HFCS and you

Sunday, August 3, 2008

High Fructose Corn Syrup, or HFCS is produced by milling corn to produce corn starch, then processing that corn starch to yield corn syrup which is almost entirely glucose, and then adding enzymes which change the glucose into fructose. Since it's creation in 1970, HFCS has quickly replaced sugar as the main sweetener in food products. The reason for this being the high cost of importing sugar into the United States, which is really artifical inflation from tariffs and import quotas, and the encouragement from the government for farmers to grow corn, in the form of subsidies and other benefits, which in turn artifically lowers the price of corn. Two guy with no prior farming experience even made a documentary about growing corn and the corn industry.

So what does this mean to you? While we all know that excess consumption of sugars is bad for you, the chemical changes in HFCS make it worse than normal sugars. Soft drinks sweetened with HFCS are up to 10 times richer in harmful carbonyl compounds, such as methylglyoxal, than a diet soft drink control. Carbonyl compounds are elevated in people with diabetes and are blamed for causing diabetic complications such as foot ulcers and eye and nerve damage. There was no such link found in table sugar. More information on studies done can be found here.

To say that HFCS is commonly used is an understatement, to say that it is now a standard food additive gives one a clear picture of the scope. Here is a partial listing of what food products now contain HFCS: bread, bread crumbs, cereal, cookies, pop, juice drinks, chocolate milk, tonic water, toaster waffles and pastries, chocolate and sugar-based candies, sports bars, miracle whip, ketchup, animal crackers, graham crackers, nilla wafers, fig newtons, cereal bars, cough syrups, wheat thins, cheese nips, crackers, yogurt, cool whip, cottage cheese with fruit, drink mixers, pickles, canned fruits and vegetables, relish, some ice creams, jams, jellies, syrups, pre-made pie crusts, salad dressings, steak sauces, marinades, some salsas.

So what do you do? As you can see from the list above, ridding yourself entirely of HFCS is a difficult task. Becoming entirely self-sustaining, while admirable, isn't realistic. Buying 100% organic is expensive and again, not realistic given our current economic status. The reasonable goal is to limit HFCS intake. Most of the food listed are things I normally don't eat anyway. Instead of buying a juice drink, make your own with fresh fruit. Make your own jellies or buy from a farmers market. Learn to make your own bread, or buy a bread machine. Avoid canned fruits and vegetable and go for fresh or frozen. You won't miss want you don't need.