Monday, September 20, 2010

High Fructose Corn Syrup - Some Answers

It is no secret that I have been on a mission to cut high fructose corn syrup out of my family's diet. So, when I told me DH that I had been invited and was going to attend an online discussion regarding the high profile high fructose corn syrup, he said, "Huh?"

I have always believed it is important to educate myself about things I don't completely understand, but I was starting out with an unfavorable view. So I went ahead and kept tabs on the discussion. Unfortunately I didn't get the chance to attend myself due to an out of town appointment, but I did submit questions and read through the information presented by John White Ph.D. and James M. Rippe M.D. Professor of Biomedical Sciences and other noted speakers. They were presenting:

The role of sugars in foods… Why are they added and how do I moderate them?

Sponsored and presented by: Corn Refiners Association

The first part started out with Dr. White, a nutritional biochemist with an expertise in caloric sweeteners and 30 years experience. He pinpointed the change of public opinion towards high fructose corn syrup as starting in 2004 with an article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by Barry Popkin. He put forth a hypothesis that hfc was uniquely responsible for obesity. Many have took this to be researched fact. In 2010, Popkin published a new article in the Wall Street Journal countering his earlier hypothesis. He now says table sugar and high fructose corn syrup actually have the same effect on obesity.

There are many misconceptions out there, but some of the facts presented in this talk were that High Fructose Corn Syrup is half fructose and half glucose. That is the same composition as table sugars, or sucrose.

High Fructose Corn Syrup is in fact just corn sugar, and they are currently working to change the name. It never replaced glucose in our diet since glucose actually has the highest glycemic index and is not good for some medical conditions such as diabetes.

The Fructose/Glucose ratio of 42/55, found in high fructose corn syrup, is naturally occurring in many of the foods we eat from almonds to strawberries. High Fructose Corn Syrup has 4 calories per gram, the same as other sweeteners.

High Fructose Corn Syrup is not always used as just a sweetener in foods. In a flavored yogurt it is also used as a stabilizer.. It is also used in foods to promote browning, increase moisture, build structure, increase texture and adjust freezing points.

Corn syrup, that I often use in my baking, is sometimes confused with High Fructose Corn Syrup. Corn Syrup is used as a thickener or to make canned fruits shiny & more appealing. It is another type of sugar, but all glucose.

The bottom line from the talk was there is nothing unique in High Fructose Corn Syrup that causes health problems. When hfcs is not on a label, there will be other sweeteners listed to serve the same purposes. Since sugars are so widely used now in foods, I was curious about the word "moderation". I keep hearing "...when used in moderation High Fructose Corn Syrup can be part of a healthy diet" So, what does this mean? The Institute of Medicine says 25% or less of all calories should come from added sugars (hfc being just one type), but moderation has not been clearly defined.

So, what did I take away? Well, I feel like a have a better idea of what High Fructose Corn Syrup really is. This was a great chance to demystify the demonized additive. Am I a big fan? Well, no. I still believe that controlling and moderating any sugar in my family's food is important. I will still continue to make many of our own foods the way we like it with less added sugars overall. I look forward to the food industry listening to Moms and cutting back on all agricultural sugars.

If you are looking for more information:

I would like to thank both the Corn Refiners Association and Resourceful Mommy for putting together the panel and taking the time to answer our questions.

**Disclaimer - The information shared was provided by the Corn Refiners Association. I have been compensated for writing this blog post. All opinions are my own.
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