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Hype Fructose Corn Syrup
February 18, 2009 2:49 PM   Subscribe


 
Just to be fair, they're giving you guys sugar sweetened beverages because the HFCS sweetened stuff tastes like shit not because of any obesity concerns. Sugar sweetened cola is going to make your ass just as fat.

Sometimes I'm glad we have a powerful sugar lobby. I've tried HFCS sweetened stuff and it's garbage compared to the cane sugar Coke and Pepsi that we have here in Australia.
posted by Talez at 2:55 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I love the Mexican Coca Cola I buy at my local taqueria - the sugar based sodas taste soooo much better.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:57 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh god. The Dublin (texas) Dr. Pepper is a special treat when my best friend visits family down that way and brings some back. Real sugar, all the way.
posted by notsnot at 2:58 PM on February 18, 2009


Right. Some people have blamed HFCS, others have defended it. I don't take a position on that question. I would point out that if HFCS is less satisfying, people might seek higher quantities to satisfy the same craving.

Personally, I'm looking forward to it. I hope they bring back stevia in Vernors too.
posted by jock@law at 3:01 PM on February 18, 2009


Yes, both will do you badly if over consumed (like anything else that has calories) but cane sugar tastes so much better.

Screw you HFCS! I don't care if you don't make me any more fatter than other sweeteners, you just taste bad, power to cane sugar! WRAAAAH!
posted by Mister Cheese at 3:01 PM on February 18, 2009


To what degree is this move prompted by corn syrup prices? I've heard folks make the argument that between corn crop issues and the recent corn-ethanol push, moving back to cane sugar is (or will soon be) no longer cost-prohibitive in the way it had been previously, but I don't know if that was just speculation or if there's good hard evidence of that price shift as a solid motivation for the manufacturers.
posted by cortex at 3:06 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Through homebrewing, I have recently become acquainted with powdered malt as a sweetener. Awesome!
posted by No Robots at 3:08 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


PLEASE BRING THIS ON IN 16-ounce returnable bottles! Sometimes in my dreams it's 1973 again and I'm chugging an ice-cold Pepsi while flying down Sycamore Road on my metallic purple Stingray, three brand-new comic books rolled up in my back pocket, allowance spent!
posted by Ron Thanagar at 3:08 PM on February 18, 2009 [19 favorites]


Not really that different than Pepsico getting into the bottled water craze with their aquafina brand. Basically they see an emerging market and hope to capitalize on it.

However doesn't cane sugar cost more per unit than HFCS? Does that mean that Pepsico is willing to cut their profits on a drink (seems unlikely) or are they aiming to offer this at a higher price point?
posted by vuron at 3:11 PM on February 18, 2009


Yeah, since having real sugar sprites abroad, the domestic product is just a pale imitation.
posted by absalom at 3:13 PM on February 18, 2009


Sometimes in my dreams it's 1973 again and I'm chugging an ice-cold Pepsi while flying down Sycamore Road on my metallic purple Stingray, three brand-new comic books rolled up in my back pocket, allowance spent!

I can't believe you bought a purple Corvette, Ron. And since when do teenagers get allowances that afford the purchase of a new sports car?
posted by clearly at 3:14 PM on February 18, 2009


Forget the argument that HFCS causes obesity; start linking it with autism. The shit will be off the shelves in 18 months.

God bless sweet, delicious cane sugar.
posted by scody at 3:14 PM on February 18, 2009 [17 favorites]


Oh, Vuron. I was under the impression that HFCS was cheaper artificially - because of high tariffs on Sugar and all kinds of pro-corn protectionism. I mean, sugar doesn't cost shit in, say, Brazil.
posted by absalom at 3:15 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


I can't believe you bought a purple Corvette, Ron. And since when do teenagers get allowances that afford the purchase of a new sports car?
posted by clearly


HA! It was a different time.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 3:18 PM on February 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yes, I'm aware that the sugar subsidies make cane sugar much more expensive in the US than it would be on the world market (after all we need to support the Florida sugar growers - small family farms ya know). I was simply wondering why Pepsico would use a more expensive ingredient for the domestic US market when cutting production costs insures more profit. After all isn't that one of the primary reasons for pushing diet sodas so much- that artificial sweeteners are substantially cheaper per unit than HFCS or cane sugar?
posted by vuron at 3:20 PM on February 18, 2009


Pepsi Europe
posted by Zambrano at 3:22 PM on February 18, 2009


Not really that different than Pepsico getting into the bottled water craze with their aquafina brand. Basically they see an emerging market and hope to capitalize on it.

I don't care what their motivation is. I don't care if they're doing it to get into my pants. Which, by the way, would work, because of how much i love cane sugar.

I already pay $20 or so for a case of Mexican Cokes at Costco so a higher price point for a more easily available sugar-sweetened cola would not scare me.
posted by padraigin at 3:27 PM on February 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


Pepsi "Throwback"? That sounds like some awful branding to me, that term doesn't exactly have positive connotations. Why not "Old school"? Yeah it's cliche but this is pepsi we're talking about.
posted by delmoi at 3:28 PM on February 18, 2009


Speaking of sugar water, you owe it to yourself to try Boylan's Cane Cola.
posted by monkeymike at 3:30 PM on February 18, 2009


And this breaking news? Seriously? Did anyone believe that HFCS wasn't bad for you? God I avoid it like the plague!
posted by PeterParker at 3:33 PM on February 18, 2009


Sugar sweetened cola is going to make your ass just as fat

While I'm a general believer in the calories-in/calories-out approach, I've also read that HFCS and sucrose sugars have different metabolism paths; something like the liver can handle ~50g of fructose -> glucose per day before it gives up and just starts making triglycerides from it.

While the science behind these assertions may be crap, it wouldn't surprise me if your statement was provably false.
posted by troy at 3:41 PM on February 18, 2009


Soda so icy, you don't have to like me
sippin' a throwback Pepsi, with the throwback nikes ...
posted by filthy light thief at 3:43 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


The weird thing for me isn't HCFS in soda or other beverages that are essentially liquid candy.

It's the stuff popping up in places where there's no earthly reason for it, like canned tomato sauce. Or apple sauce. The former doesn't need to be sweet in and of itself (and can be easily sweetened if a recipe calls for it), the later doesn't need a sweetener in order to be plenty sweet.

I'm really glad for labeling laws when it comes to stuff like this.
posted by weston at 3:44 PM on February 18, 2009 [14 favorites]


I am a soda-fiend, and while there's little I like more than going to BevMo and picking up a new type of soda to try, I've stopped even experimenting with HFCS sodas. No matter how hand-crafted the label looks, if they use HFCS it's almost certain to be crap.

By the way, want a fantastic soda? Mr. Q Cumber!
posted by Bookhouse at 3:45 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


i am trying to cut back on all types of sugar but yes, for you Californians, Mexican Coke is the way and the light.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:46 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Have any of the home-brewers noticed a difference between cane and beet sugar? Or does it not matter when dissolving the sugar in a mix?

And thanks to the comments on the Consumerist article, I now the term "Mountain Dew Mouth."
posted by filthy light thief at 3:48 PM on February 18, 2009


Sugar soda forever. I can get Mexican Coke here in Texas, and in California where we are moving in a month. The mere existence of soda made with HFCS is an abomination, though.
posted by Nattie at 3:50 PM on February 18, 2009


HFCS is a great "canary in the coal mine" ingredient. That is, if I see that a food has HFCS in it, I know that I don't want to buy it.

Of course, if the food has a label on which to tell me it has HFCS, that's already one strike against.
posted by gurple at 3:50 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


PLEASE BRING THIS ON IN 16-ounce returnable bottles! Sometimes in my dreams it's 1973 again and I'm chugging an ice-cold Pepsi while flying down Sycamore Road on my metallic purple Stingray, three brand-new comic books rolled up in my back pocket, allowance spent!

We've started getting sugar sweetened Coke in 11oz glass bottles over here. It's about 20-50% more expensive than the 20oz plastic bottles but worth every cent. I don't care what anyone says. Coke coming from a glass bottle just tastes better.
posted by Talez at 3:51 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pepsi "Throwback"? That sounds like some awful branding to me, that term doesn't exactly have positive connotations.

Yes it does. it means something old that is new and cool again, as in a classic sports jersey or pair of shoes.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:57 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think 'Pepsi Throwback' is a great name--I've been looking for a soda to match my Air Force Ones.
posted by box at 3:57 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I heard Michael Pollen on a podcast (NPR's?) recently, talking about how, in addition to having dubious health effects, the politics of corn syrup has interesting environmental and agricultural dimensions.
posted by Rykey at 3:58 PM on February 18, 2009


Throwback sounds like throw-up. That's the only problem I see with the brand name.
posted by Kloryne at 4:05 PM on February 18, 2009


Using data from nearly 9,400 adults in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1999 to 2004, they tracked consumption of sugary soft drinks, a major source of high-fructose corn syrup in the United States, and protein in the urine, a sensitive marker for kidney disease.

Ugh, so much of the anti-corn syrup material takes evidence that lots of sugar is bad for you, and then implies that fructose is somehow worse then sucrose.
posted by delmoi at 4:06 PM on February 18, 2009


"Throwback" makes me think of fishing.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:11 PM on February 18, 2009




I'm very concerned about bottom shelf liquor. And artificial sugar. So I avoid both. Lunch today: Apple, banananana, salted in the shell peanuts, and a pair of Boddingtons. Mixed in a 70 push ups and 140 sit ups. Yum.

This chemical crap. Sedentary lives as if it was a neuvo religous movement of Janes. No wonder folks get sick. Fools.
posted by buzzman at 4:13 PM on February 18, 2009


"Throwback" makes me think of fishing.

I misread that last word.
posted by cortex at 4:14 PM on February 18, 2009 [6 favorites]


To everyone who thinks they have tasted real sugar in Mexican coke: About half of Mexican Coca Cola bottling plants use HFCS, and their coke still tastes different than US bottled coke. You have to find out where your coke was bottled to know if you have tasted the real thing.
posted by dirty lies at 4:15 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seriously, if they'd just called it 'friendly fructose nature juice' or something similar nobody would care. It's just a frickin' sweetener. It's not Satan's sperm. It's not going to kill you, or even hurt you. Living with crazy paranoid fears about toxins in your foods is stupid. We have never had it so good, and we have never lived longer.

But some time ago, the self-righteous bullying types realised that if you claimed there was a public health risk associated with whatever behaviour it is they didn't like people doing, they could mobilise the uncritical masses into siding with them. Because there's nothing the unthinking bigot likes more than feeling better than somebody else.

So if you don't like smoking, or fast food or wifi or whatever, you claim it's a health risk and causes autism or toxin build-up or has mercury in it.

But we're living longer than ever. The proof is in the pudding. Spending half your time worrying about invisible dangers is no way to go through life.
posted by chrisgregory at 4:16 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Most granulated sugar made in the US is beet sugar, not cane sugar. Beet sugar is way cheaper than cane.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:17 PM on February 18, 2009


And thanks to the comments on the Consumerist article, I now the term "Mountain Dew Mouth."

Shocking story yes, but how in the Christ do you drink so much soda that your teeth are rotting out, and not at some point think maybe you should brush your teeth sometimes?
posted by !Jim at 4:19 PM on February 18, 2009


Since I read about the HFCS-autism link I always drink Boylan's sodas with pure cane sugar. Their Birch beer is a treat.
posted by bhnyc at 4:20 PM on February 18, 2009


Living with crazy paranoid fears about toxins in your foods is stupid.

Eh, I don't care about toxins or weight gain (I'm perpetually trying to gain five pounds anyway). I care purely because HFCS is less tasty than sugar.
posted by scody at 4:21 PM on February 18, 2009


'friendly fructose nature juice'

Sounds too much like "certified organic evaporated cane juice"
posted by Sys Rq at 4:25 PM on February 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


Beet sugar is way cheaper than cane.

It also requires less water than cane, and WAY less than corn.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:33 PM on February 18, 2009


I can unreservedly recommend rather neat little indie documentary King Corn, and not just because at one point the two guys actually try making their own HFCS out of their own corn... although that too. A fascinating film from beginning to end, though not a little depressing in the story it tells about what farming is really all about today.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:34 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Cortex: To what degree is this move prompted by corn syrup prices?

Good point, and some interesting reading here and here.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:37 PM on February 18, 2009


Posting Pepsiā„¢ news on the blue takes guts, kudos for that.

I remember the sugar-sweetened pop of yore and the returnable bottle cage at your local supermarket. So much better. Today's pop has me drinking Newman's Own grape juice.
posted by porn in the woods at 4:51 PM on February 18, 2009


"But we're living longer than ever. The proof is in the pudding. Spending half your time worrying about invisible dangers is no way to go through life."

Uh .... so you don't think smoking or poor diet is a health risk, or is an "invisible danger?" You should meet my uncle, who is toting around oxygen tanks. He only recently managed to quit smoking, although he's been on oxygen for a few years now. Science is proof enough. When you say, "We're living longer than ever," on average, yes. If you smoke, drink heavily and eat poorly, well, I'd say your chances aren't great to even get to the average lifespan. And cirrhosis, lung cancer and strokes are not to be taken lightly. It's not like we don't know what happens. If you're lucky, you can take your chances and maybe beat the odds. Who knows? But this isn't magic. It's medical science, and calling these things invisible dangers is sort of like denying the idea that some microbes could cause disease because you can't see them with your naked eye.

I mean, there is worrying too much, and then there's willful ignorance.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:52 PM on February 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


Flavour is the *only* reason to avoid corn syrup (well, maybe the politics of production is another reason, if you swing that way). Some people just prefer other sugars in certain applications. At the same time, corn syrup is useful stuff because even a little bit of it completely stops sugar crystals forming in candy and icecream and so on. If you're cooking or baking it's handy stuff to have around, even if you just use a little.

I think in Australia we mostly use cane sugar because I suspect it's the cheapest local sugar. But seriously, I have no idea if, as someone claimed, the local soft drinks are made with the one or the other. Not bragging, but I have a fairly developed palate and I doubt I could taste the difference in a blind test, which is the only way to really judge.
posted by chrisgregory at 4:52 PM on February 18, 2009


Living with crazy paranoid fears about toxins in your foods is stupid.... Because there's nothing the unthinking bigot likes more than feeling better than somebody else.

You clearly aren't familiar with the majority of arguments against HFCS. If you were, you'd know that they aren't based on a fear of toxins. There's unthinking bigotry here, but it's not coming from the anti-HFCS crowd.
posted by diogenes at 4:59 PM on February 18, 2009


It's the stuff popping up in places where there's no earthly reason for it, like canned tomato sauce.

This.

This is the real reason to hate on HFCS. It's the fact that processed food manufacturers have gotten into the habit of shoveling more and more sweeteners (and salt) into their food to try to make up for the fact that processed foods don't have much flavor. And thanks to the corn subsidies, HFCS is dirt cheap, much cheaper than any of the better alternatives for making food taste good.
posted by straight at 5:03 PM on February 18, 2009 [7 favorites]


I'm under no illusions that any kind of soda is any better for me than any other. But domestic sodas using sugar instead of corn syrup? They can deliver a case directly to my mouth.

And I will pay CASH MONEY for a reliable supply of not-flat, European-style Fanta Naranja.

And then I will get very, very chubby.
posted by lampoil at 5:04 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


My girlfriend and I howl with laughter at those pro-HFCS ads, especially the one where the girl confronts the guy and he can't think of any reasons not to consume HFCS, implying that there aren't any.

Well, y'know, it tastes like ass, and since I stopped eating it, I feel better. High-fructose corn syrup has a worse (sharper) glycemic index than fructose itself, and I find that things that use fructose or regular ol' sugar tend to put less of them in there. HFCS is just kind of an overpowering blast of sickly sweet that makes me feel ill.

But hey, they didn't ask me to be in any of their ads.
posted by klangklangston at 5:05 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm just glad to know that I can start using "HFCS" from now on instead of saying it the looong way in my daily conversations. Thanks, anti-HFCS folks!
posted by orme at 5:07 PM on February 18, 2009


Flavour isn't the only reason to avoid corn syrup, even if you discount the politics involved, and still isn't even if you also discount various studies cited above regarding effects of fructose.

My major reason for avoiding HFCS is that I don't want that much sugar in my food in general. I don't want tomato sauce with HFCS already added (of course I buy unsalted butter too, so maybe I'm a control freak). But it is irritating that so much of the food you find in a grocery store is sweetened beyond need; HFCS is a cheap way of adding calories but does not add nutritional content. It's not the difference between soda with cane sugar and soda with HFCS; it's the difference between crackers, pastries, lunchables, etc with HFCS, and similar products with less added sugar overall.

(Of course I should admit I do have some belief in differing response to various sugars, and I do have some major political issues with the politics behind HFCS. But I think the "HFCS encourages too much sugar in packaged foods" argument is independent.)
posted by nat at 5:08 PM on February 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


"Since 1985, an an American's annual consumption of HFCS has gone from forty-five pounds to sixty-six pounds. You might think that this growth would have been offset by a decline in sugar consumption, since HFCS often replaces sugar, but that didn't happen: During the same period our consumption of refined sugar actually went up by five pounds. What this means is that we're eating and drinking all that high-fructose corn syrup on top of the sugars we were already consuming."

- Michael Pollan
posted by diogenes at 5:12 PM on February 18, 2009


But seriously, I have no idea if, as someone claimed, the local soft drinks are made with the one or the other. Not bragging, but I have a fairly developed palate and I doubt I could taste the difference in a blind test, which is the only way to really judge.

You can see it on the ingredients label. Coke is sweetened by "cane sugar" and Pepsi has "sugar" listed.

I guess the closest way to test the difference in taste in mostly HFCS-free Australia would be using honey instead of table sugar to sweeten your coffee. Not entirely accurate but not that dissimilar.
posted by Talez at 5:15 PM on February 18, 2009


In Aus a "throwback" is a small (250ml) bottle of beer, which can be quite handy on a hot day. I prefer our definition.
posted by pompomtom at 5:16 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, and also: Beet Beet Sugar Beet.
posted by lampoil at 5:16 PM on February 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


In Aus a "throwback" is a small (250ml) bottle of beer, which can be quite handy on a hot day.

This. And after enough throwbacks, the throwdown then the throwup.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:22 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I got a Dublin Dr. Pepper connection, too. But I hope they bring it back on a larger scale. I can't handle too much sugar anymore, but a Dr. Pepper with real sugar is worth having every so often. The stuff with HFCS is really not worth it.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:29 PM on February 18, 2009


"of course I buy unsalted butter too, so maybe I'm a control freak"

Dude. Salted butter from pasture-grazed cows. Seriously. Never tasted anything better, but it's seasonal.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:33 PM on February 18, 2009


I think the Dr Pepper bottler in West Jefferson, NC still makes Mountain Dew sweetened with sugar cane in glass bottles. It's some pretty wonderful stuff.
posted by milquetoast at 5:40 PM on February 18, 2009


Someone needs to youtube up some parodies of them ads. When they get to the part where the pro HFCS person is going all "what, what, you don't have any reasons for hating corn syrup because it's fine in moderation and categorically the same as regular sugar" the person who's supposed be stumped and confused should say, "I don't want that shit because it tastes like butts. Liquid. Butts. Gimme real sugar any day, at least it doesn't taste like the slow erosion of my childhood memories."
posted by Mister Cheese at 5:47 PM on February 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


Just so we're all clear on a chemistry basis:

The HFCS used in making sodas (HFCS 55) is 55/45 fructose/glucose. (The "HFCS" part comes from the fact that classic corn syrup is almost entirely glucose.)

Sucrose consists of a fructose molecule and a glucose molecule sharing an oxygen atom. It's roughly 50/50 fructose/glucose.

When the sucrose hits your system, your body can't use it straight away; it has to break it down into fructose and glucose. So, essentially, the only difference between two equivalent amounts of HFCS and sucrose is that HFCS has a little more fructose.

There is also HFCS 42, which is roughly 42% fructose. When you buy bread with HFCS, this is typically the HFCS being used. It actually has LESS fructose than table sugar.

I tend to think the HFCS scares are overblown. I like my Mexican Cokes, but I tend to think they taste better because I'm drinking them out of glass bottles, not aluminum cans.
posted by dw at 6:01 PM on February 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


There's also a product exclusive to the Mexican market called Pepsi Retro. It's made with cane sugar and kola nut extract and has a really nice sweet tingle to it, which I attribute to the magic of the kola nut. It's totally become my favourite cola, despite not being a Pepsi fan in general and having ready-access to sugar-cane Coke. I wonder whether Pepsi Throwback is going to include the kola nut too; for America's sake, I hope so. Yum!
posted by bunyip at 6:13 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't know what it is, but I was off sodas for years (preferring iced tea or hot teas or water). Then... "Thank the Gods" I live in a place with a heavy dose of Mexican Coke. It's so much better. It has a bite, and the fizz stays. I Won't drink anything else soda wise. It's old Coke before the "New Coke" before the "New Coke was a disaster and we're going back to Coke Classic". It's so much better in glass bottles with real sugar. This coming from a boy raised in a town with a Pepsi plant, where we went and picked up truckloads of crates of Pepsi. (no literally, we had crates of bottles on the back porch, bought in bulk from the plant, shot BB guns at kids trying to steal them to return to the store for the 5 cents per bottle refund). HFCS is evil because it tastes nasty, health issues aside, it's nasty. And get off my lawn.
posted by zengargoyle at 6:20 PM on February 18, 2009


Yay!
Continues to sip Diet Coke.
posted by caddis at 6:27 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


There is also HFCS 42, which is roughly 42% fructose. When you buy bread with HFCS, this is typically the HFCS being used. It actually has LESS fructose than table sugar.

That's probably true enough. But what's that HFCS doing in that bread in the first place?
posted by Sys Rq at 6:42 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


I figured I would post this link because it is relevant: Another Reason to Avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup: Mercury
posted by ascetic at 6:59 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]



But we're living longer than ever. The proof is in the pudding. Spending half your time worrying about invisible dangers is no way to go through life.


Neither is being morbidly obese, crippled by diabetic foot ulcers, or gasping for air strapped to an oxygen tank. Do we really need to talk about the health care costs consequent to the American public's shitty nutrition and exercise choices?

The way I see it, my "proof in the pudding" is that I was told I have the heart rate of a professional athlete, I'm the only person I know who has more good cholesterol than bad, and an insulin response that's so sensitive, the researchers administering the study actually took the time to interview me and take notes on my diet and exercise regimen to see what I'm doing right.

If you think you can have a good quality of life living on twinkies deep-fried in bacon grease and drizzled with Karo, more power to you. But I'll be more than happy to put my health stats up against yours any day.
posted by aquafortis at 7:01 PM on February 18, 2009


I had a Power Bar for lunch today, and (stupid me) was stunned to find it had high fructose corn syrup in it. What other HFCS products have I been blithely eating without looking at the ingredients?
posted by BabySeven at 7:04 PM on February 18, 2009


Sugar Daddys.
posted by box at 7:07 PM on February 18, 2009


Sucrose consists of a fructose molecule and a glucose molecule sharing an oxygen atom. It's roughly 50/50 fructose/glucose.

When the sucrose hits your system, your body can't use it straight away; it has to break it down into fructose and glucose. So, essentially, the only difference between two equivalent amounts of HFCS and sucrose is that HFCS has a little more fructose.


N.B. I'm not a biologist, a nutritionist or anything in a relevant field but I play one on TV. This is how it was explained to me. Feel free to debunk me or prove me wrong.

When you ingest sucrose it's not that your body can't use it straight away, it doesn't want to use it straight away. There's a very vast difference. Your digestive system will regulate the release of sucrase which will break down the glycosidic bond pretty much on demand and supply free glucose and fructose ready to be absorbed into the bloodstream.

HFCS on the other hand isn't a disaccharide. It's two separate monosaccharides that just happen to be together in relatively the same ratio as sucrose. The difference is that your body doesn't have a chance to regulate its absorption because it's slammed into the digestive system as free gluecose and fructose and will be absorbed into the bloodstream as fast as it will come in.

This means you take a much higher blood sugar level much quicker.

Now, your pancreas is sitting there and normally the glucose brigade would knock and wipe their feet (sucrase breakdown). Instead you've basically sent them into your intestine with a battering ram to the door into your blood stream. Since you've just caused a blood sugar spike that would soon cause a small child into a hypoglycemic coma the pancreas immediately starts releasing insulin to cope. This has two immediate effects:

1) You stop burning triglycerides from fat and switch back to burning glycogen from sugar.

2) You've overwhelemed the bloodstream with glucose which the cells in your body don't have a snowball's chance in hell of taking up which means your body is going to start lipogenesis (fat creation) straight away to stop the whole coma and death thing.

Normally lipogenesis wouldn't start typically unless you cram yourself full of sugar because small amounts of sucrose are typically broken down with some sense of decorum. You'd switch over to glycogen (as you do when your body has the easy route) for a little while but in general it's not going to get converted to fat if you're eating food like a normal human being.

At any rate, HFCS certainly isn't ideal but let me make it clear, excess amounts of HFCS or sucrose is going to make your ass fat so don't go blaming HFCS for your love handles when you're just need to put down the Twinkie. It's just that HFCS is going to have a much easier job of convincing your body to become a blob and probably wreaks more havoc on your pancreas (go insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes!) and liver than good old sucrose.
posted by Talez at 7:35 PM on February 18, 2009 [10 favorites]


But what's that HFCS doing in that bread in the first place?

Sugar is hygroscopic, so it keeps breads and cakes moist (while retarding rot). Most brand-name sandwich breads contain a little of it. Artisian bakers, of course, don't use it, because there the assumption is you're going to eat the whole loaf today, not make sandwiches with it over a number of days. HFCS is cheap, so they use that instead of sucrose.
posted by dw at 7:36 PM on February 18, 2009


Also, apologies for the inexcusably bad grammar in places.
posted by Talez at 7:36 PM on February 18, 2009


Arrrrgh, no, the cola companies can't do this! We've been saving that can of original formula (pre New-Coke) Coca Cola for YEARS.

(I've always had a sneaking desire to rip that masking tape "Do Not Open" and drink it. . .)
posted by rubah at 8:14 PM on February 18, 2009


World Market started selling Bubble Up, and man is it good stuff. I didn't realize that cane sugar made such a difference.
posted by HopperFan at 8:15 PM on February 18, 2009


But domestic sodas using sugar instead of corn syrup? They can deliver a case directly to my mouth.

See the Mr. Q Cumber I linked to above. Really, it's a delicious cucumber soda. And it's pure cane sugar. And I'm right now drinking a Thomas Kemper Vanilla Cream soda. Their whole line is pure cane sugar as well. So is Boylan, as someone noted above. They do a very good grape. California's 101 Soda, which makes the best strawberry soda I've ever had, is cane sugar as well.

I'm sad to report that Dr. Brown's does in fact use HFCS, which is really too bad. They ought to quit.

I have the palate of a sophisticated six-year-old.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:16 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, and Apple Beer. That stuff is good.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:17 PM on February 18, 2009


Sugar is in bread and a surprisingly large number of processed foods because it acts as a preservative. You've got a market that has decided that 'preservatives' are evil, but they still want the foodstuff to sit on a shelf and not perish, ideally forever. So lots of sugar is used, because then you can claim a product is preservative-free, but it will still have a long shelf-life. That's pretty much it.

While I feel like I'm defending fast food and processed food I almost never eat anything I haven't made myself, just because I enjoy cooking. I suspect that most people who are horrified by the amounts of sugar in things don't actually cook for themselves. Sugar is needed to make most things taste good. Substitutes are usually terrible.

(Regarding my earlier comments about smoking: sure, smoking is bad for you. I was referring to the whole second-hand smoke thing...I'm not a smoker, but I'm not scared to spend time in a smoky room.)
posted by chrisgregory at 8:30 PM on February 18, 2009


Another reason to avoid HFCS: it is very likely to be made with genetically modified Bt corn.
posted by parudox at 8:37 PM on February 18, 2009


Mexican Coke in Arizona has both sugar and HFCS on the list of ingredients
posted by sineater at 9:05 PM on February 18, 2009


Oh, Pepsi has finally found out how to pry me out of Coke's grasp. Here's hoping Dublin Dr. Pepper goes nationwide to compete!
posted by piedmont at 9:11 PM on February 18, 2009


Huh. Strange to be reading this while drinking a Jones Berry Lemonade .Second ingredient? "Inverted Cane Sugar"--whatever that is. I just felt like drinking something blue.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:14 PM on February 18, 2009


That link that ascetic posted is not only relevant, it neatly addresses three trains of thought in this thread:

1. It offers evidence for possible systemic mercury contamination in HFCS production,

2. In that article is also a spoof of the Corn Refiners Association commercials, as suggested up-thread by Mister Cheese, and

3. Said spoof was made by the guys who made the documentary "King Corn", as recommended up-thread by George_Spiggott.

Hat trick, ascetic!

By the way, thanks Talez for the biochem breakdown. And I'll add my recommendation to George_Spiggott's on the "King Corn" documentary. Definitely worth watching and very informative about modern agriculture and corn.
posted by darkstar at 10:55 PM on February 18, 2009


What excites me most is the FDA has finally agreed that Stevia can be used as a sweetener, which means it can finally be added to foods (instead of just being a nutritional "supplement"). I'm looking forward to an all-natural calorie-free cola.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:56 PM on February 18, 2009


So, can someone just confirm for me: when the ingredient list says "evaporated cane juice", that's regular sucrose, not a mixture of fructose+glucose with the resulting higher glycemic index?
posted by Rhomboid at 3:22 AM on February 19, 2009


I've been drinking Whole Food's 365 store brand cola, which is sweetened with cane sugar. The only downside (or upside) is that it's a caffeine-free drink.
posted by gyc at 8:07 AM on February 19, 2009


A surprising number of local restaurants here sell our locally-produced sugar-sweetened Foxon Park Kola (and root beer, and birch beer, etc) instead of Coke or Pepsi.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 8:22 AM on February 19, 2009


just need to put down the Twinkie

My cold, dead, pudgy hands.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:15 AM on February 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Another vote for King Corn. Which is not influenced in any way by having met them and thinking they were fantastic people who were happy to talk to an audience of high schoolers about making their movie. (One of the teachers at the place I worked was friends with them.) When I asked them what raw HFCS taste like, I was told they had done their best to remove the memory from their minds, but something along the lines of dirty sneakers. The insides of dirty sneakers.

When I was 17, I spent two weeks in Mexico. I remember being astonished by how good their soda (I was drinking mostly 7-up there) tasted. I figured it was because I'd basically stopped drinking soda and so wasn't used to the taste. Then I got back to the US and figured that they were putting some magical pixie crack in it because the US soda still tasted like ass.
posted by Hactar at 11:25 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Inverted Cane Sugar"--whatever that is.

Sucrose that has been split into glucose and fructose. Basically HFCS, but made from sugarcane, not corn.
posted by ryanrs at 1:48 PM on February 19, 2009


Sucrose that has been split into glucose and fructose. Basically HFCS, but made from sugarcane, not corn.

Haha, funny! Good thing I don't care about this stuff.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:52 PM on February 19, 2009


It looks like Snapple got the anti-HFCS memo, too, and will be using sugar starting in the spring. ... and they're owned by Dr Pepper!
posted by limeswirltart at 2:03 PM on February 19, 2009


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