Food Is Not Your Enemy

High-Fructose Corn Syrup May Get a New Name
September 21, 2010, 10:58 am
Filed under: food politics, Sweets | Tags: , ,

High-fructose corn syrup has rightfully gotten a bad rap. And those ridiculous ads showing families slurping down purple drink like it’s a perfectly healthy thing apparently have not done much to remove the stink from this product.

So now, in the spirit of ValuJet changing their name to AirTran (to make you forget about their crashes due to lax safety rules), and Andersen Consulting becoming Accenture (to erase the memory of their role in the ecomonic collapse), the Corn Refiners Association would like to change the name “high-fructose corn syrup” to “corn sugar.”

So buyers beware: if the FDA approves this move, remember to check any and all food labels for “corn sugar,” and avoid products made with it.

Corn Refiners Association Prez Tells Me What’s What With Regard to High-Fructose Corn Syrup

Okay, so yesterday I got a letter through the contact form on my Web site from Audrae Erickson, the president of the Corn Refiners Association. In my most recent column for AOL’s ParentDish, I advocated avoiding store-bought big-brand eggnog since it tends to contain high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). So Ms. Erickson felt the need to explain to me why HFCS is in fact awesome. Here’s her letter, with my comments inserted in all caps:

 Dear Ms. Schonborn:

We read the December 21 article “Christmas and Kwanzaa Foods: Safe or Scary?,” with interest. There has been a lot of confusion about high fructose corn syrup. I AGREE. SOME STUDIES HAVE SHOWN HFCS TO BE NO DIFFERENT THAN TABLE SUGAR WITH REGARD TO HOW IT AFFECTS OUR BODIES, BUT A NEW STUDY HAS SHOWN OTHERWISE. We would like to provide you with science-based information on this safe sweetener and be a reference for you for future articles. According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA),THE ADA IS AN ORGANIZATION THAT SIGNED A PARTNERSHIP DEAL WITH COCA-COLA–I FEEL THE NEED TO TAKE THEIR NUTRITION RECOMMENDATIONS WITH A GRAIN OF SALT  “high fructose corn syrup…is nutritionally equivalent to sucrose. Once absorbed into the blood stream, the two sweeteners are indistinguishable.” AGAIN, SEE THE LATEST RESEARCH REFUTING THIS. The ADA also noted that “Both sweeteners contain the same number of calories (4 per gram) and consist of about equal parts of fructose and glucose.” (Hot Topics, “High Fructose Corn Syrup.” December 2008.)

High fructose corn syrup is used in the food supply because of its many functional benefits. It is used in certain applications for sweetening, and in other applications it performs functions that have little to do with sweetening. For example, it retains moisture in bran cereals, helps keep breakfast and energy bars moist, LARABARS MANAGE TO KEEP THEIR BARS MOIST AND THEIR ONLY INGREDIENTS ARE DRIED FRUIT AND NUTS–JUST SAYIN’ maintains consistent flavors in beverages and keeps ingredients evenly dispersed in condiments. High fructose corn syrup enhances spice and fruit flavors in yogurts and marinades. HOW ABOUT JUST USING FRUIT IN YOGURT, INSTEAD OF “FRUIT FLAVORS” THAT NEED TO BE “ENHANCED”? In salad dressings and spaghetti sauce, it improves flavor by reducing tartness. TARTNESS? ANY HOMEMADE SPAGHETTI SAUCE I’VE TASTED HASN’T SUFFERED FROM THIS PROBLEM, AND THEY HAVEN’T HAD HFCS OR ANY SWEETENER ADDED TO THEM Many foods only contain small amounts of high fructose corn syrup. For example, it would take 39 slices of bread to reach the Institute of Medicine’s recommended daily allowance of added sugars from high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup is a highly fermentable nutritive sweetener. It gives breads a pleasing brown crust. BREAD GETS A PLEASING BROWN CRUST FROM THE OVEN IF IT’S NOT A CHEAP PROCESSED BREAD. Please follow this link for more information. ( As many dietitians agree, all sugars should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced lifestyle. To read the latest research WHICH SUPPORTS THE CORN REFINERS ASSOCIATION’S POINT OF VIEW and learn more about high fructose corn syrup, please visit Please feel free to contact me if you would like additional information about the products made from corn.

Thank you for your consideration,

Audrae Erickson, President

Corn Refiners Association

Washington, DC

The main problem here for me is that Ms. Erickson is staunchly defending not just HFCS, but processed foods in general. In the past generation or so, many many Americans have stopped preparing home-cooked food, and instead have relied on calorie-dense convenience foods like the ones mentioned in her letter. And during this time, the number of obese Americans has skyrocketed (there are many factors contributing to this crisis, but I believe processed foods play a very large role). In a few of my AOL columns, I have said that one of the main reasons to avoid HFCS is that by doing so, you will avoid the junkiest foods on the market. I stand by that recommendation.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup Proves to Be Worse Than Sugar

This is big: a new study has shown that high-fructose corn syrup does in fact cause greater weight gain than sugar, and also leads to dangerous changes in the body. According to

“Over 10 weeks, 16 volunteers on a strictly controlled diet, including high levels of fructose, produced new fat cells around their heart, liver and other digestive organs. They also showed signs of food-processing abnormalities linked to diabetes and heart disease. Another group of volunteers on the same diet, but with glucose sugar replacing fructose, did not have these problems.

People in both groups put on a similar amount of weight. However, researchers at the University of California who conducted the trial, said the levels of weight gain among the fructose consumers would be greater over the long term.

Fructose bypasses the digestive process that breaks down other forms of sugar. It arrives intact in the liver where it causes a variety of abnormal reactions, including the disruption of mechanisms that instruct the body whether to burn or store fat.”

Natural Sweeteners: Safe or Scary?

What is going on with sugar? We’re suddenly being inundated with ads for soft drinks and other products touting that they use “real sugar!” Is sugar not so bad then, at least when compared to the near-ubiquitous food additive high-fructose corn syrup? And what about honey, pure maple syrup, and agave nectar — are these natural sweeteners (“natural” because they all contain some form of real sugar) a healthier option for you and your kids? Read my latest column on AOL’s ParentDish to find out.