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"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

      2. 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.

                        2. Just buy her some real cookies from a local bakery. That should keep her quiet. The best reason to not eat HFCS is that it doesn't taste as good as sugar.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Morton the Mousse

                            Or, if she's into soda...

                            Passover is right around the corner. The coke that's kosher for Passover has sugar instead of HFCS. Try them side-by-side and see if you guys can spot the difference. I totally can - I don't think the HFCS tastes as good, either.

                            1. re: missfunkysoul

                              I tried them side by side, blind recently (well, not kosher Coke, but Mexican Coke and regular Coke classic with HFCS) and I actually preferred the regular Coke with HFCS. That said, I agree with the above points that the main argument should be less sugar, less HFCS, less processed foods generally is going to mean a much much healthier diet.

                              1. re: ccbweb

                                I think most American's I have met (no familiarity bias) prefer Mexican Coke but there are so many factors at play... Thick Old School Glass versus Cans or Plastic; Mexican has more carbonation and an extra 1/4 tsp of sugar... also some of the formulation could be different... maybe in Mexico they actually use Kola Nuts etc.

                                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                  Yeah, there are lots of possible variables in play. Formulations of Coke in America also vary some region to region even if ingredients don't change overall. I wasn't aware of actual Kola Nut usage...that could certainly change things. I should also note that I'm a big fan of Coca Cola, so the preference wasn't "I'd drink this but wouldn't drink that" it was a slight preference. I try to drink little of it overall, but I've never had a Coke I didn't think was great unless something was wrong with the machine dispensing it.

                                  It would be great to be able to do a real bind taste test of kosher Coke, Mexican Coke, some various regional Coke in a way that would account for as many variables as possible and highlight only the few key differences.

                                  But, drink fewer sodas!

                                2. re: ccbweb

                                  Funny, I did the same (but with the kosher) and definitely preferred the latter. It must be a personal preference thing.

                                  A friend of mine, not so long ago, made a keg of soda (extract sold at homebrew supply store + sweetener + water + co2) with sugar and it didn't taste right to him. So he bought some pure HFCS (a whole ordeal to get...), made another batch with that instead, which he was much happier with...

                                  So yeah, it might not be a good way to convince the OP's SO to lay off the syrup after all, now that I think about it ;)

                            2. For me what's bad about HFCS boils down to these points:

                              1. Use of HFCS usually signifies an overly processed product

                              2. HFCS tastes "wrong" to me.

                              3. There may be a glycemic problem with consuming large amounts of this product.

                              IMO I don't think, a few cookies in your house with HFCS as an ingredient would be just awful. It is the constant use of overly processed foods which use HFCS to make things tasty (read sweet) in our daily diets.

                              Also, just a word about bakery items. I suppose it is true that at least some independent bakeries use cane suger now. But I would want to know that they use at least enriched white flour in their product. Better yet, that they use unbleached enriched white flour. And are they using shortening with trans fats. I am not sanguine about the quality of most bakery goods

                              19 Replies
                              1. re: sueatmo

                                I doubt there really is a difference in taste. Can you or anyone cite a statistically valid study (double blind, large scale, etc.) that shows people can tell HFCS from sugar? If so tell us--I've looked and I can't find one, but what I have seen strongly suggests there really is no discernible difference in taste, and I suspect that's the actual fact.

                                Regarding your comments about flour, you can't really make a good cake with unbleached flour--you have to use bleached, and that's why bakeries generally do so. If you want more info check Harold Magee's and Shirley Corriher's books on that and similar subjects.

                                1. re: johnb

                                  Given that HFCS & Sugar are molecularly & texturally different... they are bound to taste different... anyone with a good palate would be able to tell them apart, maybe not as much as honey or maple syrup but still their distinct. Hell, if I compare the Light Caro versus the Regular.. there is quite a difference.

                                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                    No they aren't "bound to taste different," or, to be clearer, the products made with them aren't. Let me be more specific. I don't believe that, as commercially used, say in the case of soft drinks, that more than a very few people could tell the difference between one formulated with cane sugar and one formulated, as they are, with HFCS. The makers specifically formulate them so they taste the same, and they HAVE done the taste tests you can be certain of that. I challenge you or anyone to show me a properly constructed statistically valid taste test that shows otherwise.

                                    Mind you, I drink Mexican soft drinks when I can (for example, I always keep Jarritos Toronja in the house), and I'm not wild about prevalence of HFCS either, but I recognize that as a conceit, not a reality.

                                    1. re: johnb

                                      I challenge you or anyone to show me a properly constructed statistically valid taste test that shows the average consumer wouldn't be able to tell them apart in many end products where sweetner is a large component... soda, ice cream, jams etc.,

                                      1. re: johnb

                                        I look for Cane Sugar Coke every Passover ever since having a hella-expensive bottle in Israel and finding out how much better it tasted. I don't like American Coke - or most sodas here - and was only tempted to try it since no of my friends would give me one of their bottles as a souvenir. What a difference.

                                        1. re: johnb

                                          You could look to the reintroduction of sugar-based soft drinks as a pointer to the possibility that plenty of people can tell the difference. And I agree with Eat_Nopal's comment above.

                                          Some new soft drinks:

                                          Plenty of Chowhounding about real-sugar Coke:

                                          1. re: Cinnamon

                                            Probably not statistically "plenty of people," but enough that the soft drink manufacturers see a market for a drink aimed at those who want to avoid HFCS.
                                            It may be that the average soft drink guzzler doesn't know or care about the difference. He has nothing to compare it to after all since soft drinks are pretty much all made with HFCS.
                                            He would have to taste sugar Coke side-by-side with HFCS Coke and few have that chance.
                                            I have and absolutely prefer the cane sugar Coke which I grew up with. I recognized it immediately when I first tasted it in Latin America and it was always one of the highlights of my trips there and to the Carribbean and Europe. I'm easy to keep happy - a little cane sugar Coke!
                                            If someone has only known HFCS Coke, they might prefer that....

                                      2. re: johnb

                                        There's not only a difference in flavor, there's often a significant difference in texture of products made with it as well; try making fudge with and without it.

                                        1. re: xanadude

                                          So true. The chemical properties of refined, white sugar are absolutely essential for most candy making. I know a couple of pastry chefs who are hardcore into slow food - organic milk, local organic fruit, everything by hand, no preservatives or extracts. They still use refined sugar.

                                          1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                            Tisk, tisk... its not refined sugar, its evaporated cane juice =)

                                        2. re: johnb

                                          I personally don't encounter HFCS in soda. To be clear, I have eaten a sweet dessert at a restaurant which I felt had to have been sweetened with HFCS because of its taste. It was awfully sweet, and it didn't taste like sugar to me. I grant that's an assumption, but I am basing my statement on experience.

                                          Perhaps bakeries use bleached cake flour because it bakes up better for them, but they also do not use enriched flour. And that is my point. There is no good nutrition in most bakery items.

                                          1. re: sueatmo

                                            I may well be wrong, but I'm not aware that HFCS is available as an ingredient to home cooks or restaurants/bakeries. I doubt it was HFCS in whatever it was you ate in that restaurant. Are you confusing corn syrup with HFCS?

                                            Anybody who has the expectation that sweetened confections of any type are a nutritious and healthful addition to his/her diet must be living on another planet, and that starts with Mom's cookies and works outward from there. Whether the flour is or is not enriched seems totally superfluous. The effect would be a drop in the ocean.

                                            1. re: johnb

                                              HFCS 42 is the formulation marketed to Pastry chefs and Bakers, and can be found at Restaurant Supply stores... I have seen it myself... some of the Supply stores also offer a Crystallized Fructose made from Fruits as an alternative... but that is much more expensive and you can tell from shell space & dust that it doesn't sell as well

                                              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                Why do bakers use HFCS 42? Why not HFCS 55 that is used is soft drinks? Do European bakers use invert sugar (e.g. Lyle's Golden) or dextrose derived from non-corn starches in much the same way?


                                                1. re: paulj

                                                  I am not a baker... so I don't know the answer but that is the one they market for baking exclusively whereas HFCS 55 is exclusively for drinks. I just looked at the ADM website for their HFCS products & sure enough HFCS 42 is touted as the Baking sku & HFCS 55 for drinks.

                                            2. re: sueatmo

                                              Dessert isn't health food. But I think there's an important distinction between dessert made with sugar and butter, and dessert made with HFCS and trans fats. The former tastes better, and is fine in modest portions. The latter will kill you.

                                              1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                                Butter has small amounts of trans fats naturally. One of the consequences of trans fat bans being written into laws around the US is that some bakeries and restaurants are having to find fats other than butter, some of them processed, to use in their baked goods.

                                                It's never simple.

                                                1. re: ccbweb

                                                  Nutritionally speaking, there's an enormous difference between the trace amounts of naturally occurring trans fats found in animal fat and hydrogenated oil. Study after study has found that margarine is more likely to kill you than butter.

                                                  1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                                    Oh, certainly: I wasn't trying to argue that butter should be shunned based on the naturally occurring small amounts of trans fats; only pointing out that some laws and regulations are, in fact, creating a situation where the baked goods that you note are not likely to cause issues in moderation (those with butter and sugar) are going to cease to exist.

                                        3. The issue really goes way beyond HFCS. Give her a copy of "The Omnivore's Delimma." It might explain a few things to her, including the fact that corn is the most subsidized commodity on earth after oil and our bumper monoculture corn crops are completely dependent on unsustainable oil-derived fertilizers and farm subsidies, and those people who do buy and eat the sodas and all of the other cheap processed foods on supermarket shelves these days are basically existing almost exclusively on corn-derived foods (including the supermarket beef, chicken, pork, salmon, tilapia, and dairy which is made possible by feeding all of those animals our cheap, subsizided, surplus corn) at every meal every day and are thus becoming "walking corn" themselves. So much for the political/economic side. The real and potentially scarier unanswered question is: what is basing our entire food chain on corn doing to us physiologically, and to the environment? I'm not sure anyone really knows for sure yet but it's one heck of an experiment on the American (and increasingly the world's) population. I do know that I've opted out of the experiment for the most part by avoiding anything in a supermarket that comes between the produce aisle and the dairy aisle and buying grass-fed meats and wild caught fish where possible. It's still hard to avoid all corn, however, and I'm not above a tortilla chip or two, but I've managed to elimiate HFCS and associated derivatives like dextrose, modified cellulose gum, modified corn starch, modified food starchfrom, etc. etc. etc. my diet. But it takes work. And don't forget the supreme irony of using oil to grow corn to produce ethanol to replace oil in our gas tanks. If that's not the definition of insanity I don't know what is. See the attached list for all of the ingredients on a box of whatever that come from corn: http://www.cornallergens.com/list/cor...

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: Ellen

                                            Most of us have already heard all that political stuff. Some people agree and some people don't. There are people who can make very good arguments against what you say who opposed ethanol from the start for other reasons. Now we have serious unintended consequences.

                                            But the OP asked about food. What is really wrong with HFCS itself as a food product if you take out all the side issues?
                                            If you get into side issues, almost everything you eat has some sort of problem that upsets somebody.

                                            1. re: MakingSense

                                              You entirely missed the point of my post. I clearly separate the political from the potential biological. It's the latter that I stress we know so little about and its an experiment I don't wish to be part of because no one really knows what the side issues are yet. Maybe there aren't any and hooray for us. People are free to continue to participate in the experiment if they wish. That's what choice is all about And yes, agribusiness can make very good arguments for ethanol, I've heard them all. But as a long time energy professional, economist and business person who has actually done the math, I know better. As far as food goes, I prefer fresh, natural, and cooking from scratch, so I will generally avoid HFCS and all of its associated bretheren in all of those processed foods as a matter of practice and taste preference simply because I don't buy them in the first place. I don't drink soda of any kind so I don't really know if Mexican Coke is better. But to the real question from the OP, can you imagine pouring a slug of corn syrup and a bunch of corn-derived powdered products into your homemade spagetti sauce? I can't, yet that's essentially what we are faced with every time we buy a jar of supermarket sauce, or a can of Chef Boyardee or Cheeze Wiz. Yuk. That's enough of a reason for me.

                                              1. re: Ellen

                                                I didn't miss the point at all. You still brought your entire argument down to "what is basing our entire food chain on corn doing to us physiologically, and to the environment?" which isn't what will persuade people to change their eating habits. Might have changed YOU, but you aren't most people. As a friend of mine said, "Hey, I don't eat polar bears."
                                                The basic good food vs. crappy food argument is a lot easier to win. Most people paid little attention as various additives were included in standard supermarket products and their quality declined. It's a lot easier to demonstrate the difference between "real" food and processed junk and get them hooked on flavor again than to change their political consciousness. That can and does change gradually. I'll never win that global battle by myself but I can be a part of the victory by helping to change those within my sphere of influence. It begins on dinner plates.

                                          2. I'm not so sure that HFCS per se is a problem, but my take on is that it's hidden in places you'd never imagine. That's true with sugar too. You discover that when you start reading labels. For example, I often use canned black beans as a convenience. They're always canned with salt, which you can rinse out, but several brands include sugar and it's hard to imagine why.

                                            So the downside of all of that is that you not only get the sugar we all eat, which is way more than our bodies want or need, but we get sugar hidden in all kinds of places. If you were to go back a couple of hundred years, people might hardly ever see sugar at all. The amount of candy in the bowl on the counter in my office would be beyond the imagination of a person living in the seventeenth century. They didn't live as long as we do, but they weren't suffering like we are from an epidemic of diabetes.

                                            Every time you eat sugar you challenge your body's regulatory mechanisms. I, for one, would rather do that knowingly, like by eating a piece of chocolate, than having somebody sneak it in on me on beans.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Judith

                                              And bread....it drove me crazy that almost every brand of bread has HFCS in it. (Martin's does not, and also the organic bread I can find right at the supermarket)

                                              1. re: pringle347

                                                The reason I bake my own. Thank you to the inventor of the bread maker. I love that person.

                                            2. I'm totally with your SO. When I saw the thread about HFCS being in everything, I asked the same question. Having now done some research, I am still unimpressed. I just don't understand how using a product grown and produced in the US in US products instead of relying on imports is detrimental.

                                              However, I do feel that it's ridiculous that it seems to be in everything. But it's no worse to me than sugar being in everything. One poster even mentioned sour cream. I immediately ran to my fridge, and read the ingredients on mine, and it conatins neither HFCS or sugar.

                                              I just went on a mission around my house, and I read ingredients of potato chips, Maynard fruit gummies, Kitkat chocolate bars, Breton cracklers, Quaker granola bars, sauerkraut, Kraft Bbq sauce, Cott cream soda, ED Smith ketchup, ED Smith jam, Kikkoman soya sauce, Tsunami Sushi Rice vinegar/seasoning and two types of peanut butter. The vast majority of the products contained sugar or glucose/fructose. (Except one PB, sauerkraut, and the potato chips.) However, only 2 had HFCS: Quaker Granola bars and Sushi Rice seasoning. And really, the only thing that had sugar in it that I wasn't expecting was the crackers.

                                              FYI - I'm in BC in Canada.

                                              23 Replies
                                              1. re: miss_bennet

                                                Sushi rice seasoning, if made from scratch, includes salt, sugar and vinegar. I have a bottle of seasoning vinegar that lists sugar instead of HFCS. But if the vinegar dissociates sucrose into component fructose and glucose, I see little difference between using that sweetener and one derived from corn. If the sugar did not dissociate, it would crystallize.

                                                Another Japanese flavoring, mirin, may contain HFCS in the least expensive versions. The traditional form uses sake and sweet rice, forming I suspect, a rice syrup. I haven't seen an information on the sugar makeup of this rice syrup, or the brown rice syrup that is used in Cliffbars.


                                                1. re: miss_bennet

                                                  Glucose/fructose appears to be "Canadian" for HFCS. Nevertheless, being in Canada makes a big difference. The use of HFCS seems not as common there as in the US.

                                                  Contrary to what Michael Pollan and others believe, it is not US corn subsidies that have led to the explosion of HFCS in the US; rather, it is the mostly hidden subsidy to the US sugar industry in the form of import quotas which practically ban imported sugar in the US. As a result, we pay much more for (domestically and extremely inefficiently produced) sugar than the world price. This is why HFCS is cheaper than sugar in the US, and its cheapness relative to domestic sugar, the only kind available to them, is the main reason why the big US manufacturers, bottlers, etc. use it so much. You don't have that problem in Canada, so it is understandable that HFCS would be less common. However, under many circumstances it can still be cheaper than sugar in Canada, and/or there can be other reasons to use it, so you'll still get some.

                                                  Many years ago I worked on a port study in the Chicago area and there was a company located in a Foreign Trade Zone there making cake mix, because they could legally buy cheap sugar from Canada then "export" the sugar to the US in the guise of cake mix. It was purely a way to get around the US sugar import quotas. Big candy makers moved plants to Canada years ago for the same reason--they could get the sugar they need cheap, make the candy in Canada, then import the cheap sugar to the US in the form of candy, once again getting around the quotas and saving money.

                                                  1. re: johnb

                                                    I still don't understand why the problem is with HFCS specifically, and not overly-sweetened foods. And isn't it good that the US industry has been forced to adapt due to its inability to import sugar? The industry is finding new ways to be autonomous. Isn't that good?

                                                    And I'm really not certain if glucose/fructose is in fact corn-derived. I know that the sugar I buy at the grocery store (which seems to be a monopoly) is derived from sugar beets, and not sugar cane at all. Since the US has similar soil and climate, I don't know why it can't start to use sugar beets to produce sugar. It would doubtlessly be more expensive than corn by-products (like HFCS), but better than import prices.

                                                    1. re: miss_bennet

                                                      Rogers Sugar appears to be the main beet sugar producer in Canada
                                                      As noted, there are no sugar tariffs, so sugar prices reflect world market prices. Rogers does produce liquid sugars, both sucrose, and invert.

                                                      According to numbers in the wiki article on sugar beets, USA is the 3rd largest grower of sugar beets, nearly tied with Germany. It looks as though Canada produces enough for domestic use, but doesn't export it, so the overall numbers are not that great. You can smell beet sugar production when driving through the Grand Forks area of ND, though a lot of beets are also grown in California as a winter crop.


                                                      1. re: miss_bennet

                                                        Two points:

                                                        1) HFCS is not a traditional product of Corn. While Corn has been around as an important grain for 8000 years or so and we know people can flourish on it... HFCS doesn't have that history. What you don't know CAN kill you... at least that is what all the recent poorly tested prescription drug driven mishaps should have taught us. Corn oil & HFCS are definitely products I don't trust.

                                                        2) Increased HFCS consumption is highly correlated with sharp increases in obesity in the U.S.... fertile ground for cunning, otherwise unsuccessful pundits to make a killing off gullible people who need to be oriented by experts.

                                                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                          Re: 1)
                                                          I cannot understand the relevance of "traditional product[s] of corn." American culinary traditions have only been around for 200 years. Does that make them less valid than Chinese traditions? Alcohol has been around for thousands of years, and has been proven to kill, when used to excess. Should we be abolitionists, too? Or at least drink French wine over North American, because it has been around longer.

                                                          "Vivir con miedo es como vivir a medias," si?

                                                          1. re: miss_bennet

                                                            Totalmente de acuerdo....y eso de "vivir con miedo" es casi lo mas que me frustra de los CHers.

                                                            Exactly. That CHers have so many food fears is frustrating.

                                                            1. re: miss_bennet

                                                              Have it your way... btw I hear margarine is great for you. Oh yeah... straight from the 1950's you should base your diet on Beef, Milk, Cheese & Eggs.

                                                              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                I just think that they way to eat is everything in moderation. I mean, I definitely don't think that HFCS should be in everything, and it seems to be in far too much. However, I don't see the product itself as the devil many people are making it out to be.

                                                              2. re: miss_bennet

                                                                Industrial food production is the cornerstone of modern American food, and did not become widespread until after WWII. So we're talking about a fifty-sixty year history, hardly a culinary tradition.

                                                                1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                                                  But what's wrong with it not being a culinary tradition?

                                                                  I mean, chocolate chip cookies are less than a hundred. Ice cream cones are barely 100. I understand the importance of maintaining tradition, but I see no reason to dismiss foods because tehy are new. I just don't feel that that is valid reasoning.

                                                                  The other arguments have made sense.

                                                                  1. re: miss_bennet

                                                                    Tradition is our best evidence that a diet is healthy and nutritious; if people have been eating a food for generations, it's pretty fair to assume that it's good for you. Modern foods, such as hydrogenated oil and HFCS, haven't stood the test of time and are therefore more suspect. It doesn't mean that all modern foods are unhealthy, just that they should be approached with a certain degree of wariness.

                                                                    1. re: miss_bennet

                                                                      Its a question of proportion... I would have no problem embedding myself into some rancho in Mexico and switching to a diet primarily based on masa, beans, squash, chiles, tomatoes & tomatillos... but it wouldn't be too smart to embed myself into the Elf village & switching to a diet primarily based on Chocholate Chip cookies.... maybe you could prosper on such a diet... but there is a risk there that doesn't exist with foods that have been around for 8000 years... and have a proven track record... vis-a-vis a flourishing civilization.

                                                                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                        The elf village sounds like a yummy idea, for about two days. Then, I would swear off cookies forever.

                                                                        Now, the rancho diet has potential...

                                                                        Everything in moderation.

                                                                        1. re: nliedel

                                                                          When I eat cookies... I eat cookies... I eat them by the package not by the cookie... and I think it would take me more than 2 days to get sick of them =)

                                                                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                            That's some SERIOUS cookie love. Addiction can be a beautiful thing. Sniff.

                                                                            1. re: nliedel

                                                                              My last memory of my paternal grandfather was splitting a tray of Abuelita's fresh baked Anis polvorones & a mug of homemade rompope... it was the month my parents moved from Mexico City to L.A.... by the time we got our "Green Card".... Abuelito had already passed on.

                                                            2. re: johnb

                                                              So I did more research, and I can definitively say that glucose/fructose can be HFCS. In Canada, the legal name, however, is glucose fructose. It means that the syrup cannot contain more than 60% fructose when in dry form. So, when it's listed as glucose;/fructose, it is likely (though not necessarily) HFCS.


                                                              It's actually quite informative about Canadian ingredients lists.

                                                              1. re: miss_bennet

                                                                I was just in B.C. on Monday and spotted Glucose Fructose in a bunch of packaged products.... likely though not necessarily is really a nice way of saying it is HFCS but we don't really want our consumers to know that.

                                                                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                  Glucose Fructose is an accurate description of a mix of those two sugars. HFCS identifies the source. A more techinical description identifies the ratio, as in HFCS-55, HFCS-90.

                                                                  You can also find glucose (also called dextrose) on the market (especially among baking supplies). While that may be produced from corn, it can be made from other starches. Similarly sucrose does not always specify the origin, whether cane or beet. Some labels describe their sugar as 'organic evaporated cane juice', trying to make it sound 'healthier'. Invert sugar is another source of glucose and fructose, though it usually also includes sucrose.


                                                                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                    It's government regulated. They HAVE to use the term glucose/fructose. But an association of people with corn allergies is trying to get the government to require ingredients to say when they contain corn by-products.

                                                              2. re: miss_bennet

                                                                I can't explain it as well as I've seen it explained, but if you're insterested in the whole crop issue,and what makes it detrimental, a GREAT book is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It's also great for several other reasons, and has some good recipes too. :-)

                                                                1. re: miss_bennet

                                                                  I don't think I can explain it as well as I'v read it, but if you're interested in the crop issue and why it's detrimental, read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. (good recipes too :-)

                                                                2. I think it comes down to a few things, that may or may not impress her, but I look at it this way. HFCS is not food. I really don't want to eat food-like substances that have been chemically altered. I want food. Real food. Will it kill us in the long run? Just like each person's metabolism is different, I think each person's health can be affected in different degrees. Personally, I believe HFCS is harmful, along with trans fats. I don't need all the constantly contradicting research anymore to rely on because it changes by the decade...but the bottom line is, it's not food.

                                                                  I do believe what we eat is responsible for much of the degenerative disease running rampant in this country, and I definitely belive it's harming our kids even more, as their typical meals get more and more processed, much more so than a generation ago. Obesity alone,in our nation's children, is more widespread than we've ever seen previously.

                                                                  If you're looking for resources other than just the opinions here, my choices are:

                                                                  In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan (author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, mentioned by another poster)
                                                                  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
                                                                  Hungry for Health, by Dr. Susan Silberstein (she is the founder of CACE, see www.beatcancer.org

                                                                  Everything we put into our body helps either to build us up, or tear us down. It just doesn't happen quickly for us to take it as seriously as we should. (Unless you're doing a Morgan Spurlock
                                                                  )The link between nutrition and disease is a very strong one. But even for those who know it and believe it, it doesn't mean we'll never eat stuff that's bad for us....Life is still meant to be enjoyed, and food (especially for us CHers) is a huge part of that. But there's bad, and then there's bad. We make a decision with every meal...the more often we choose food over chemicals, the healthier we'll be.

                                                                  1. Consider watching the movie King Corn www.kingcorn.net . I was able to get it through interlibrary loan.

                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                    1. re: lgss

                                                                      lgss - thanks for the documentary recc. I already had it in my Netflix queue, I just moved it up 40 spots so I can watch it sooner. I will report back after viewing . i am interested in it, because my personal choice to look more carefully for HFCS is because of the government control of the corn and sugar industries. Not so much the health aspect, as I do not eat a ton of processed food and I agree that in moderation, HFCS will not kill us.

                                                                      Although I am surprised where it will sneak up. I rarely eat breakfast cereal, but had a craving for Lucky Charms. No HFCS! Yet, I checked the old box of Fiber One (the "healthier" cereal) in the cabinet and it does have HFCS. I was very sick last week with a sore throat and swollen glands. I asked my BF to get me juice (usually I am a water and Diet Snapple drinker), and I told him to make sure the juice has no HFCS. When I told him I also wanted Marino's Italian Ices he laughed at me (and my supposed hypocrisy), at which point I agreed, assuming they would be little more than frozen HFCS. Alas, no HFCS in them, just sugar. The same night, he made beef stew and I looked at the bottle of Worcestershire sauce and the first ingredient was HFCS. Go figure! Cheap frozen novelty, HFCS free. Lea and Perrins, all HFCS.

                                                                      1. re: Justpaula

                                                                        Not sure I understand your food choices. You'll drink aspartame in your diet Snapple, but avoid corn syrups?

                                                                        And to answer your question about why you find HFCS in some products and not others... it's simple. It's all about how much the sweetener costs. If we would lift our sugar tariffs, the HFCS would perhaps become more expensive, relatively speaking, and manufacturers would begin once again buying trainloads of regular sugar (of course, some people think that's bad because it's been refined, but bear with me) to sweeten their products. As it is, sugar is artificially expensive to protect American sugar interests. In fact, I think that's why HFCS was developed in the first place. To have a cheaper alternative to expensive sugar. Smaller manufacturers probably can't make deals for the smaller amounts of HFCS they need, so can still make the sugar decision without harming the bottom line.

                                                                        1. re: k_d

                                                                          Yeah, shrug...mostly, I am a few quarts of water a day girl, but my go to beverage of choice when I want taste is a Diet Peach Snapple. Just Diet Peach Snapple. I have a hankering for it...usually with a sandwich from the deli. Just my thing. It started years and years ago when I was a teenager and we used to smoke a lot of pot and then hit the convenience store. I always got Diet Peach Snapple with my munchies. No pot these days, but still love me DPS. :) I don't drink soda of any kind, not with aspartame or HFCS, but that is probably because carbonation does not agree with me - don't drink beer either.

                                                                          But, the rest of your answer explains exactly one of the biggest reason I have an issue with HFCS. I feel like the lobbying and government enforced sugar tariffs are a big problem.

                                                                        2. re: Justpaula

                                                                          Did Fiber One change recently? My ex used to eat it all the time (as he loved to boast about his prodigious bowel movements), and I remember it was sweetened with Nutra Sweet.

                                                                          1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                            LOL, Miss Needle. The "need for a extra Fiber in my diet, Quick!" is the reason I bought the Fiber One for a while. The boxes I have are in an apartment I have only lived in for six months, so it is at least that recently that they have been using HFCS.

                                                                            And yes, I have six month old cereal in my kitchen.

                                                                            1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                              Your husband's cleansing exploits remind me of a (I think it was) Saturday Night Live skit where they were pushing a high-fiber cereal product called, "Colon Blow!"

                                                                        3. Since we're on the subject, I was wondering if someone here could answer a question for me.

                                                                          Putting all political issues aside, is there a difference between HFCS and invert sugar? And if HFCS is so bad for you because it is glucose/fructose and has a higher glycemic index, shouldn't we put invert sugar and for that matter honey and agave nectar on the black list as well?

                                                                          And if invert sugar is chemically the same as HFCS wouldn't products where HFCS is replaced with invert sugar instead of sucrose (Jones Soda for example) be just as bad for you?

                                                                          I'd just like someone to clear this up for me.

                                                                          Thanks in advance.

                                                                          6 Replies
                                                                          1. re: SnackHappy

                                                                            I think the biggest debate on this issue is that HFCS is processed in a way that inhibits satiety signals during and after eating. This process is mediated by leptin levels and HFCS is claimed to cause leptin resistance in the body. In other words, some researchers claim that unlike other sugars there is no satiety point of HFCS and you keep consuming even after lugging a 3 little bottle of coke. However this hypothesis was recently questioned by a a study that demonstrated no significant differences between different types of sugars and claimed they they are both metabolized similarly and effect leptin levels equally. My issue with all these studies are that they are also politically motivated and sometimes even funded by lobbies.

                                                                            Perhaps it is a placebo effect, but as someone with mild insulin resistance I can feel the negative effects of HFCS a little bit more clearly in my body. The insulin hike I can feel, and I usually get "that insulin hike headache" very fast after consuming foods with HFCS. But again, it is not scientific testing, and perhaps it is my conscience that is giving me that headache.

                                                                            1. re: emerilcantcook

                                                                              But invert sugar also has that free fructose (as opposed to the bound fructose in sucrose).

                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                That's what I meant. If fructose is the culprit, why is invert sugar considered an acceptable alternative to HFCS?

                                                                                1. re: SnackHappy

                                                                                  Oops, sorry I meant to reply to the original poster. For Snackhappy's question, my wild guess is that it is the old Frankenstein Syndrome: manipulating nature by science is perceived to be risky and unpredictable. Foods that are at their natural state are perceived to be safer.

                                                                                  I don't know much about the chemistry and biology to claim my expertise, but I've done some research for my own health and I concluded that agave nectar (which is ironically recommended for diabetes and insulin resistance by clueless holistic "experts") is actually as bad as HFCS for sugar metabolism. Moreover, it is ridiculously expensive and tastes odd. But it is "natural", so I guess there is a tendency to think it as safe.

                                                                                  Honey is also metabolized similarly and causes leptin resistance; but hell it tastes much better than HFCS and except for Winnie the Pooh I do not know anyone who can eat too much of it, perhaps because of its intense taste. Which makes it harder to abuse.

                                                                                  1. re: SnackHappy

                                                                                    This recent article may be what emerilcantcook had in mind when citing a link between fructose and leptin

                                                                                    Note though that this summary mentions sugar along with HFCS. Early in the digestive process, sucrose is split into simple sugars, fructose and glucose.. Nothing in this study suggests that soda sweetened with sugar, or invert sugar is better for you than one sweetened with HFCS.
                                                                                    "Table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are about 50% fructose and these ingredients have become increasingly common in many foods and beverages."

                                                                                    Also from SD, this artlcle titled "Cane Sugar, Corn Sweeteners Have Similar Effects On Appetite, Study Shows"

                                                                                    "However, the researchers found that for the sucrose in the beverages tested in this study, the bond between fructose and glucose is broken. Because of this, the authors suggest that the body does not readily discriminate between beverages sweetened with sucrose and those sweetened with HFCS 42 or 55."

                                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                                      Newspapers are now reporting on a study from Scotland that finds a genetic component in preferences for high calorie food. Since it is a UK study, it refers to fat and sugar rich foods, not specifically HFCS right ones.

                                                                            2. I have to be honest...even having only read through some of the replies (for shame ! )...OMG HFCS ! is something i'm tiring of hearing...in the same manner as "no trans fats" and "splenda"

                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                              1. re: im_nomad

                                                                                And I hear the Amish diet (high in meat/dairy fats) is in the news over some life prolonging discoveries. Regardless of what they medical community says (genes), I say it is their hard work with less stress lifestyles that works for them.

                                                                                1. re: RShea78

                                                                                  The Amish are trying to hang onto a lifestyle that dates back a couple of hundred years, back when everyone worked hard (10-12 hr days, only Sunday off), and lacked the modern stresses. Yet for some reason, life expectancy for the general population is higher now than then.

                                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                                    They continue to work hard and avoid modern stresses more than the general population. They also eat a lot less processed food, I suspect.

                                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                                      ""Yet for some reason, life expectancy for the general population is higher now than then.""

                                                                                      They are able to produce more and higher quality foods today than years ago. Also they are better at seeing a Doctor for medical intervention that once was shunned.

                                                                                      I think one of their most important improvements is in socializing with outsiders than old ways of being recluse or withdrawn from society. Some even have businesses that the public is welcome at.

                                                                                2. According to Dr. Robert Lustig sugar derived from corn is no better or worse that any type of sugar. All are equally toxic to humans.
                                                                                  This is a very good interview from NPR:


                                                                                  "But I'm only talking about the sweet stuff. I'm talking about sucrose or high-fructose corn syrup, which is basically one glucose, one fructose, it's just made from corn. There is an enzyme process that turns glucose into fructose. It's still half-and-half, one-and-one, and that's why it's irrelevant.

                                                                                  They're the same. Table sugar, cane sugar, beet sugar, that's what the whole world has. High-fructose corn syrup is only available in the United States, Japan, Canada and very limited exposure in parts of Europe. And guess what? The whole world now has obesity and metabolic syndrome.

                                                                                  So it's not about high-fructose corn syrup per se. The reason high-fructose corn syrup is such a problem is because it's cheap. It's so cheap that it found its way into foods that never had sugar before. It found its way into salad dressings. It found its way into pretzels. It found its way into hamburger buns. It found its way into hamburger meat, ask Taco Bell what they put in their meat."

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: zackly

                                                                                    Ah, another old thread makes its reappearance!

                                                                                    To respond to one of your points, the reason HFCS is "cheap" is that, due to policy decisions made by Congress at the behest of US sugar producers (imports are kept out, basically), US sugar is much more expensive than sugar anywhere else. Were US buyers able to buy sugar on the world market there would never have been any HFCS industry in the first place. One more example of how the rich go and pay off Congress to get richer, and the rest of us who don't pay attention to what's going on end up paying another way.

                                                                                    I wouldn't put too much faith in the "sugar is poison" claim; Lustig certainly has his critics.