it is mercury concerns or ADHD theories, the science does not support singling out this one sweetener. Besides it takes our focus off the larger nutrition picture. ‘moderation not deprivation” AND spend less time sedentary! The small, smart choices we can make each day to promote good health quickly become good lifestyle habits!