High Fructose Corn Syrup: my take

In my post about all the drama in the blogosphere lately, I mentioned the big ol’ ruckus that is going on right now with the Corn Refiner’s Association and their wooing of bloggers to try to take away the stigma against high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). A blogger for whom I have the greatest respect (and was able to meet at BlogHer2010!), The EcoChic, asked me to go into a little more detail about HFCS.

I’ve done a little research to list some links to articles and studies in support of the following facts about high fructose corn syrup. As you can tell, I have NOT been talking to the Corn Refiner’s Association.

Health aspects:

  • It is difficult to get “real” facts about HFCS.
    The Corn Refiner’s Association has recently launched massive PR campaigns stating that HFCS is “natural” and “no worse that sugar”. I would like to point out that arsenic is also natural. So is belladonna. But we shouldn’t eat 145 lbs of those things every year by hiding them in all our food in doses small enough to not be easily detected at the time of consumption. Which is what is done with HFCS.
  • The study the CGA does not want you to know about.
    At Princeton University, a study was done with rats that suggests there IS a difference between HFCS and sugar. Rats eating less HFCS than sugar actually gained more weight.
  • Diet sabotage: HFCS does not provide the same satiation as real sugar.
    Eating products with HFCS instead of sugar will satisfy your sweet craving, but for a shorter period time, leaving you craving more and faster. Of course, this is great for the fast food and processed food companies – including HFCS as an ingredient creates repeat buyers for their products, and sells larger boxes of products! For more information, read a detailed scientific study on this topic.

Political and economic aspects:

  • Corn is subsidized by the government, which makes it cheap.
    Here is an article on Ending Corn Subsidies which talks a little more about the structure and history of the subsidies.
  • A Michael Pollan article section on the high price of cheap food.
    Adding HFCS and other lab-created versions of corn instead of “real” ingredients makes food cheaper, which is why companies do it. Make more food, more cheaply, increase profit. Meanwhile, the American diet is composed primarily of engineered versions of corn, with very little biodiversity.
  • Very informative blog post about the history of corn-derived products.
    The point of this article for me is a question that I ask in all facets of my life as a consumer: what am I supporting with my purchase? Am I saying that a diet which is 90% derived from corn products that have been altered in some way to look like something else is OK? Or am I voting with my dollar to avoid subsidized corn as the main ingredient in my food? Companies like Jason’s Deli and Starbucks respond to the vote I cast with my dollars.

There are the facts that I have. If I had to pick one link for you to click, I would suggest that you listen to this NPR report, which provides a great summary.

As you know, I am not as much of an activist as I am a conscientious consumer. I can tell you what I choose to do for our family, but honestly I will leave it up to you to decide whether you feel convicted to change your behavior or not – in this and in nearly any other area that I cover in this blog.

I do avoid HFCS in pretty much all products we buy. However, there are times when I choose to allow it in, say for the occasional Halloween snack, or when I crave a specific thing during pregnancy. But I don’t buy a huge box of something containing HFCS. If I can buy a single serving, eat it once, and not having it hanging around as temptation, that is what I will do.

What do you do? Do you have the same concerns?

5 thoughts on “High Fructose Corn Syrup: my take

  1. Cynthia1770 says:

    The problem with HFCS is that it is really HFCSs.
    The CRA claims that HFCS has the about the same amount of fructose as sucrose and other sweeteners.
    Go to ADM’s website.
    They make three grades of HFCS–
    Cornsweet 42,
    Cornsweet 55, used for soda
    Cornsweet 90, intensely sweet used for low-cal products.
    The #’s reflect the % fructose.
    As I see it, HFCS is black box.
    Is it HFCS-42, 55, 90, or something in between.
    Only your liver knows for sure.
    Take care,
    Trying to get the HFCS-Out,
    Cynthia Papierniak, M.S.

  2. Heidi says:

    I’m also avoiding HFCS. I am only partially educated on the subject but, having heard that it has risks and with the belief that the further from “pure and natural” I get the worse off I am, I steer clear whenever possible. But you’re right, it’s hard to find products without it–although, luckily, it is getting easier. I do, however, have an inkling of concern for the corn farmers; if we say hell no to HFCS, what impact does that have on them? Can the same farmers that farm corn also do cane sugar? I have no idea, but jobs in America is always at the back of my mind.

  3. Lauren says:

    Anything that is chemically engineered is NOT natural. Hell, white sugar isn’t natural anyway. It’s filtered (using charcoal made from animals) and bleached. Some things are okay in moderation for adults but I certainly wouldn’t give that shit to a child.

  4. Minnesota Mamaleh says:

    helpful and informative thank you. i’m working through the links that you listed– thanks for those, too.

    i did really like your last comment about balancing at the same time as being well informed. that’s a great thing for us to do and also to model and teach to our children.

  5. Cynthia1770 says:

    Hi Heidi,
    I read that approx. 5% of the
    corn harvested goes to the production of HFCS. Therefore, if we were to stop using HFCS it would more affect the corn refiners than the corn growers.

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