Tuesday, September 30, 2008

High Fructose Corn Syrup is swell ... say people who manufacture High Fructose Corn Syrup

The other day I saw a commercial* from the Corn Refiners Association saying that high fructose syrup is swell because it's made from corn, doesn't have more calories than other forms of sugar, and it is fine in moderate amounts and what not. CRA is apparently trying to counter the negative public perception of HFCS

The Corn Refiners Association launched an 18-month, $20 to $30 million public relations and advertising campaign "to convince consumers that HFCS [high-fructose corn syrup] isn't the evil it has been made out to be." The industry group is running ads in major newspapers -- under the banner "time for a little food for thought" -- that say HFCS has the "same natural sweeteners as table sugar and honey." The campaign, which was created by the Omnicom Group firm DDB, also includes television and online ads and "phone and in-person conversations with influential mommy bloggers." The Corn Refiners Association "has been trying to counter the bad publicity around HFCS since 2004," but concluded it "could no longer afford to rely on simple grass-roots marketing tactics such as talking with nutritionists and doctors." Major food and beverage producers, such as Kraft, are now promoting products as HFCS-free. The American Medical Association recently concluded that HFCS "doesn't appear to contribute more to obesity than other caloric sweeteners," but called for "further independent research."

Ok, let's see here:

1. HFCS being "natural" because it's made from corn is irrelevant, not to mention somewhat misleading since it's an artificial creation. Of course, that doesn't matter either: what matters is the effects the substance has.

2. HFCS is fine in moderate amounts and is going to have insignifcant differences with refined sugar, true. This misses the point.

Foods that have HFCS - like sodas, for instance - tend not to have HFCS in them in moderate amounts. What's more, foods that have HFCS in them tend not to be healthy whole foods, period. Show me something with HFCS in it and it's likely to be some form of junk food or refined, processed, garbage.

They also tend to be foods with a high glycemic response, which tends to decrease insulin sensitivity (increasing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes) and playing havoc with your appetite.

Bottom line is that you generally want to avoid eating foods that add HFCS in them because the foods that don't have HFCS in them tend to be the ones that by default promote a healthier diet. These are the foods that are on the perimeter of grocery stores: fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish and whole grains.

For a basic and quality healthy eating guide, see Walter Willett's Healthy Eating Pyramid and/or his book Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy.

*The one I saw featured a couple, with the girl making the guy look dumb for thinking there's anything wrong for eating a popsicle. There is another commerical targeting mothers who don't want to feed there kids HFCS.

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