High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has an image problem. As this Saturday Night Live parody demonstrates, the HFCS industry has launched a series of commercials over the past year to clarify misconceptions and “state the facts about corn sugar.” That’s right, it’s no longer “high fructose corn syrup,” but “corn sugar”—an almost identical, warm-and-fuzzy twin that will subtly convince you that “sugar” and “corn sugar” are interchangeable ingredients. Wrong.
It’s argued that HFCS is fundamentally identical to sugar with similar amounts of glucose and fructose. But scientists have expressed doubt over this argument, citing a Princeton University study in which lab rats became obese drinking HFCS (which has a higher proportion of fructose than glucose) while other rats that drank an equal amount of sucrose (which has a 50-50 proportion of fructose and glucose) remained at a normal weight.
“The critical differences in appetite, metabolism and gene expression that underlie this phenomenon are yet to be discovered, but may relate to the fact that excess fructose is being metabolized to produce fat, while glucose is largely being processed for energy or stored as a carbohydrate, called glycogen, in the liver and muscles.”
Even if the science is proven incorrect, the dirty little secret is that HFCS is in everything we eat, including salty foods. HFCS is cheaper than sugar, and it’s used to keep foods moist and shelf-stable for longer periods of time (yet another reason to shop the periphery at the store). What processed food producer wouldn’t jump at using “cheaper, moister” HFCS instead of sugar to trim its bottom line?
Our bottom line? Look for products that use pure cane sugar—or even alternatives like “fruit juice–sweetened,” for example, as long as you trust the fruit juice they use. Read labels, especially on salty foods. We are ingesting considerably more sugar than we ever have because it’s essentially hidden in food; obesity and diabetes rates are skyrocketing in both children and adults. Do you think of sugar when you eat hamburgers, bread, or tomato sauce? No? Good, because the “corn sugar” industry would prefer that you don’t.
The beauty of this “Saturday Night Live” parody is in the last few moments when an obese child (played by grown man Bobby Moynihan, who impersonates both kids and “Jersey Shore”‘s Snooki on a regular basis) asks for more “juicey drink” and then crushes the plastic cup like a beer can in what seems to be a cracked-out sugar high. The final words of the parody say it all: “Get the facts. Check out our websites and no other websites.”
Upon tweeting the link to this blog post, the Corn Refiners Association contacted me (http://www.cornsugar.com/: “Confused about what you’re hearing about high fructose corn syrup? Let the experts fill you in”).
The following is our conversation on Twitter on March 14, 2011:
SweetFacts @lettherebebite Please also take into consideration these expert POV’s http://ht.ly/4e7UL http://ht.ly/4e78Q http://ht.ly/4e7bR ^TP
SweetFacts @lettherebebite Sorry about that – I sent the same link twice in the last message – meant to include this one too http://ht.ly/4ehU9
LetThereBeBite Was wondering when BIG CORN wld come calling MRT SweetFacts @ LTBB Pls consider these expert POV’s http://ht.ly/4ehU9 http://ht.ly/4e7bR
LetThereBeBite @sweetfacts As noted in my post, the science not yet concrete, but IMO enough evidence to warn ppl from ingesting HFCS. http://bit.ly/hFquyA
LetThereBeBite @sweetfacts 1 article: ‘reduce all sugar intake.’ Not disingenuous to have HFCS in salty foods? Consumers being inundated w/HIDDEN sugars.
1.5 hours later…
LetThereBeBite Corn Refiners Assoc. says it created Twitter acct @sweetfacts for constructive conversation but forgot the ‘conversation’ part. #noresponse
SweetFacts @lettherebebite We should moderate all sugars, and HFCS is used for many reasons & most of the time in small amounts http://ht.ly/4epDQ
SweetFacts @lettherebebite And this is why we petitioned the FDA, to call a sugar a sugar, so there would be clarity. ^TP
LetThereBeBite @sweetfacts Even if HFCS used in small amounts it’s in products sugar never used to be in, like salty foods = wider reach, hidden danger.
SweetFacts @lettherebebite I would love to have a dialogue via e-mail. Would that be okay? ^TP
LetThereBeBite @sweetfacts sure you can find my email on my website
SweetFacts @lettherebebite Great. I will e-mail you tomorrow morning. We do appreciate the feedback & we do want to have an open dialogue Thank U ^TP