Have you seen the commercials for high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) on TV lately? In case you haven’t, I’ve provided the link. In the commercial, one mom questions another about a beverage with HFCS. The mother pouring the bright magenta beverage replies adamantly with a case for HFCS stating, among other things, that it’s “made from corn” and “fine in moderation.” Viewers are then encouraged to “get the facts.” There is debate over whether HFCS is the sole culprit in the obesity epidemic or whether it’s just one of many guilty parties. To me this is like debating murder versus manslaughter or brain cancer versus lung cancer, none of which are good. What’s next…commercials making a case for vodka, lard or perhaps infidelity (another hot topic)?

In the HFCS commercial you see one mom state that having HFCS was a sign of not caring what your kids eat (I concur though would never say that bluntly). This same mother doesn’t really know why HFCS is bad. I think we all suffer from the “I heard it is bad so it must be bad” syndrome at times. It is important to dig a little and research or ask an expert if you are questioning a certain food.
For HFCS I will tell you why it’s bad:

1. HFCS and I are roughly the same age. I say this to point out that HFCS hasn’t been around that long (it’s young!). In my lifetime, and as HFCS has made its way into more food products obesity rates have skyrocketed. HFCS is cheap and has a long shelf life. In that respect it is not that different from trans fats (also cheap and extend shelf life). I would argue that the cheaper the ingredients and longer their shelf life the more they will shorten your life.

2. HFCS may also affect your metabolism. This past Tuesday, Jane Brody wrote “high fructose intake over a period of months resulted in resistance to the leptin signal.” Leptin tells you’re satiated and can stop eating.

3. HFCS often contains mercury. In various studies as many as half the samples of HFCS were shown to contain mercury. Mercury can make its way in during processing. So much for HFCS being natural because it starts out as corn. Vodka can start out as potatoes. While many of us shun seafood, a stronger case can be made for shunning soda and certain snack foods and breads and cereals and all the other foods you may be eating with HFCS.

4. Michael Pollan has also pointed out that HFCS can be an environmental threat. The increase of corn for HFCS has drastically increased fertilizer use. The run-off from these crops is a serious threat to our rivers and oceans.

In all fairness, this isn’t just about HFCS. Increased rates of obesity are affected by the increase in screen time/decrease in activity, the increase in portion size and the increase of all “sweet” in our diets. There is just a logic breakdown if we say that because other factors may be culpable, HFCS is innocent. When it comes to HFCS, as Stevie Nicks says in little lies, “we’re probably better off apart.”

What do you make of the HFCS debate? Do you look for it on labels? Avoid it? Do you like Fleetwood Mac I would love to know.

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