My comments on new HFCS research

>> Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sahar at Fat Fighter TV alerted me to new research recently released that indicates that finds no link between HFCS and obesity (click the Fat Fighter TV link and the research link for more indepth info on the research). The research implies that HFCS consumption is really no different than sucrose (aka table sugar) consumption. Woot! HFCS is back, baby! Bring on the twinkies!

Or maybe not. I've said before that it is unclear whether HFCS is evil or is simply maligned because of the foods that it is in. Rather than worry about what the latest study says about HFCS, we've taken the stance here that HFCS as an ingredient is a marker of poor quality. Think about it - what foods are most likely to have HFCS? Junk!

If you've read this blog much, you also know that it's hidden in unlikely places too - like soup and bread. Should the average person give those foods containing HFCS up if HFCS is no worse than sugar? Well, that's an individual decision. We have decided to go that route. And you know? We're eating better because of it. Of course, we're not just giving up HFCS. We're trying to do a total diet transformation. Whole grains. Good fats while phasing out the bad fats. Getting HFCS out of our diet has gone a long way toward that transformation. The foods without HFCS tend to be higher quality. They tend to have better ingredients in general. Not always, of course. There are plenty of exceptions, but no HFCS=higher quality seems to be a trend. I like that. It's a benefit to being HFCS free.

I know quite a few people that have given up HFCS because it isn't natural. (And I don't care what the FDA or the Corn Refiners Association say, that kernel of corn has been so manipulated by the time that it becomes HFCS it is laughable to call it natural.) We haven't really had that mindset, though I suppose it isn't a bad one to have. We started on this HFCS-free household mission because of the possible health effects of consuming too much fructose. We've decided to stay on this mission because our diet is so much healthier for having gotten rid of HFCS.

In the end, too much sugar or any form is not good for you - whether it is glucose, sucrose, or HFCS - and the new research confirms that. A healthy diet can include some sugar (including fructose - though I still believe that is best from whole foods) but limiting sugar is important (and one of my hardest challenges as a complete sugar junky) especially today when everything is loaded with sugar.

So, is HFCS evil? Or should we take as the message from this research that HFCS is just the same as sugar and not worry about it? We're sticking with our HFCS ban here. The result - no worries about the latest HFCS study and better food overall.


fatfighter December 9, 2008 at 10:58 PM  

Thanks for the post/comment! Personally, I try to eat as few foods with either HFCS or sugar unless it's a food that is supposed to have sugar - like chocolate, of course has sugar and I eat chocolate. But in foods like pasta sauce, yogurt, bread, etc. if it has either one I usually don't buy it.

It will be interesting to see what comes out on HFCS in the next few years.

laura December 10, 2008 at 6:16 AM  

I so admire your intelligent, thoughtful interpretation of this unwieldy issue. Great post.

fitncrafty December 10, 2008 at 7:28 AM  

I am also one on a journey to cut out HFCS, also common table sugar. It is getting less and less challenging each day. I feel better than I have in years for I am eating SO much more healthful choices!
I would like to know who funded this research as it seems sometimes things 'go the way' they do in studies because of the funding. Anyhow, if this new research is so true, table sugar is also a culprit in chronic disease so really what does it say?
I am with you, I am still not buying it...

Rachel December 10, 2008 at 8:09 AM  

What you said about any sugar in excess is bad for you would settle the argument for cutting back on HFCS for me. HFCS is in everything in alarming amounts. Common sugar I think is easier to monitor.
I've been a couple weeks of nearly eliminating HFCS and my food tastes better already! I find that I am not craving junk as much and I am enjoying real food. And that's just after a few weeks.

Lori December 10, 2008 at 8:21 AM  

Great points, cathy! Cutting out HFCS has nothing to do with obesity or weight gain for me. I think we should know as a society by now that it is excess calories and little physical activity that result in obesity, not a specific chemical/filler/nutrient.

My reason for throwing it out is I want to stop eating chemicals and fake stuff, of course. I agree, it is so far from corn when all is said and done it is ridiculous. Everyone that is taking on this healthy challenge is proving that cutting out HFCS improves eating habits in general. It is making us turn to real foods and less processed junk.

Keep fighting for health! ;)

Blake December 10, 2008 at 8:37 AM  

You are right on with saying that foods without HFCS are just better quality.

Great job with all the great, healthy things you and your family are doing!

Anonymous December 10, 2008 at 9:17 AM  

What a thoughtful and well-written post. I am one who avoids HFCS because it's not natural, not a whole food and actually doesn't taste good to me. I hadn't put the words together in my head that its presence also represents low-quality food. An excellent point!

cathy December 10, 2008 at 11:38 AM  

Fatfighter - I agree. We certainly haven't heard the last about HFCS!

Laura - Thank you!

Fitncrafty - I want to know who funded the research as well. It is telling, however, that one of the researchers put out a paper damning HFCS a few years ago. Makes me think that this research is probably on the up-and-up.

Rachel - Good job cutting it out! It seems like such a daunting task, but once you get in the habit of checking for HFCS, it actually becomes second nature. I'm always looking for ideas, so if you have any questions, let me know!

Lori - Agreed. Blaming our obesity woes on HFCS is taking the easy way out.

Blake and Delightfully Healthy - thanks for your input!

Hil December 10, 2008 at 12:14 PM  

Cutting HFCS has helped me out a lot, but it isn't the sole reason why I have lost weight. I've lost 13 pounds and I do have more energy.

Food tastes a whole lot better without it.

Mark December 10, 2008 at 3:30 PM  

I am not certain that we want to include sugar or HFCS in our foods.

Without a doubt I am MUCH healthier when I leave sugar and/or HFCS out of my diet.

When is an unnatural ingredient good for you?

The FDAs take on HFCS:

"The use of synthetic fixing agents in the enzyme preparation, which is then used to produce HFCS, would not be consistent with our (…) policy regarding the use of the term 'natural'," said Geraldine June.

"Moreover, the corn starch hydrolysate, which is the substrate used in the production of HFCS, may be obtained through the use of safe and suitable acids or enzymes. Depending on the type of acid(s) used to obtain the corn starch hydrolysate, this substrate itself may not fit within the description of 'natural' and, therefore, HCFS produced from such corn starch hydrolysate would not qualify for a 'natural' labeling term," she concluded.

I would like to see much more research and long term effects prior to giving HFCS a clean bill.

Nice post!

cathy December 10, 2008 at 4:03 PM  

Hil - Yep, it takes more than cutting HFCS to lose weight. I can say with more confidence that I like that a person can eat TOO well even while eating healthy foods. Moderation and exercise (with a healthy dose of sleep thrown in) are always key!

Mark - No arguments here! I always love your input.

Super Healthy Kids December 10, 2008 at 5:26 PM  

For us it comes down to not purchasing packaged/ processed food. We don't consume much HFCS because we don't buy many packaged foods. We do eat sugar, because we bake and use it in our cooking. (although I understand the benefits of limiting this too). I say, stay away from processed food. And I DO think HFCS causes weight gain.

James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. December 10, 2008 at 6:49 PM  

It is just smart, healthy eating Cathy. I applaud you. We really won't know for years to come if there are long term effects. One thing for certain. It has added, empty calories.
I am not nearly as strict as you, but I try to limit it, and you have made me more aware.

CathyS December 11, 2008 at 3:55 PM  

I don't like the fact that's hidden in so many things. I also think people become 'addicted' to a more sweeter taste if they consume a lot of sugar/HFCS which leads to consuming more. Just like with salt.
It may not be evil, but it's definitely not good for you.

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Jenna December 12, 2008 at 12:27 PM  

moderation, moderation, moderation. that's my stance on sugar (even natural sweetners like honey and maple syrup are only "healthy" in small quantities). the sugar in whole foods is best choice. and because we are pre-programmed to enjoy sweet food, just enjoy sweet food in moderation people!

Mark December 15, 2008 at 6:59 AM  

Hope you had a nice weekend! :)

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