Monday, June 27, 2011

Healthy Eating, Healthy Living: 16 Reasons to Avoid HFCS

I am sure I must annoy many of my friends and family with all of my talk about avoiding HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup).  I constantly talk about reading labels and not feeding that stuff to my kids.  Once in awhile I am somewhat bamboozled by a brand that I trust that slipped it in with out me knowing either because I didn't read the label or because they used a different name.  The corn industry is sneaky like that, you have to learn to watch for many different names.  They know we catch on and start avoiding 1 particular ingredient (like HFCS) and they just change the name.

Names to watch out for:
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Crystalline Fructose- “is produced by allowing the fructose to crystallize from a fructose-enriched corn syrup.”  Sounds like HFCS to me!   
Corn Syrup- HFCS is made from Corn Syrup.  Corn Syrup is made from corn starch.  It is not the same as HFCS but the starting blocks of it.  Its not necessarily as bad for you but really not that good either so I suggest avoiding it.
Corn Syrup Solids- Same as corn syrup, not as bad for you has HFCS but it's still made by turning corn starch into glucose so probably best to avoid. 
Corn syrup solids are nothing more than a dried/dehydrated version of corn syrup, often used in powdered coffee creamers and similar products
High Maltose Corn Syrup- This link says it all, "Meet High Fructose Corn Syrup's Sneaky Cousin: High Maltose Corn Syrup".  I only discovered this new sneak tactic in the last week when I was reading the label of a trusted "all natural" brand.  I had band trust and brand loyalty and didn't think to check the label before buying this new product of theirs.  It was only after we had eaten half the box that I made the discovery.
Glucose Syrup- another name for corn syrup
Corn Sugar- I only added a link to this to show the corn industry's attempt to pass of HFCS as "corn sugar" and "natural".  I most assuredly do NOT agree with ANYTHING on that website!!

-Harry Truman

That's exactly what they are trying to do.  They are trying to convince and confuse us into believing that HFCS is natural and just like real sugar.  Corn Sugar, is the Corn industry's newest idea to slip HFCS in under the radar and make it sound "natural" after their failed Sweet Surprise/Get the Facts advertisement campaign of  claiming "HFCS is just like sugar and fine in moderation"

"High-fructose corn syrup and sugar are nutritionally and metabolically equivalent," the Corn Refiners Association said. "The name 'corn sugar' more accurately describes this sweetener ..."
- Michigan's sugar beet growers in fight against 'corn sugar'

The problem with that is, it is not even close to real sugar and there is no moderation with that stuff.  Almost every processed food in the grocery store from bread to snack cakes, chips to soda and even a few surprising ones such as lunch meat and pancake syrup, ice cream and even canned fruits/veggies often contain HFCS in them.  It is actually quite a challenge to avoid the stuff.  You really have to become a label reader and read every single label on every single item you buy.  Its the only real way to ensure nothing you are buying contains HFCS in it.

HFCS is unnatural and sweeter than sugar.  It actually makes your body crave MORE sweet things to eat.  It is also cheaper than sugar and has a longer shelf life which is why so many companies chose to use it instead.  It is an artificial way to keep food costs down.

I plan to write another post about avoiding all artificial sweeteners (as that is EXACTLY what HFCS is no matter what the anyone in the back pocket of the corn industry claims) but for now I will stick to the reasons why you want to avoid this stuff like the plague.

16 Reasons to Avoid HFCS:

1. HFCS has been associated with accelerating the aging process.  Gotta appeal to people vain sides, a diet that includes HFCS = aging much faster!
2. Obesity- and while we are on the subject of vanity HFCS is a KNOWN contributor to the obesity epidemic in the US.  50-100 years ago there was no obesity problem and you know what else, there was no HFCS, processed foods or fast food!!  Butter (and I mean REAL butter, made from a cow not fake plastic wanna be crap) is not our problem, other natural fats are not our problem,  Processed unnatural food like substances are the problem.  Our bodies do not know what to do with these unnatural wanna be foods.
"When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they're becoming obese -- every single one, across the board. Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don't see this; they don't all gain extra weight."
-Bart Hoebel, Psychology Professor at Princeton who conducted a study that showed that "all sweeteners are not equal when it comes to weight gain: Rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same." 
the article also goes on to say that:
"In the 40 years since the introduction of high-fructose corn syrup as a cost-effective sweetener in the American diet, rates of obesity in the U.S. have skyrocketed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 1970, around 15 percent of the U.S. population met the definition for obesity; today, roughly one-third of the American adults are considered obese, the CDC reported. High-fructose corn syrup is found in a wide range of foods and beverages, including fruit juice, soda, cereal, bread, yogurt, ketchup and mayonnaise. On average, Americans consume 60 pounds of the sweetener per person every year."
3. Its not REAL food- like too much "food" in America these days, HFCS is not REAL food.  It is a man made chemical that mimics sugar to our taste buds and our brain.  The problem is our bodies do not know what to do with it.  Store it as fat?  Attack and expel it out as a foreign toxin?  Our bodies just don't know.  Most food in America (and definitely anything that contains HFCS) can only be called a "food like substance" at best.  Fillers that are made cheaply with the intention of tricking your body into thinking you have eaten and are full.
4. Fructose is metabolized in the liver, diets high in HFCS may cause the liver to over work creating many liver problems up to and including liver failure.  Sugar is a perfect 50/50 balance of glucose and fructose.  HFCS can have anywhere from 55-80% fuctose causing the liver to over work.  Since it is created it is not an "exact" match for sugar and the acceptability range on the fructose balance fluctuates.
5. The liver can also develop cirrhosis when HFCS is consumed, a disease that is normally seen in alcoholics.  So if your diet includes HFCS you could avoid alcohol and never have a single drink your entire life yet end up with a liver that looks exactly like that of an alcoholic. (see #4 above)
6. HFCS has been linked to cellular inflammation and oxidative damage to the body.
7. Infertility- cellular inflammation and oxidative damage in the body can negatively impact fertility.  Add to that the fact that obesity can negatively impact fertility and anything that causes the body to be out of whack in any way can also cause fertility issues.  It's no wonder so many people in America suffer fertility issues.  So if you are trying to have a baby, put down that soda can!
8. When HFCS is consumed the body builds extra, very dangerous and unnecessary fat deposits around the heart, liver and digestive organs.
9. Consuming HFCS may cause and has been linked to Diabetes
10.  Consuming HFCS may cause and has been linked to Heart Disease- see #8, fatty deposits around the heart can lead to heart disease.
11. Consuming HFCS may cause and has been  linked to Kidney Damage/Kidney Disease-
"Researchers from Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine in Chicago took a look at the link between kidney disease and high-fructose corn syrup. Using data from nearly 9,400 adults in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1999 to 2004, they tracked consumption of sugary soft drinks, a major source of high-fructose corn syrup in the United States, and protein in the urine, a sensitive marker for kidney disease. They found that overall, people who drank two or more sugary sodas a day were at 40 percent higher risk for kidney damage, while the risk for women soda drinkers nearly doubled."
-The New York Times: Still Spooked by High Fructose Corn Syrup
This TERRIFIES me because I already have plenty of kidney issues including chronic kidney stones and kidney infections.  I often jokingly ask my hubby if he will give me a kidney when mine fail but its really not that funny anymore!  I used to have an almost constant pain in my right lower back/side area (the right kidney is always the one that produces the stones) that began in my early 20's and became progressively worse as I got older.  It really flares up when I am pregnant. When I stopped consuming HFCS it went away.  When I started allowing myself to indulge in Dr. Pepper again (when the Dr. Pepper Throwback, made with real sugar, was no longer available to buy, it started out as 1 every 2-3 days and quickly jumped back up to 1 with lunch and 1 with dinner. ) the pain returned as well.  This was just last month and when I switched to a local Lemonade made with inverted cane juice and Natural Sierra Mist (made with real sugar) the pain is once again gone.  That's enough "proof" for me that the HFCS was doing something to my kidneys!  I also had and passed a kidney stone in the few months I was once again consuming the HFCS laden Dr. Pepper.  They appear to have kept the Pepsi and Mt. Dew throwback sodas but the Dr. Pepper is no longer available in any of the stores near me.
12. HFCS has been linked to many forms of cancer including the almost always deadly pancreatic cancer.  The pancreas is part of the digestive system.  It aids in insulin production and the breaking down of sugar into energy for the body.  The pancreas is just as confused with HFCS as the rest of the body.  HFCS causes the pancreas to have to work overtime.
13. HFCS causes you to over eat.  Since it is broken down differently in your body it does not trigger the correct release of hormones to tell your body you are full.  It creates a vicious cycle of confused "hunger" (your body thinks you are hungry when you are not) followed by over eating. 
14. Diets high in HFCS have been associated with Metabolic Syndrome which "is a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, elevated insulin levels, excess body fat around the waist or abnormal cholesterol levels — that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes."
15. A 2008 study found that High Fructose Corn Syrup Contains Mercury.
"Almost half of tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) contained mercury, which was also found in nearly a third of 55 popular brand-name food and beverage products where HFCS is the first- or second-highest labeled ingredient, according to two new U.S. studies."
-The Washington Post
We all know Mercury is a huge toxin!!  I shudder at the thought of the amount of Dr. Pepper I have drank in my lifetime as I am pretty much 100% sure that is one of the "55 popular brand-name food and beverage products" they are talking about!
16. There is now evidence that links Colony Collapse Disorder (aka the disappearance of the Honey Bees) to HFCS.  Apparently some irresponsible bee keepers decided it would be cheaper and easier to feed their bees HFCS ("BRILLIANT" I know!), especially in the winter months when the bee's natural foods are not readily available.  The problem arises with, Hydroxymethylfurfural (try to say that 3 times fast! I don't even know how to pronounce it 1 time fast.) which is a byproduct of the heating process of HFCS and apparently a toxin to bee's.
So not only is HFCS potentially making us sick, reducing our life expectancy and eventually killing us off but its now linked to the disappearance of the honey bee's.  At first this may seem insignificant, unless like me you love honey, BUT bee's do a lot more than just make honey.  It is the process in which they make the honey, collecting nectar and at the same time pollinating plants, that is their most important contribution.  With out honey bees (and other pollinating insects/birds) our plants cannot reproduce and die off.  No plants = no food for us.  It is not a good scenario at all!

I have always been a believer in the "Everything in moderation is fine" mantra.  This is 1 area where I am going to have to become really strict and throw that out the window. As far as I am concerned, there is no room for moderation with any sort of "food like substance" 

I already try to make sure that no products containing HFCS (or any other form listed above) ever enters our home or my children's mouths.  Sometimes I am hoodwinked, as in the case of the High Maltose Corn Syrup.  Then there are a few areas, like Ted's soda, where this is over looked but as I mentioned in my first Healthy Living Post even he is now on board with these ideals and ready to give up the Mt. Dew habit (or at least switch to the Mt. Dew throwback which is a step in the right direction).  Now we have to work on getting the kids on board with the "no more Happy Meals" rule.  We never consumed them a lot, literally once every 4 weeks  (as it was usually the second pay day of the month because the first was always rent and had very little left over).  They are not going to be happy with this as they really look forward to Happy Meal night.

In the words of the documentary Food Inc. "Every time you go to the grocery store you are casting a vote."  People often become overwhelmed at the fact that HFCS is in everything and they think there is nothing we can do about it.  That we are stuck consuming this food like substance in our foods.  In this case, however, change can be simple, you just have to be willing to make it.  You have to be willing to put in the effort to read labels and avoid buying anything that contains HFCS.  Imagine the change we could make if even 1/4 of us began to avoid this stuff.  Cast your vote today!  Do you vote for HFCS, Obesity, Diabetes, over all poor health and possibly even death or do you vote for REAL FOODS?!

I know this blog post is heavily laden with links but I encourage you to read them and educate yourself.  Ultimately it is your body and your choice.  I for one choose real foods!


1 comment:

  1. Have you ever tried agave syrup. It is all the rage as a healthy sweetener.

    Surprise! It's not! Well, not if you are afraid of HFCS. Turns out that the sweetener is high fructose syrup made from agave. It is not "all natural" like the makers want you to believe. Just stick with plain old sugar.

    It also has become apparent that no artificial sweetener is helpful either. No, it isn't a matter of some chemical danger as years of real scientific research on them has shown no harmful effect.

    Turns out that the body reacts to the fact that they taste sweet and it affects your metabolism in a negative way.

    Personally, I wonder what all the hoo ha about additives and natural and organic is all about. We've been eating foods that have none of the attributes of "healthy" for years and rates of cancer are dropping and longevity is increasing sharply.

    If it is all so bad, why are we living longer and generally healthier? I continue to eat red meat and plenty of the bad stuff. Even if it does shorten my life by a couple of years, I'll die happy.

    My idea of the perfect death is to choke to death on a piece of medium well steak.


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