My son’s elementary school promotes the anti-drug campaign Just Say No To Drugs! each year. It’s a wonderful awareness campaign. I really wish they could include high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in that campaign. Does that mean I am comparing HFCS to drugs? No. But I believe it’s something our kids should be taught to avoid, for their long-term health. I know, for those of you out there that feel some HFCS won’t hurt and tell me, besides “my kids don’t drink sodas”, well, I may have some news for you. HFCS is in almost everything on the grocery store shelf that requires a sweetener. Why? Because it’s a much cheaper ingredient than sugar in the manufacturing process and it extends shelf life. Cheaper ingredients, extended shelf life means less cost to the consumer. Less cost equates to a higher volume of products that will fly off the shelf and into America’s stomach. Ugh!
In case you’re not familiar with what exactly HFCS is, I’ll give you the less technical, modified version of the manufacturing process. First off, it’s an artificial sweetener. Granted, it’s a byproduct of corn (which isn’t artificial) but it is processed in such a way that it becomes artificial. Corn kernels are soaked in warm water containing sulfur dioxide. This warm solution hydrates the kernels and makes it easier to separate its starch, hull, protein and oil components. After soaking, the kernels are wet milled to remove the oil containing germ. In this process, the wet starch is mixed with a weak solution of hydrochloric acid and is heated under pressure. The hydrochloric acid and heat break down the starch molecules and convert them into a sugar. Next, the remaining corn starch is washed, and three types of enzymes are added to the resulting mixture. The resulting syrup is then place through an evaporation process to create the desired consistency for shipping. Sound natural to you?
Me neither. But the Corn Refiners Association put a lot of effort and money into “debunking” myths surrounding HFCS. One of them being that it’s the leading cause for America’s obesity epidemic. I’m not blaming obesity on HFCS, but it is in most processed foods that America eats. When HFCS is ingested, it travels straight to the liver which turns the sugary liquid into fat, and unlike other carbohydrates HFCS does not cause the pancreas to produce insulin; which acts as a hunger quenching signal to the brain. It makes sense to me that eating food that gets immediately stored as fat and never feeling full might lead one to obesity.
Because HFCS extends the shelf life of foods, and farm subsidies make it cheaper than sugar, it’s added to a staggering range of items, including sodas, yogurt, cereals, crackers, ketchup and bread — and in most foods marketed to children. So, unless you’re making a concerted effort to avoid it, it’s pretty difficult to consume high-fructose corn syrup in moderation. Try buying a loaf of bread at your local super market chain that does not contain HFCS. I nearly went blind reading all those tiny labels trying to find one. I gave up and purchase my HFCS free bread at Trader Joe’s.
A pilot study reported that some HFCS manufactured in the U.S. in 2005 contained trace amounts of mercury. The mercury appeared to come from sodium hydroxide and hydrochloric acid, two chemicals used in the manufacture of high-fructose corn syrup. The Washington Post wrote an article on January 28, 2009 that stated “Almost half of tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) contained mercury, which was also found in nearly a third of 55 popular brand-name food and beverage products where HFCS is the first or second-highest labeled ingredient, according to two new U.S. studies. The chemical was found most commonly in HFCS-containing dairy products, dressings and condiments.” Now I don’t think I need to point out that ingesting mercury, a neurotoxin, is bad for your health. For the complete Washington Post article, click on the link:
The good news is, I think the tide is turning. Public outcry and perhaps a few lawsuits thrown at food/drink manufacturers (Kraft was sued in 2007 for claiming Capri Sun was “all natural” even though it contained HFCS) has prompted some companies to switch from HFCS to sugar in their sodas/drinks. Soft drinks groups, HFCS’s core consumers, are “preferring to switch to sugar given the poor health image of high-fructose corn syrup,” Credit Suisse’s report stated on January 7, 2010 (http://www.agrimoney.com/news/corn-groups-hit-as-drinks-makers-return-to-sugar–1183.html). Snapple, Ocean Spray and Capri Sun had switched some months ago, with Gatorade in November saying it would replace corn syrup with sugar. That’s huge! Mainly because corn syrup was selling for about half the price of spot sugar.
My hope is that more people read ingredient labels so they are aware of the types of additives they are consuming. Next time you pick up something at the grocery store, spend a minute reading the ingredient list and ignore the marketing on the front of the package. My family just says NO! to HFCS and perhaps more families out there will join us. And live long, healthy lives.
Filed under: ADHD, Biomedical interventions, Diet | Tagged: ADHD, autism, Capri Sun, corn, corn starch, corn syrup, Gatorade, health, HFCS, high functioning autism, high-fructose corn syrup, mercury, Ocean Spray, Snapple | 4 Comments »