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Feb 16, 2008 05:11 AM

"What's so bad about HFCS?"

My SO asked me this last night, and I stumbled through the answer, mostly because I just assumed we all knew it was a bad thing. Putting aside the obvious (taste), I mentioned the high caloric content and preservative modifications made to it in processing. She was unimpressed.

This is the result of my drive to stop buying HFCS products and improve the food quality in the house. Anyone have a great source of info on the stuff that will help me help her?

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    1. You SO was likely unimpressed because she's got good critical thinking skills. Smart cookie! And as long as those cookies aren't processed packaged food from the regular grocery, you're probably not consuming HFCS anyway.

      Mostly, the arguments you were making were assumptions. There are only theories about why HFCS may or may not be bad, but nothing has ever been proven. She may not want to hear a bunch of political stuff she may not agree with either. Why bother? Stick to the facts.

      What is undeniable is that HFCS is a frequent ingredient in many processed foods that you are better off not buying and consuming anyway. The fewer of those you eat, the healthier your diet is and the healthier you are.
      Don't try to fool your SO with non-provable "facts" when you can make great arguments for healthy foods. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fresh meats, fish, etc. Am I telling you anything you hadn't already guessed?

      1 Reply
      1. re: MakingSense

        Yeah, I've told her all those things. She's just looking for a reason to not change her eating habits.

        Te good news is I am the cook in the house, so she doesn't have a lot of say in the matter. :D

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          1. Scientifically, I think there isn't much serious evidence that HFCS is significantly worse for you than say sugar. However, a couple of notes:

            > It seems that it has a higher Glycemic Index than Cane Sugar but it really doen't seem to be significant.

            > More importantly because it so artificially inexpensive, and because consumers are still somewhat irrationally afraid of fats... many processed foods used HFCS as a way to reduce the amount of fat in foods while delivering a product that is still "tasty" by mainstream consuemer standards.

            > Those familiar with the theory behind Low Glycemic diets etc., know that reducing Fats and replacing them with simple sugars... is SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN to increase food & caloric consumption. Some theories on why that is the case... fats help keep you satisfied longer, higher sugar consumption leads to snacking, psychologically people think they can overeat because they are eating low fats etc.,

            23 Replies
            1. re: Eat_Nopal

              Here's a BBC article on child obesity problems in the UK - it blames salt for triggering excessive use of 'sugary, calorie-laden soft drinks'. Isn't the use of HFCS in UK severely limited to protect European sugar production?


              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                I agree with you about HFCS not being any worse for you than regular sugar. I think the problem with HFCS (in addition to it being in so many processed foods) is that it's so cheap that people tend to eat more of it.

                Aside from the emotional benefits of eating sugar/HFCS, there really aren't any nutritional ones.

                1. re: Miss Needle

                  "Aside from the emotional benefits of eating sugar/HFCS, there really aren't any nutritional ones"

                  It might not have much nutritional benefit in our lazy, contemporary, office lifestyles... but not that long ago it was an important engergy efficient & transportable method to help people keep on weight while burning tons of calories.

                  1. re: Miss Needle

                    I think you and EN are really right. Once you get all the politics and hysteria out of this argument. HFCS is used primarily in processed foods. None of us measures out 1/4 cup of the stuff when we fix supper. If you eat a well-balanced diet of fruit, vegetables, grains, meat, fish, etc. and don't buy stuff that's already cooked and packaged up, you probably won't get a lot of HFCS anyway.
                    It wastes a lot of personal energy going on some kind of jihad about it. Eliminate packaged foods. The side benefit is getting rid of all the other junk too - sodium, stabilizers, etc. - that is needed to keep the food presentable and make it palatable. It improves the quality of your table.

                    1. re: MakingSense

                      IMHO... the best reason to avoid HFCS and other corn derivatives is so that we stop contributing to the demise of Mexico's heirloom corn varieties =)

                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                        The heirloom corn varieties are not the ones used for HFCS in the US. They're very small artisanal farm production in the East Coast and South at least. Some are only home garden produce now.
                        I have no idea what corn they use in Mexico.
                        Do they grow corn in Sonoma County for HFCS?

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          What in my post suggested that heirloom corn varieties are used for HFCS & other corn derivatives?

                          As far as Mexican corn goes.... the most common is a white field corn, that is very tasty but not sweet but each community its own unique varieties covering the corn rainbow ranging from a greenish, reddish, blue, purple & even black-hued corns... in the most traditional communities (i.e. indigenous)... you find 4 to 5 varieties each with its own purpose & micro season.

                          1. re: MakingSense

                            i think you missed nopal's point. my interpretation of his statement was that it reduces the demand for heirloom varieties if the primary reason to buy/use corn is for mass production of cheaper, lower-quality ingredients...and depending on location there's always the potential for the smaller heirloom crops to become contaminated by the genetically modified strains used for producing things like HFCS.

                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                              No. EN was introducing a point about Mexican heirloom corn varieties into the issue of commercial corn agriculture in the US. Even putting aside the issue of GMO, corn cross-pollinates promiscuously, regardless of location, heirloom status, etc., and the problems relating to corn cultivation in that regard have little to do with the subsidies that have driven the market for corn of any type in the US.
                              The entire situation is out of control, whether it's corn for animal feed, HFCS, tortillas, corn on the cob, making bourbon or ethanol, and that's for domestic or export consumption.

                              1. re: MakingSense

                                "...GMO, corn cross-pollinates promiscuously" is simply not true.

                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                  Just reporting what I had been told by some university guys in SC growing old heirloom varieties. They said it was hard to keep the seed true from generation to generation because of cross-pollination from nearby fields. They send samples from every crop to a genetics lab to make sure that the strains stay true and then on to Homeland Security seed banks, etc.
                                  If it ain't true, I bow to your greater knowledge.

                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                    The danger of maize cross pollination is no greater for GM compared to traditional varieties. Factors influencing cross pollination include distance between fields, wind direction, and flower synchrony. Maize pollen is relatively heavy and doesn't move all that easily. Your guys need to move their fields about 500 meters away from other maize fields and perhaps not harvest for seed the first couple of rows or one meter perimeter around their fields. A good Swiss study found 0.02 to 0.0002% cross pollination in fields 50 to 4440 meters distance using varieties with synchronized flowering. Size of donor fields had no effect.

                                    A huge amount of public and private sector research goes into the danger of cross pollination of GM crops--largely maize, cotton, and soy. The seed boards in all countries in all parts of the globe have correctly been very strict in certifying such crops.

                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                      Theirs is a boutique operations. GM isn't an issue at all. Really just very specific heirloom strains that they are really anal about.
                                      Thanks for the info however. This is a subject that I'm trying to learn more about and finding it hard to get good information for laymen. Either it's scary info from the people who just hate GM and everything is knee-jerk or the material is so technical that my brain can't wrap around it. And then it does seem to differ from crop to crop. CH is lucky is have you, Sam.

                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                        But Sam,

                                        Please explain the crazy lawsuits by Monsanto against corn farmers who say they have no desire to grow Monsanto GM corn, but whose corn shows signs of contamination by the GM corn. I am unable to judge whether or not the putative non-GM farmers are innocent or guilty. Can you shed some light?

                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                          I'm an agricultural & environmental scientist. I have no idea about the lawsuits. So, Monsanto has sued farmers with fields that were inadvertantly cross-pollinated? And were taken seriously?

                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                            As far as I know, Monsanto has prevailed every time.

                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                              pikawicca may have a Canadian case from the late 1990s in mind, involving the presence of some Roundup resistance Canola in a farmer's fields.



                                              The Wiki Monsanto article also mentions a number of patent infringement cases, mostly involving the condition that farmers not save patented seeds from one year to the next.

                                            2. re: pikawicca

                                              Monsanto has filed suit against a number of farmers for violating patents on GM plants. Some of those farmers have actually gone to jail for theft of intellectual property. But AFAIK all of those Monsanto has successfully sued have been deliberately growing Monsanto GM crops in commercial quantities; none of them have said that they "have no desire to grow ... GM corn."

                                              As paulj notes, the case that has gotten the most attention is Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Schmeiser (2004) 1 S.C.R. 902, 2004 SCC 34. There's no dispute that Percy Schmeiser was deliberately planting Roundup-resistant GM canola- a plant engineered by Monsanto - on his property. He sprayed his fields with Roundup to kill off the non-GM plants, then saved and planted the seeds of the survivors.

                                              What was in dispute was whether the GM canola got there accidentally or on purpose. Schmeiser claimed that he didn't intentionally plant Monsanto GM seeds. He posited that his crop may have been accidentally pollinated by nearby fields of GM canola, or by accidental disbursement of seeds from those plants. The trial court rejected this claim, noting that "none of the suggested sources could reasonably explain the concentration or extent of Roundup Ready canola of a commercial quality" in Schmeiser's crop.

                                              In other words, Schmeiser had a strong desire to grow Monsanto GM canola, he just didn't want to pay Monsanto for it. So, according to the trial judge, he planted Monsanto GM canola plants and saved their seeds, and when he got caught he lied about it.

                                              I've got no love for Monsanto, and I appreciate a good David-and-Goliath story as much as the next guy. But this one doesn't really fit the bill.

                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                Thanks for the info. I've been trying to track down 2 cases that I believe are mentioned in "Food, Inc.," so far unsuccessfully. I did just reread the Wikipedia Monsanto entry, and it strongly re-enforced my desire never to have one dollar of mine go into the coffers of this disgusting company.

                              2. re: MakingSense

                                "If you eat a well-balanced diet of fruit, vegetables, grains, meat, fish, etc. and don't buy stuff that's already cooked and packaged up, you probably won't get a lot of HFCS anyway"

                                Of course your statement is correct, MS. However, it's a calm drop of common sense in a stormy sea. The fact is, the general, uninformed population (always the bane of democracy) that have adopted other eating habits, helped enormously by the hype, misinformation and convenient processed crap of the food industry is creating a rapidly increasing demand for more corn acreage. This snowball down the mountainside is pushing out the availibility of the healthy food groups you advocate and driving up their prices. Healthy eaters will eventually become a special interest group.
                                Just one man's opinion.

                              3. re: Miss Needle

                                "Aside from the emotional benefits of eating sugar/HFCS, there really aren't any nutritional ones."

                                Unless you're running a marathon. ;-)

                                1. re: chowser

                                  I'm training for a marathon and I won't touch the stuff. Is it the bane of human existence? No, probably not. Is it at the heart of overeating in America? It might have a hand in it, but it's not the only factor. Is it empty calories that make things so sweet we've lost our taste for simple sugars in natural fruits? Probably.

                                  I can't think of anything that it's in that does not taste better without it, but I also know that life does not always allow me the time to make foods and we're buying some convenience foods with HFCS in them. Something I should want to change more than I've changed.

                                  Still, diabetes runs in my husbands family and I try to get the HFCS out. Among other things.

                                  1. re: nliedel

                                    The comment was about both sugar and HFCS which is what Miss Needle mentioned. If you can refuel without any glucose/fructose/sucrose sugar, that's great but they are quick, easy to carry energy source. If diabetes is an issue then sugar should also be a concern, not just HFCS. I personally don't buy things w/ HFCS but have not read any convincing research that it's worst than sugar, nutritionally. But, it took years of research for them to find out that trans fats are so bad for you so I'll be on the safe-side and avoid HFCS.