Sunday, January 9, 2011

High-Fructose Corn Syrup, Naturally

We all expect to find bills in the mail box at the beginning of a new year.  And, at this time of year, we all expect to be surrounded with information about how to improve our health.  But would you expect to find both in the same envelope on the 4th day of the new year? 

Probably not.

When the bill from my friendly chiropractor arrived in the mail last week, I certainly did not expect to find a two-page, slighted article on the safety of consuming high-fructose corn syrup neatly folded behind my invoice.  Stuffing invoices with misleading information about what I should be eating was something new from them.  This liability surged my irritability.

There is an abundance of information about our food supply available these days.  And it seems everyone, from the chiropractor all the way up to the First Lady, has an opinion on what exactly we should be eating.  However, knowing that 97% of us no longer have a direct connection to the production of that food supply, it can be difficult to discern the truth from the buffet of information.

As daughter, daughter-in-law, and sister to three of my favorite Kansas corn farmers, I wanted my fellow chiropractic patients to know the truth about this very interesting and useful ingredient derived from corn, affectionately called high-fructose corn syrup, or HFCS.

HFCS was developed in the late 1950s and gained popularity as an ingredient in food production in the 1970s as US trade policy drove up the price of sugar.  It has sustained that popularity not because of price, but because of the beneficial properties of HFCS as an ingredient.  HFCS gives breads and cakes a soft-moist texture, protects the texture of canned and frozen fruits, enhances fruit and spice flavor in products such as ketchup and spaghetti sauce, and extends the shelf-life of carbonated beverages, just to name a few.

High-fructose corn syrup was specifically developed to provide an equal sweetness to sugar.  This way, food and beverage producers could substitute sugar with HFCS, and consumers would not be able to discern a difference in taste or sweetness.  Table sugar is 50% fructose, 50% glucose.  HFCS is either 42% or 55% fructose; the remaining balance is glucose and higher sugars.  Both sucrose and HFCS have the same number of calories, four per gram.

This particular article sought to slander high-fructose corn syrup by calling it “chemically altered,” and “not a natural food item.”  When in fact, the processing methods for converting beet or cane into table sugar, or corn into high-fructose corn syrup, are surprisingly similar.  Both are extracted from plant material and then both undergo processing steps including hydrolosis, flocculation/filtration, enzyme treatment, color/aroma removal, and concentration.  Additionally, HFCS meets Food & Drug Administration guidelines to be labeled a “natural” food ingredient.

The article goes on to say that HFCS is not metabolized in our bodies the same way as sugar and other sweeteners.  This corn farmer’s daughter further research, however, says this isn’t so.  High-fructose corn syrup does not reduce the body’s ability to produce insulin, is metabolized in the same way sugar is in the body, and has the same effect on feelings of fullness as beverages sweetened with sugar or a glass of 1% milk.

My favorite line from the article was this: “…food items that include HFCS are sugary cereals, toaster pastries, soft drinks, juice pouches and boxes, jams and jellies, salad dressings, sauces, ketchup, canned fruit, cookies and crackers.”  Thank goodness the chiropractor pointed this out for me. 

Mostly, the article tries to pin the source of rising adult and childhood obesity rates squarely in the lap of corn producers and corn processors.  And in a rural, agricultural based county in Kansas where corn production has quadrupled in the past eight years, I hardly see the dissemination of this article as a way to boost traffic through the doors of the chiropractor.

Seriously, folks, listen to your Midwest common sense.  You and I know the reason folks need bigger and bigger pants sizes: too many calories in, too little energy expended.   If toaster pastries and soft drinks keep appearing on your grocery list, you’re probably not dropping any pounds.

Am I boycotting my friendly chiropractor?  Certainly not.  But I refuse to accept information on the food I choose to feed my family from a source who fails to consider the farmer, the food processor, and every step involved in getting my food from farm to table.  And you should too. 

For more information, visit http://www.sweetsurprise.com

11 comments:

Cynthia1770 said...

Hi Sara,
My google alert for HFCS picked up your article. Interesting blog. The problem with HFCS is that it is really HFCSs.

Go to ADM's website. They produce Cornsweet 90, HFCS-90, which is 90% fructose and is used for direct human consumption to sweeten low-cal foods.

In a recent research paper by the Keck School of Medicine of USC, Dr. Golan's team surveyed the %fructose in soda in their neighborhood. They found that national brand bottled soda had as much as 65% fructose. The CRA claims they use HFCS-55.
HFCS-65 has 18% more fructose than HFCS-55. Could that possibly have a metabolic effect?

I am sure you are aware of the research findings that show it is the excess fructose over time that has lead to our current health woes, including obesity and type II diabetes. HFCS is a only a blend of fructose, unlike sucrose which is a disaccharide and can be none other that 50 %fructose: 50% glucose. It would appear that the CRA wasn't satisfied to just simulate sucrose, they are now maniupulating the fru:glu ratio to the wishes of the end food manufacturers. The FDA doesn't require the fru:glu ratio to be listed and so the consumer is unaware of the %fructose they are ingesting. Only their liver knows for sure.

Your chiropracter was hardly over stepping his bounds when he suggested that you eliminate foods with HFCS. So yes, HFCS may be a godsend for food manufacturers making cakes moist and breads brown and used as a preservative.
But use your midwestern common sense. Why would you want to eat something that uses a sweetener, which is supposed to be metabolized by your body, to also be a preservative. Could the bacteria be smarter than us?

Cynthia Papierniak, M.S.

Sarah Grace said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cynthia1770 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Therese (CRA) said...

Sarah – Thank you for this well thought out post.

Therese, Corn Refiners Association

Therese (CRA) said...

@Cynthia I know we have talked about this before, but to also clarify for any of Sarah’s readers. HFCS-90 is used to blend with HFCS-42 to make the 55% fructose syrup, HFCS-55. HFCS-90 is also used in a small number of specialty applications, where it’s added sweetness can be used to reduce calories in a product as you mention, or its higher fructose content can be used to control the freezing point of frozen confections or reduce freezer damage in frozen fruits. These commercial applications use very little HFCS-90, accounting for less than 0.1% of the sales volume of all HFCS combined.

HFCS-55 is used primarily in carbonated beverages and accounts for 60% of the US supply. HFCS-42, is used primarily in breads, jams, yogurts, etc.,…accounts for 40%. You can find additional data at
http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/Sugar/data.htm (Table 30)

The abnormal results published in the University of Southern California study that you are talking about resulted from inadvertent errors in the analysis of the sugar content. For example, key factors in analyzing sugars were either overlooked or were not mentioned in the study, including not accounting for sucrose inversion (the breaking down of table sugar in certain Ph environments), or the presence of higher sugars (which were left out of the analysis or could have been erroneously added to the fructose content). Moreover, the authors did not specify which analytical method they used and how the samples were prepared, which could also compromise the findings from this study.

Prior to the independent review noted below, expert Michael Jacobson, Ph.D., Executive Director, Center for Science in Public Interest expressed doubt when he noted in a statement on the USC study, saying “Because the new analyses seem so improbable, confirmatory studies using the best analytical method need to be done before the alarm bells ring too loudly.” October 27, 2010, CSPInet.org, www.cspinet.org/201010272.html

Most importantly, independent review of the fructose content of HFCS-55 confirmed that production of high-fructose corn syrup adheres to tightly calibrated industry standards for its sugar content, both fructose and glucose. Allegations made in the USC study claiming that the fructose content exceeds normal averages were disproven in this review. To read the independent review, see www.sweetsurprise.com/sites/default/files/HFCS_Composition_Survey_11-2...

The International Society of Beverage Technologists also commissioned an independent scientific review. See www.bevtech.org/.../20101202-HFCS.pdf

Therese, Corn Refiners Association

Therese (CRA) said...

@Cynthia I know we have talked about this before, but to also clarify for any of Sarah’s readers. HFCS-90 is used to blend with HFCS-42 to make the 55% fructose syrup, HFCS-55. HFCS-90 is also used in a small number of specialty applications, where it’s added sweetness can be used to reduce calories in a product as you mention, or its higher fructose content can be used to control the freezing point of frozen confections or reduce freezer damage in frozen fruits. These commercial applications use very little HFCS-90, accounting for less than 0.1% of the sales volume of all HFCS combined.

HFCS-55 is used primarily in carbonated beverages and accounts for 60% of the US supply. HFCS-42, is used primarily in breads, jams, yogurts, etc.,…accounts for 40%. You can find additional data at
http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/Sugar/data.htm (Table 30)

The abnormal results published in the University of Southern California study that you are talking about resulted from inadvertent errors in the analysis of the sugar content. For example, key factors in analyzing sugars were either overlooked or were not mentioned in the study, including not accounting for sucrose inversion (the breaking down of table sugar in certain Ph environments), or the presence of higher sugars (which were left out of the analysis or could have been erroneously added to the fructose content). Moreover, the authors did not specify which analytical method they used and how the samples were prepared, which could also compromise the findings from this study.

Cont...

Therese, Corn Refiners Association

Therese (CRA) said...

Prior to the independent review noted below, expert Michael Jacobson, Ph.D., Executive Director, Center for Science in Public Interest expressed doubt when he noted in a statement on the USC study, saying “Because the new analyses seem so improbable, confirmatory studies using the best analytical method need to be done before the alarm bells ring too loudly.” October 27, 2010, CSPInet.org, www.cspinet.org/201010272.html

Most importantly, independent review of the fructose content of HFCS-55 confirmed that production of high-fructose corn syrup adheres to tightly calibrated industry standards for its sugar content, both fructose and glucose. Allegations made in the USC study claiming that the fructose content exceeds normal averages were disproven in this review. To read the independent review, see www.sweetsurprise.com/sites/default/files/HFCS_Composition_Survey_11-2...
Continued:

The International Society of Beverage Technologists also commissioned an independent scientific review. See www.bevtech.org/.../20101202-HFCS.pdf

Therese, Corn Refiners Association

Sarah Grace said...

Therese - Thanks for your insightful comments. Much appreciated!! I'm hoping my posts here and there will empower women to shop using knowledge and facts - not driven by fear of the unknown.

Sarah Grace said...

For further reading pleasure. It's not just the corn growers substantiating HFCS.

http://jn.nutrition.org/content/139/6/1219S.full

http://www.ajcn.org/content/88/6/1738S.full

~Sarah

Anonymous said...

Sara,

Thanks so much for taking a stand. So many don't understand HFCS and what it is before they try to avoid it. I will continue to pass your blog post along to others. Keep educating and supporting Kansas farmers!

Therese (CRA) said...

Sarah – We do appreciate all that you do, and your efforts to clear up the many misperceptions. Are you following us on Twitter or Facebook? If you are on either of these sites you can find us through the links above.

Thanks again!

Therese, Corn Refiners Association
SweetSpot Blog