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The decline and fall of high-fructose corn syrup
April 29, 2009 6:51 AM   Subscribe

Everybody knows that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is unhealthy, unnatural, and unappetizing. Or is it?
posted by Afroblanco (185 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
The article isn't refuting that, it's just saying it's about the same as sugar, which is also bad.

money quote: "Let's review: HFCS isn't healthy, but there's no reason to believe it's any worse for you than cane or beet sugar;"
posted by mcstayinskool at 6:56 AM on April 29, 2009


$COMMENT_ABOUT_HFCS_AND_SUGAR_TARIFFS
posted by odinsdream at 6:57 AM on April 29, 2009


Everybody knows that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is unhealthy, unnatural, and unappetizing. Or is it?

You left out "ubiquitous". Which is what the REAL problem with HFCS is. I can get that you need a sweetener in soda, and that sugar in soda isn't any worse for you than HFCS.

But do you really need it in bread? Or soy sauce? Or cereal? Or peanut butter? Or, or, or....

Whether it's being subbed for sugar or not isn't the problem -- the problem is that it's found its way into things where there was never any sugar in the first place.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:01 AM on April 29, 2009 [62 favorites]


the whole point i thought was that as a result of agricultural and economic policies and in the interests of food science/vertically integrated valued-adding corporate food chains: HFCS became cheap and commodified and thus ubiquitous.

sugar-in-everything-you-eat = bad-for-you.

this-article=straw-man
posted by geos at 7:04 AM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


unhealthy?

Unqualified yes. The fact that plain sugar is just as bad is immaterial.


unnatural?

Can I grow it, make it, or find it at my local farmers market? No? Does it need to be made inside of an industrial plant? Yes? It's unnatural. Certainly not everything unnatural ought to be eliminated completely, but it's a strike against.

and unappetizing
Well, it's an easy way to make everything overly sweet and thus cloud the subtle and surprising flavors of less processed food. So, I'd say so. YMMV.
posted by oddman at 7:06 AM on April 29, 2009 [9 favorites]


The article isn't refuting that

Well, he doesn't refute that it's unhealthy. But he does refute the other two points. For example, when glutaraldehyde isn't used in the refining process, HFCS is considered "all natural," at least by our government. Also, he references taste tests where people actually prefer HFCS to cane sugar.

Aside from that - was anybody else surprised that our government actually has standards for what "all natural" means? I've always thought it was such a vague and useless term, there was no way that anyone actually took it seriously.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:08 AM on April 29, 2009


I've always thought it was such a vague and useless term

So why are you surprised the Government uses it?
posted by ninebelow at 7:10 AM on April 29, 2009


One of the problems (perhaps the main problem) is that which EmpressCallipygos hit on: It's everywhere. It's in all of our foods, because it's cheaper than food. Why in the world would you put a sweetener in apple sauce? Damn the quality, overwhelm them with sweetness, and they'll never turn back!
posted by explosion at 7:11 AM on April 29, 2009


I had "natural" peanut butter exclusively as a child. Now that I'm a grown up, you can have my sweetened peanut butter when you pry it out from between my cold, dead sandwiches.

this-article=straw-man

On the contrary, there are plenty of people saying that HFCS is unhealthy even compared to sugar. Something something metabolize something, among other things.
posted by DU at 7:14 AM on April 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


You forgot sausage. It's in sausage. Would you put sugar in a sausage? Would you put corn syrup in sausage? Then why the hell is HFCS in sausage?!

And ketchup. Same gripe.
posted by Ndwright at 7:16 AM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


> Also, he references taste tests where people actually prefer HFCS to cane sugar.

Yep, taste tests in which people prefer the version of a thing that they are used to.
posted by parudox at 7:18 AM on April 29, 2009 [4 favorites]



But do you really need it in bread? Or soy sauce? Or cereal? Or peanut butter?

Processed, mass-produced bread has long contained sweeteners. Ditto peanut butter and cereal. Soy sauce I didn't know about, but it doesn't surprise me – a little bit of sweetness is good for the flavor of many foods. A little sugar in pasta sauce cuts the bitterness of the tomato and brings out some more of the subtle flavors, for instance. In the case of soy sauce though, I am guessing that the sugar is used to mask the unpleasant flavors in cheap mass-produced sauce, rather than bring out other flavors.

Anyway, those of you who argue that it is not what kind of sweetener but the preponderance of sweeteners in processed and packaged foods are completely correct. That is the problem, indeed. I agree with the author that if it were not HFCS it would be some other cheap sweetener(s) added to everything. This article is also addressing some common misperceptions that HFCS is somehow magically worse than other types of sweeteners, that there is a qualitative difference. If you haven't heard the claims about HFCS being qualitatively different from other sugars, consider yourself lucky.

Anyway, back to bread–I am way more distressed by the use of enriched (read:processed) flour than by sweeteners. The things they do to this flour render it a mass of carbs w/virtually no protein or fiber, which is why you can stuff like 8 pieces of Wonderbread in your mouth and still feel hungry.
posted by Mister_A at 7:24 AM on April 29, 2009




HFCS is just as "natural" as any other sweetener, at least according to the U.S. government

Do you trust Cargill's judgment on what makes a corn product natural? How about Archer Daniels Midland's? No? Then you shouldn't trust the FDA's judgment either.
posted by parudox at 7:26 AM on April 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


Ndwright, are you serious? There has always been sugar in ketchup. Did it just suddenly start tasting sweet in the 80s? It's always been sweet. That's what ketchup is–mostly sugar. Ketchup on a hotdog, by the way, is an abomination unto the Lord.
posted by Mister_A at 7:26 AM on April 29, 2009 [11 favorites]


I agree that HFCS finds its way into many things that it shouldn't be in but let's not get carried away. Sugar is one of the ingredients in tomato ketchup, if you've never made it from scratch. You end up with something tasting like spaghetti sauce if you don't put sugar in it. And if you bake bread without any sugar in it at all it tastes like crap IMO, although it usually only needs a teeny tiny bit.
posted by XMLicious at 7:27 AM on April 29, 2009


The issue isn't "health" in the sense that x is healthier than y. Generally speaking, consumers are desperately looking for ciphers that mean "healthy", even if they themselves are actually becoming less healthy.

In this case, the underlying issue is consumers feeling much less comfortable about processing levels and manufacturers mucking about with their food than they used to. HFCS is a convenient and appropriate metaphor - who really wants their food processed to replace expensive sugars with cheap ones?

The elephant in the room, if you pardon the pun, is portion control. We've seen better labelling, that all but tells you is, if you care to read the lable, that if you drink/eat a whole one of those products each day you will get fat. Then the low (fat) and lite (sugar) revolution, which hasn't made people any skinnier. Then the nutraceutical trend. And the organic/natural trend. All of which make people feel better about themselves eating and drinking while not actuallty doing a great deal in terms of outcomes.

And while all of these things can help people get healthier, at base the industry needs to get to grips with the idea that encouraging consumers to eat more will eventually be seen as an ethical liability. A lawsuit in the making. But it's a real challenge - as long as consumers see bigger as better value, and as long as the growth in the food and drinks market comes from "discretionary" stuff like snacks and soft drinks change won't occur easily.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:31 AM on April 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


I had "natural" peanut butter exclusively as a child. Now that I'm a grown up, you can have my sweetened peanut butter when you pry it out from between my cold, dead sandwiches.

I've had exactly the opposite experience. Grew up with Jif and Skippy and whatnot, but these days I'd rather have the natural stuff. It just tastes more like peanuts to me. With salt, though, please.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:31 AM on April 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


The reason I tend to go on about this, by the way, is that people start to focus on the wrong thing here. We're going to get all of sweetener A out of our foods, only to have it replaced with sweeteners B,C, and D-5b (which is actually soylent green). And we will still be fat! The thing people have to learn is that it's really simple to read the nutrition labels, once you know how, and decide what you ought to be eating and what to avoid. And, you know, eat some fresh produce for a change. Demonizing HFCS does nothing to improve the national health of any nation on earth. Teach people how to read the nutrition labels and explain the consequences of poor choices. Teach nutrition in every school in the country (I'm in the US, but this applies to other countries as well), and you will do a lot to improve the national health.
posted by Mister_A at 7:33 AM on April 29, 2009


"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

The author argues that HFCS would have been replaced with another sweetener if we had done away with all of our subsidies and tariffs, but that's a pretty big if.
posted by diogenes at 7:34 AM on April 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


And if you bake bread without any sugar in it at all it tastes like crap IMO, although it usually only needs a teeny tiny bit

Really? Salt I'll grant you, but sugar? A master baker of my acquaintance swears blind that only flour, water, yeast and salt are necessary. I've eaten his bread, and cooked my own under his instruction and I'm inclined to agree with him.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:34 AM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Would you put sugar in a sausage?

Yes, you would. Or Maple Syrup, or some kind of sweetener depending on the type of sausage you are making. You may not put it in ALL sausage, but sure as hell use it for various types of sausage. You would also put it in apple sauce and in any other thing that your grandmother used to make. Just go look at her recipes or watch her make the stuff. You put sugar in salad dressings even when they are made by hand. You put sugar in your home made BBQ sauce, in your marinades (either via actual sugar or acidic things like orange juice, grapefruit juice, etc etc). Sugar itself is pretty much ubiquitous. Ketchup, as pointed out above. It is an integral part of most cooking just like salt.
posted by spicynuts at 7:37 AM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


My anecdotal experience: stopped eating HFCS seven years ago, dropped 5 pounds in a month or two. Switched from mostly beer to mostly wine four years ago. Dropped another 5 pounds. Started running 20 minutes a day two years ago, dropped 12 pounds. Otherwise, eating about the same as ever.

Recently I upped the distance and pace that I run, and suddenly I'm loosing my taste for red meat. Which is really weird for me.

Was sort of excited by the announcement of Pepsi Throwback, but realized I don't have the taste for soda anymore, anyways.
posted by bendybendy at 7:39 AM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Having worked in a restaurant that serves nothing containing HFCS, I can tell you it is almost impossible to find ingredients or restaurant quality food wholesale that doesn't have HFCS in it.

In all likelihood there is little difference between HFCS and other sweeteners. I think that processed foods are the real problem.
posted by schyler523 at 7:42 AM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, and you need sugar in bread if you want the crust to have that caramelly brown colored crust. Also, the yeast are happier with more sugar.
posted by schyler523 at 7:43 AM on April 29, 2009


I like to go to the Mexican tiendas to buy Coke in glass bottles that have cane sugar instead of HFCS.
posted by schyler523 at 7:44 AM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm still thinking HFCS is worse for you than plain ole' cane sugar.

Also, Passover Coke rocks.
posted by adipocere at 7:45 AM on April 29, 2009


I can taste the difference between pasta sauce with HFCS and sugar. Sugar just tastes sweet: HFCS is sticky, almost like Coke.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:46 AM on April 29, 2009


And Passover Coke? That's all they've got over here in Europe.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:47 AM on April 29, 2009


Can I grow it, make it, or find it at my local farmers market? No? Does it need to be made inside of an industrial plant? Yes? It's unnatural. Certainly not everything unnatural ought to be eliminated completely, but it's a strike against.

You do realize that to make sugar in commercial quantities requires an industrial plant, right? Big smokestacks, lots of intensive processing, nasty by-products and environmental impact, all that good stuff.

Personally, I slightly prefer the taste of soda made with sugar (though I am not at all sure that I would be able to tell the difference in a blind taste), and hate sweetened peanut butter. There are a lot of products where I use HFCS as a marker of "overly processed," meaning that it has been engineered for long shelf-life and "good mouth feel" at the expense of freshness and basic quality.

But I don't think that HFCS is the devil, or that banning it tomorrow would produce some radically different result in our diets.
posted by Forktine at 7:47 AM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


"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

The author argues that HFCS would have been replaced with another sweetener if we had done away with all of our subsidies and tariffs, but that's a pretty big if.
posted by diogenes


How much did our consumption of all food go up in the same period?
posted by Pollomacho at 7:48 AM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Really? Salt I'll grant you, but sugar?

It may well be that this is a peculiarity of my own taste buds but most things I'd make with salt don't taste right unless they have a teeny bit of sugar in them. I leave it out of pizza dough but that's because pizza toppings contribute the trace amounts of sugar, even if it's just the lactose in the cheese.

I'm also one of the people to whom any amount of aspartame or other artificial sugar tastes overwhelmingly and offensively chemical; I am completely befuddled that anyone would ever eat "Lite" aspartame-containing versions of stuff, though I make myself low-sugar versions of all sorts of foods. It mortifies me and leaves me speechless when people say things like "no, really, it tastes just like the version with real sugar!" and I wonder what planet they're from.
posted by XMLicious at 7:48 AM on April 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


It mortifies me and leaves me speechless when people say things like "no, really, it tastes just like the version with real sugar!" and I wonder what planet they're from.

Yes, a thousand times yes. I am willing to believe people when they say that they can't taste the difference, but to my taste buds it's like the difference between licking a 9-volt battery and eating an orange.
posted by Forktine at 7:52 AM on April 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Can I grow it, make it, or find it at my local farmers market? No? Does it need to be made inside of an industrial plant? Yes? It's unnatural.

I'm sure you could make it at home if you really wanted. Nonetheless, refined sugar is just as unnatural and tobacco is totally natural. The whole idea that "natural" = "good for your" is kind of ridiculous. If we did everything "naturally" we'd be dead at 35.
posted by delmoi at 7:55 AM on April 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


Oh, and you need sugar in bread if you want the crust to have that caramelly brown colored crust.

Or you could brush it with egg (butter for more crispyness) just before putting it in the oven.
posted by odinsdream at 7:59 AM on April 29, 2009


How much did our consumption of all food go up in the same period?

Seven percent.
posted by diogenes at 7:59 AM on April 29, 2009


My anecdotal experience: stopped eating HFCS seven years ago, dropped 5 pounds in a month or two. Switched from mostly beer to mostly wine four years ago. Dropped another 5 pounds. Started running 20 minutes a day two years ago, dropped 12 pounds. Otherwise, eating about the same as ever.

Well, of course if you had simply switched from HFCS to sugar, you probably wouldn't have lost the weight. But since everything has HFCS in it, cutting it out means cutting out all forms of sugar, for the most part.
posted by delmoi at 8:03 AM on April 29, 2009


A master baker of my acquaintance swears blind that only flour, water, yeast and salt are necessary. I've eaten his bread, and cooked my own under his instruction and I'm inclined to agree with him.

If he is a master baker, he should know that there are more kinds of bread than French.
posted by padraigin at 8:03 AM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


XMLicious, Forktine, have you done blind tests with this ability? I know when my dad sat me down and asked me to tell him which soda was which I was completely unable to tell him. Just wondering if the 9-volt battery might be a mental construct
posted by rubah at 8:04 AM on April 29, 2009


Before I knew that European Coke had sugar instead of HFCS, I knew that it tasted different. I assumed it was a different extract formulation, not a different sweetener.
posted by mkb at 8:08 AM on April 29, 2009


I avoid (but not entirely manage to miss) items with HFCS, not because HFCS is inherently bad, but because there is a pretty decent chance that the product containing it:

1) contains lots of other highly processed ingredients
2) is likely made by a company with little interest in the taste or health of their product

Because of (1) and (2) the food is likely (but not 100%) to be relatively unhealthy. It is also likely to be kinda boring in flavour, just going for the lowest-common denominator in flavour.

I also avoid foods with other processed, isolated, ingredients. Doing away with these has greatly improved the quality of our food, though of course we have to make more stuff on our own. The exceptions to this rule are a few things like Soy sauce (I ain't makin it), the odd commercial pie, ... well, not many more. Tortillas, because we can't buy em fresh and my attempts at making them so far have been less then stellar.
posted by Bovine Love at 8:09 AM on April 29, 2009



So how bad for me is caffeine 'free' diet coke? Anyone know?
posted by notreally at 8:13 AM on April 29, 2009


How much did our consumption of all food go up in the same period?

Seven percent.
posted by diogenes


How much is that by weight? What percentage by volume is that extra 5 pounds of sugars of the 7 percent increase?

What I'm driving at is that 5 pounds of sugar may sound like a lot, but if we're consuming more food overall, how much of our diet is sugars and has that percentage changed?
posted by Pollomacho at 8:14 AM on April 29, 2009


> So how bad for me is caffeine 'free' diet coke? Anyone know?

How much money do you spend on that stuff?
posted by Burhanistan at 8:14 AM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


When I go to the Philippines, I use corn syrup on my pancakes. It's delicious. You guys are mapleist.
posted by spec80 at 8:16 AM on April 29, 2009


A master baker of my acquaintance swears blind that only flour, water, yeast and salt are necessary. I've eaten his bread, and cooked my own under his instruction and I'm inclined to agree with him.

What is the yeast eating? Yeast eats sugar and makes carbon dioxide which causes rising and alcohol which is causes the yummy baking bread smell when you cook it.

You have to add some sort of sugar to make bread rise...
posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:19 AM on April 29, 2009


The thing that nobody ever talks about in these vegetarian diet = longer life threads is:

WHO THE HELL WANTS TO LIVE LONGER IF YOU CAN'T EAT BACON WHILE YOU ARE LIVING LONGER? That's not more life, that's more prison sentence. In heaven bacon will grow on trees, so get me there FASTER!!!
posted by spicynuts at 8:20 AM on April 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


What is the yeast eating?

It's eating the sugars inherent in the flour. It must, because I make bread without anything other than flour, salt, water and yeast all the time.
posted by spicynuts at 8:21 AM on April 29, 2009



> So how bad for me is caffeine 'free' diet coke? Anyone know?

How much money do you spend on that stuff?


I suspect your comment is facetious. But the answer is a can a day.
$.25 or thereabouts.

Just wondering how bad it is from a nutritional pov.
posted by notreally at 8:24 AM on April 29, 2009


What bothers me most is "reduced sugar" versions of products that simply substitute in another sweetener, leaving the resulting product as sweet or worse, with added chemical taste. And yes, I can tell the difference. Many times I've been given a diet soda at a restaurant by mistake, and I know from the first sip. Absolutely no mistaking it with me. The incredulous "you can taste that?" looks I get are about equal to my own "you can't?" look, which is perfectly reasonable as (shockingly) not every human tastes food the same way.

Do companies not realize that some consumers want a "reduced sugar" version of their product that is simply not as sweet?
posted by GhostintheMachine at 8:30 AM on April 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


Crap I just realized I meant to post my bacon comment in the Meatrix thread. So I'm going to go do that now. Even though I'm going to be ashamed of doing it.
posted by spicynuts at 8:30 AM on April 29, 2009


When I go to the Philippines, I use corn syrup on my pancakes. It's delicious. You guys are mapleist.

In case you're serious. Corn syrup is not the same thing as high-fructose corn syrup.
posted by odinsdream at 8:32 AM on April 29, 2009


We try to avoid HFCS-infested products as best we can, which can be difficult when you're on a budget. JIF peanut butter, for instance is sweetened with molasses. No HFCS. And, we always buy fruit-juice-sweetened jellies to go with it.

My wife's current favorite salsa, Mrs. Renfro's Mango-Habanero is sweetened with mango puree and brown sugar.

You DO have to look carefully, though. Case in-point...Contadina's regular, dependable tomato paste has one ingredient...tomatoes. However, they also sell paste with herbs added. That product is chock-full of HFCS and tastes horrific. Truly as artificial a taste as one can imagine. Avoid avoid avoid.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:33 AM on April 29, 2009


The article linked above doesn't really seem to question the thesis that high-fructose corn syrup is "unhealthy, unnatural, and unappetizing." In fact, it seems to confirm it.

I would add that high-fructose corn syrup is nasty, brutish, poor, and short.

Just about everyone I know has now witnessed me sputtering and angrily hurling random objects at the television every time one of these new commercials for high-fructose corn syrup comes on. [ 1 2 3 ] They're endlessly annoying; the matter-of-fact way they simply ignore the entire debate, the underhanded way they paint those who avoid the vile substance as silly, superstitious meatheads... they're probably the most obnoxious thing since the 'I'm a Mac/I'm a PC' abominations.
posted by koeselitz at 8:33 AM on April 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


These might be described as the Hippocratic, Platonic, and Epicurean tines of the foodie movement.

Can anyone explain the weird unnatural aversion I have to the word "foodie?" I can't use it in any un-ironic context -- like I can't refer to posting on twitter as "tweeting." Am I just wordist? Where did "foodie" come from? There've always been epicures around for as long as I can remember. Did epicurean just get too hard to say, or is this some sort of trademark brought on by a particular entity trying to promote itself by re-branding?
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:33 AM on April 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


spec80: When I go to the Philippines, I use corn syrup on my pancakes. It's delicious. You guys are mapleist.

Corn syrup is awesome and delicious, I can attest myself. High-fructose corn syrup, an utterly different substance, is vile.

High-fructose corn syrup is about as similar to real corn syrup as partially hydrogenated soybean oil is to tofu.
posted by koeselitz at 8:38 AM on April 29, 2009


Meant to add...I suspect this newfound religion by manufacturers is more a result of the jump in price of corn products making sugar more cost-competitive than any actual concern for the health of consumers. I'm sure the marketing droids ran the numbers and found they could also get a positive bump by riding the anti-HFCS wave prevalent among the young up-mobile demographics.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:38 AM on April 29, 2009


Thanks for the clarification, odinsdream.
posted by spec80 at 8:38 AM on April 29, 2009


Just wondering how bad it is from a nutritional pov.

There's nothing in there except artificial sweetener, flavoring, and color. Not much to worry about, unless you're worried about the sweetener.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:39 AM on April 29, 2009


Reeses brand peanut butter (in a jar) is delicious, sweet, and contains no HFCS.
posted by dirtdirt at 8:40 AM on April 29, 2009


XMLicious, Forktine, have you done blind tests with this ability? I know when my dad sat me down and asked me to tell him which soda was which I was completely unable to tell him. Just wondering if the 9-volt battery might be a mental construct

With fake sugar/real sugar (or rather, fake sugar/real HFCS), yes, often. What happens is that I will order a soda and my wife will order a diet soda, and once in a while the server will confuse the two straws/one straw code for diet soda and unknowingly give us each the wrong soda. So I take a big drink of diet soda, thinking it's real soda, at least once a month, and I can assure you that my instant "yuck!" reaction is not a figment of my imagination.

The other way I've passed the blind taste test on this, with flying colors, is when a familiar product changes its ingredient list without my noticing. Tang did this the other year, adding in some sort of fake sugar, and I noticed the first sip made from the new container.

Friends and relatives who like diet soda say this all the time -- they taste the same, I am imagining the taste difference, etc. But for at least some people (perhaps with more sensitive taste buds, or some sort of sensitivity, or whatever), the difference is shockingly clear.
posted by Forktine at 8:41 AM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks for posting this article, it was informative. I've been on a calorie counting jag lately (guess what, it helps!) and I've learned two things. One, lots of healthy "natural" foods have a shitload of calories (I'm looking at you, orange juice). And two, way too much processed American food is sweetened. MuffinMan is right; most breads need no sugar at all (or maybe a couple of grams to jump start the yeast). Factory breads are sweetened just to cover the nasty taste of the crappy flour they use.

Until World War II most people the world round had trouble eating enough calories a day. Between the rise of sedentary lifestyles and the cheap availability of industrial sugars, we've gotten fat. It doesn't require any complex theories about varying metabolism for HFCS vs. cane sugar to understand that eating an extra 500 calories of sugar a day is gonna make people fatter.
posted by Nelson at 8:41 AM on April 29, 2009


XMLicious, Forktine, have you done blind tests with this ability? I know when my dad sat me down and asked me to tell him which soda was which I was completely unable to tell him. Just wondering if the 9-volt battery might be a mental construct

Not literally with a blindfold but I usually don't find out things have aspartame in them until after I've tasted them and said *blechhh*. At first I thought "Lite" and "Diet" really just generally meant reduced calories and I kept trying things in stores that looked appealing for years and years but where I live in the U.S., at least, to my recollection every single thing I've ever looked at the ingredients of that is labeled "Lite" or "Diet" contains aspartame. Which sucks. And sometimes it's not even labeled as such, thanks a lot "Pepsi One."

I have had home-made muffins and sweetbreads and sauces served to me proudly by friends, privately wondered if they'd accidentally gotten some sort of kitchen cleanser in the mix, and later on gotten the line, "Splenda is so great to cook with! You can't even tell the difference, and you only need half as much sugar!" from the chef.

If I take a cup of black coffee and put a third of a packet of artificial sweetener in it, that's the one situation I've found where it simply comes across to me as a hint of sweetness. But that's because the coffee flavor is so strong. And if I accidentally pour the whole packet in I can't stand to drink it, even in sips, and I end up just dumping the coffee out.

Like forktine I do believe the people who say that real and artificial sweeteners are indistinguishable to them but it still boggles my mind.

Also, I am not into natural or organic food at all, I never buy it, so it's not some sort of aesthetic on my part. In fact I will eat just about anything; as much of my food comes from cans as I get fresh, including chicken and turkey and fish.
posted by XMLicious at 8:42 AM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


> Where did "foodie" come from?

I don't know the precise etymology, but "foodie" always does seem to have a negative connotation when I hear it, even if the usage wasn't intended as a pejorative. A "foodie" is generally someone who has more money and leisure time than is probably healthy for them, and has substituted a meaningful pursuit with food-as-entertainment. It's certainly something I've been guilty of. I'm not sure where the line between "epicure" and "foodie" would be in the above definition, however.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:44 AM on April 29, 2009


I suspect that "foodie" was invented by people who don't know the word "epicure"
posted by oddman at 8:45 AM on April 29, 2009


Also, I hardly ever ingest any HFCS but the very rare instances where I have had a drink that contained it I had a sore throat for 30 minutes or so afterwards.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:46 AM on April 29, 2009


I'm not sure where the line between "epicure" and "foodie" would be in the above definition, however.

If you have a picture of St. Alton in your kitchen, you've crossed the line.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:46 AM on April 29, 2009


Oh, and you need sugar in bread if you want the crust to have that caramelly brown colored crust.

No, you don't. Sugar is a way of faking that crust if you don't have a hot enough oven.
posted by Casuistry at 8:47 AM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


"A little sugar in pasta sauce cuts the bitterness of the tomato and brings out some more of the subtle flavors, for instance. "

Your doon it rong.
posted by klangklangston at 8:48 AM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's certainly guilty of a worse crime: Of being untasty.
posted by Artw at 8:54 AM on April 29, 2009


What is the yeast eating? Yeast eats sugar and makes carbon dioxide which causes rising and alcohol which is causes the yummy baking bread smell when you cook it.

You have to add some sort of sugar to make bread rise...


Yeah, that was my thought when he said that too. Though there are the biscuits and the muffins and the rare breads that are risen with baking powder. But even those I find it necessary to add a teensy bit of sugar to, for my taste at least, and it appears in recipes too.
posted by XMLicious at 8:56 AM on April 29, 2009


This is Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet!
posted by doctorschlock at 9:00 AM on April 29, 2009


Also, while we're talking about all this stuff, does anyone know what's with things that are labeled "sugar free" and have a nutrition entry under carbs of "sugar alcohol" instead? Those don't taste like artificial sweetener, but they obviously aren't any sort of diet food either because the sugar alcohol makes the total carbs just as high as sugar would. So I was wondering if it's somehow of benefit to diabetics. (Though it seems most likely that it's some sort of food labeling technicality exploited for marketing purposes.)
posted by XMLicious at 9:05 AM on April 29, 2009


"Where did "foodie" come from? There've always been epicures around for as long as I can remember. Did epicurean just get too hard to say, or is this some sort of trademark brought on by a particular entity trying to promote itself by re-branding?"

Epicures, man, that's stuffy and pretentious. We're just some foodies, man, not your Grandpa's gourmets.

I am glad that more folks are thinking about the food they eat, and I am glad that the rise of "foodie" as demographic has made it easier for me to get ingredients and other options for my diet, but I wish it hadn't become some bullshit tribe of yuppies.

As far as the HFCS goes, yeah, it's mostly symbolic, but I try to avoid it. I can't deal with overly sweet foods anymore (I lost my taste for most soda in two stages: one, when I worked a Mexican restaurant counter job and could have all the pop I wanted and burned the fuck out; two, when my dad was diagnosed as diabetic, putting the fear of God in me). HFCS on a label is mostly a proxy for "over-sweetened," so I try to avoid it. It is damn hard here in the LA area to find decent bread—I end up buying the Trader Joe's Sprouted hippy crap because otherwise, the bread is revoltingly sweet. I could go to Whole Foods and get a loaf that seems to have the same ingredients as the Ed's Bread from Ann Arbor (which is one of the things I miss most from Michigan), but it's $7.99 a loaf and fuck, man, why?

Oh, and just a side note: the big boom in sweetened ketchup came from unscrupulous manufacturers using rotted tomatoes and disguising them with a lot of sugar. Ketchup should ideally be more tangy than anything else, which means a bit of sweet and twice as much sour.
posted by klangklangston at 9:06 AM on April 29, 2009


>The author argues that HFCS would have been replaced with another sweetener if we had done away with all of our subsidies and tariffs, but that's a pretty big if.
posted by diogenes

How much did our consumption of all food go up in the same period?


How much bigger and cheaper were the portion sizes offered in that same period?

Okay -- in the interest of full disclosure, the discussion I had which I'm about to cite took place at a book club after reading THE OMNIVORE'S DILEMMA. So it was on our minds. But -- we all remembered that sudden weird jump that soda bottles took in size in the mid-to-late 80's. Suddenly it became WAY cheaper to get a two-liter bottle of soda. And so we all remembered our families stocking way up on it.

We also all remembered that that was about the time that the 8-oz bottle of Coke you used to get at service centers got replaced by the 20-oz bottle. Or the 32-oz Big Gulp. Because the 20-oz bottle was about the same price as the 8-oz bottle used to be. What a deal! Now, it still said on that 20-oz bottle that technically you had two servings per bottle, but seriously, who didn't drink the whole thing when you got it?

And hey, that's about the time that McDonald's came up with the supersize option on their menus, wasn't it? For just a few cents more, you could have an even BIGGER drink and fries. Now THAT was a value! It was way more food than we used to eat, but hey, it was about the same price, and that was a value, wasn't it? Oh, maybe we felt more full after a meal, but...you know, it's bad to waste food, so we should probably eat and drink the whole thing.

....The thing is, the reason why suddenly all this food was so cheap was because that's when HFCS started being added to everything. That made it cheaper to produce -- in the sense that the stores could market a 20-oz bottle of Coke for about the same price as an old 8-oz bottle. Oh, sure, they covered their ass by saying that "now, technically this is TWO SERVINGS" on the bottle, but...the 8-oz bottle wasn't an option any more, and people just drank what they got. And sure, you always have the option of saying "no" when the nice McDonald's lady asks if you want to supersize your order, but...hey, it's such a value, why not?

And THAT is why the portion sizes got so big.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:06 AM on April 29, 2009 [7 favorites]


It is not that artificial sweetners taste just like sugar or HFCS. It is that you can get used to them, just like you are used to sugar. Growing up, my family only used honey, and my mom made all our food. First time I tasted sugar, it seemed intensely bitter. These intense single note sweeteners do taste funny - all of them. We just get used to them. And note, that does not mean that they ever taste the same. Honey never tastes like sugar, but now I do not think either is gross.

As for bread, you do not need added sugar, either for golden brown crust or for a good rise.
posted by Nothing at 9:11 AM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Luckily, Mister_A , I do not believe in your "Lord", so I don't have to feel abominal when I put ketchup ALL OVER my dog.
posted by mbatch at 9:13 AM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Friends and relatives who like diet soda say this all the time -- they taste the same, I am imagining the taste difference, etc.

Diet soda drinker here, and I can't imagine anyone not being able to taste the difference between the aspartame-sweetened stuff and the HFCS-sweetened stuff. The difference is as plain as the nose on your face—the diet stuff, while slightly mediciney, is at least palatable, while the HFCS stuff is vile, treacly swill that leaves an unpleasant film-y residue that coats your entire mouth and throat.

And wouldn't you like to be a Pepper, too?
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:21 AM on April 29, 2009


A "foodie" is generally someone who has more money and leisure time than is probably healthy for them, and has substituted a meaningful pursuit with food-as-entertainment.

Wait, what?

Perhaps my favorite way to spend a Sunday is shopping at the farmer's market, preparing a delicious meal, and then serving it to friends and family. This may (or may not) make me a foodie, but do you really think it's somehow less "meaningful" than sitting around watching football all day or going to the UBERCINEMEGAPLEX to see the latest advertisement for plastic surgery and fancy cars?

I do not envy you your internal landscape.
posted by dersins at 9:28 AM on April 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


If he is a master baker, he should know that there are more kinds of bread than French

Snark aside, the guy also bakes British loaves, all manner of sourdoughs, and I've cooked pita and foccaccia with him.

His basic point remains the same: sugar ain't an essential ingredient for bread. One can make exceptions, obviously, his basic point is still true.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:34 AM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


We also all remembered that that was about the time that the 8-oz bottle of Coke you used to get at service centers got replaced by the 20-oz bottle.

As I recall there was the 12 oz. can, then the 16 oz. plastic bottle, which was conflated to the 20 oz. current manifestation that seems to be now mostly stantdard in a "25% more free" style advertising blitz.

Of course reduced cost of HFCS would have to have come with reduced cost of corn products in the 80's, right? I wonder what sort of arch-Maoist would have had to have pushed such obviously socialist programs through?
posted by Pollomacho at 9:36 AM on April 29, 2009


Something no one has mentioned yet is that Coke in a can is still way more superior than Coke in a plastic bottle. Of course Coke in a glass pop-top bottle is even way more superiorer yet, but we all know that.
posted by Mister_A at 9:40 AM on April 29, 2009


HEIL DER ÜBERCINEMEGAPLEX!!

It is not that artificial sweetners taste just like sugar or HFCS. It is that you can get used to them...

Yeah, I've gotten the "you just have to get used to it" frequently but I don't buy it at all, at least not in my case. It doesn't taste mediciney to me like sweet cough syrup or something: in anything but the third-of-a-packet-in-black-coffee case I mention above it doesn't taste sweet to me at all, it seriously does taste similar to accidentally getting some sort of cleanser or bug spray in your mouth.

Five years ago or so I started cutting the relatively small amount of soda I drink with from half to two-thirds seltzer water (so it doesn't lose its carbonation like it does if you use tap water.) Since then full strength soda is way too sweet for my taste and I perceive the filmy residue that Atom Eyes mentions.
posted by XMLicious at 9:41 AM on April 29, 2009


A "foodie" is generally someone who has more money and leisure time than is probably healthy for them, and has substituted a meaningful pursuit with food-as-entertainment.

I don't feel this way about foodies, but I do kinda feel that way about people who count wine as one of their main hobbies. I'm sorry, but getting fucked up is not much a hobby. If I listed potsmoking as one of my main hobbies, you'd think I was some kind of loser, right? Well, wine is no different. Except that in our cultural eye, wine makes you cultured and aristocratic, whereas pot just makes you a lazy, smelly hippie.

/derail my own thread
posted by Afroblanco at 9:56 AM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty certain I've met those hippies, and they're just as boring as wine snobs if you don't care about the various distinctive qualities of their pot.
posted by Artw at 10:01 AM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


The thing is, the reason why suddenly all this food was so cheap was because that's when HFCS started being added to everything.
EmpressCallipygos, the article we're discussing pretty much debunks that theory. Specifically in the context of sodas, your main example:
Since the corn content of HFCS contributes less than 2 percent (PDF) to the cost of producing a can of soda, the effect of the subsidies amounts to just a few pennies in the retail price.
BTW, folks, bread shouldn't be sweet. Really.
posted by Nelson at 10:07 AM on April 29, 2009


I must reiterate what several others have already stated re bread and sugar. Sugar is by no means a necessary ingredient, nor is it required for a beautiful crust (a good crust comes from proper technique and oven conditions). All kinds of different breads contain nothing but water, flour, yeast and salt. Yeast will very happily consume the natural sugars present in a flour, but the process can take considerable time, and so you might add sugar to speed up or boost fermentation. Salt imparts flavor to the bread, but it also impedes the fermentation of the yeast, and so the more salt you have in a dough the more you may need to add sugar. Huge commercial operations use inferior flour and therefore tend to add plenty of salt to create an illusion of flavor. They also like to mix, proof and bake their doughs in as short a time as possible. Therefore, to impart a degree of airiness and taste so that their loaves are not bland, leaden doorstops, they add plenty of sugar to ensure a quick rise even in the presence of high salt content. The final result is a bleached, porous mass that resembles a large, aerated dumpling and has the texture and nutritional content of a sponge cake made with borax and marmite, but ah! no accounting for taste...
posted by kurtroehl at 10:08 AM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't feel this way about foodies, but I do kinda feel that way about people who count wine as one of their main hobbies. I'm sorry, but getting fucked up is not much a hobby.

I'm pretty sure most wine hobbyists don't do it to get trashed.

pot just makes you a lazy, smelly hippie

"Hippie" could be up for debate.
posted by setanor at 10:14 AM on April 29, 2009


You have to add some sort of sugar to make bread rise...

This is absolutely not true. Wheat flour contains plenty of "food" for the yeast. You can definitely make a bread dough that will have no trouble rising with just yeast, flour and water.

(I'm not arguing against the inclusion of sweeteners in certain kinds of bread; just saying that it's not necessary in order for the dough to rise.)
posted by sriracha at 10:20 AM on April 29, 2009


> I do not envy you your internal landscape.

I wasn't talking about football, and was just offhandedly tossing out a definition. But thanks for your reactionary and impotent insult.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:21 AM on April 29, 2009


fwiw in bread baking our family's always used a tablespoon of honey to start the yeast. I'm not sure that counts as sugar but I think it probably does.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:23 AM on April 29, 2009


I'm pretty sure most wine hobbyists don't do it to get trashed.

They're totally missing out, then. Wine is an intoxicant, man! Sorry about the "Foodie" de-rail. It was an honest question, not intentionally flame-bait. I'm somewhat of an epicure myself, when I can afford to be -- I've broken the spine on my Joy of Cooking, and I've been known to remark loudly in restaurants when I've encountered un-deveined shrimp, and I actually took part in a heated debate once about the best way to section a grapefruit. The word "foodie" just appeared out of the blue within the last five years or so, and I'm mystified by it, as well as not liking it as a word. I'm wordist.

Back on subject: I love me some Mexican coke, in a glass bottle, with cane sugar. I'm pretty sure I can tell the difference between that & the American stuff in the plastic bottles.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:27 AM on April 29, 2009


Schyler523: Oh, and you need sugar in bread if you want the crust to have that caramelly brown colored crust.

Casuistry: No, you don't. Sugar is a way of faking that crust if you don't have a hot enough oven.

I assure you that this is wrong. I work at a pizza place, and it is instantly obvious when sugar has been omitted because the crust is not carmelly brown. Unless your oven at home goes to 650 degrees I'm pretty sure we're cooking pizzas at a higher temperature than you.

I'd forgotten that an egg brush also works quite well for the browning process, point ceded.
posted by schyler523 at 10:29 AM on April 29, 2009


There are plenty of things (BBQ sauce, ketchup, jam) that do better with sugar, but just like how things are preseved in salt or nitrates, just because they're common doesn't mean you need them. Unsweetened apple sauce is perfectly tastey.

Sugar is not a demon, but putting sugar in everything is like putting pepper in everything. Sooner or later you just learn to tune it out, but some dishes, like say, vanilla ice cream, are better without pepper.
posted by Phalene at 10:29 AM on April 29, 2009


Since the corn content of HFCS contributes less than 2 percent (PDF) to the cost of producing a can of soda, the effect of the subsidies amounts to just a few pennies in the retail price.

Smells like bullshit. Click on the link and you find this: "Today, HFCS represents just 3.5% of the total cost of soft drink manufacturing as measured by the value of shipments. Meanwhile, the corn content of HFCS represents only 1.6% of this value. Thus, the impact of corn prices on the final retail price of a food product is not as high as one might think." (Emphasis mine.) So that's definitely not the cost of production we are talking about, of which HFCS may still be a hefty chunk. (The cost of production being the primary consideration in ingredient choice.)
posted by parudox at 10:30 AM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Slight derail.

I've often wondered how much money and calories someone could cut by replacing coke with home made iced tea (my drink of choice)

12 oz coke=155 cal
1tsp sugar in tea=15 cal

1 can from a 12 pack = $0.50

If you buy sugar in 5lbs bags at $2 each, 1 tsp is about $0.004 +
1 tea bag is about $.04, and I'm going to ignore the price of tap water.

And you have 3 a day, for a week:

Coke=3255 calories and $10.50
Tea=315 calories and about $.92

(and you can get very bubbly bread without sugar. Use a starter sponge, overnight. The yeast have more time to chomp down on the flour.)
posted by fontophilic at 10:31 AM on April 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


was just offhandedly tossing out a definition.

And it just happened to be an insulting, contemptuous definition, right? Purely unintentional, I'm sure.

Oh well. Now that an internet stranger has called me "impotent," I'm going to go cry in a corner.
posted by dersins at 10:33 AM on April 29, 2009


The only people I've ever met who could not instantly tell the difference between diet and regular soda, were people who'd been drinking solely diet for so long that they'd forgotten what the real stuff tastes like. There's a reason Diet Dr Pepper markets the hell out of the fact that it tastes more like the regular version than other sodas -- because diet tastes like ass, and everyone with taste buds knows it.
posted by rifflesby at 10:40 AM on April 29, 2009


schyler523 - do you work in an authentic Italian style pizza place?
posted by MuffinMan at 10:46 AM on April 29, 2009


There's a reason Diet Dr Pepper markets the hell out of the fact that it tastes more like the regular version than other sodas

To be fair, though, except for Coke Zero and Pepsi One, diet colas are designed to have a different flavor profile than the sugar-sweetened versions.
posted by uncleozzy at 10:46 AM on April 29, 2009


dersins, I'm fairly certain that Burhanistan wasn't aiming to insult you personally, and I also don't think that 'foodie' means to him what it obviously means to you--this should be patently obvious by the way you chose to define it (or spending a day cooking) and the way s/he chose to define it. Your shrill response adds nothing to the thread or the discussion of the terminology, and only makes you look childish and defensive.
posted by nonmerci at 10:57 AM on April 29, 2009


What cracks me up every time is when the health food stores sell products with sugar in them...but, oh no, sugar is bad for you! It's "evaporated cane juice"!
posted by kozad at 10:58 AM on April 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


I work at Shakespeare's. I wouldn't say authentic Italian, but we have stone bottom Blodgett ovens (similar to these, but about 30 years old.
posted by schyler523 at 10:59 AM on April 29, 2009


)
posted by schyler523 at 10:59 AM on April 29, 2009


I have occasionally squandered some of my vast Passover Coke haul (boy, those checkout folks look at you like you're crazy when you've got a couple of shopping carts loaded down with thirty-odd two-liter bottles of Coke) in my own taste tests, namely bringing over some "Coke" for people, pouring it out, and watching for people to notice. Under twenty and they ask if something is different. Over thirty and they say, "Wow, this tastes really good."

Passover Coke even pours different — less initial fizz.

My friends ask me if I have gotten in the Holy Coke for the year. They might be laughing at me, but they always want some.
posted by adipocere at 11:08 AM on April 29, 2009


I'll definitely vouch for Shakespeare's. Best pizza in Columbia.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:09 AM on April 29, 2009


As someone who drinks a LOT of diet soda and prefers it to the stuff with sugar in it, I don't find the claim that a person can distinguish between sweeteners odd at all.

Sugared sodas all taste like they have too much damn syrup in them to me.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:10 AM on April 29, 2009


Not to extend the derail too far here, but the statement that there aren't significant and worthwhile subtleties and differences between different kinds of wine and marijuana is pretty outrageous, and strikes me as akin to people saying there's no tangible difference between aspartame and sugar (which to me are night and day). If you want to shit on pretension (and hippies too), so be it, but that doesn't mean there's nothing of value beneath it.
posted by kaspen at 11:15 AM on April 29, 2009


BTW, folks, bread shouldn't be sweet. Really.

*Punches Nelson in the sweetbreads*

Ha Ha!
posted by Mister_A at 11:15 AM on April 29, 2009


I'm pretty sure most wine hobbyists don't do it to get trashed.

This is the exact opposite of my experience. I know lots of wine hobbyists, including a sommelier, as well as several of these newfangled beer hobbyists, and every single one of them enjoys getting totally shithammered. Often in nice suits.

And "foodie" strikes me as being like "hipster," in that it's a term of derision mostly employed by people to whom the word could readily be applied. (I'm certainly guilty myself).

(Oh, and Shakespeare's is the best pizza in Missouri, not just Columbia)
posted by Bookhouse at 11:16 AM on April 29, 2009


1. Processing kills the natural flavor of most foods, so processed food is bland and flavorless.

2. The cheapest way to make processed food less bland is to add lots of fat, sugar, and salt.

3. HFCS is the cheapest sweetener in the USA. So cheap that manufacturers can make food even less healthy by giving you enormous portion sizes.

4. Too much fat and sugar are very bad for your health, no question. Too much salt might be unhealthy for some people.

5. Avoiding HCFS is kind of silly on a personal level. What matters is that you avoid eating too much sugar (and fat) of any kind. Avoiding all processed food is a good idea.

5a. Most food served in restaurants (especially any chain restaurant) is processed food.

6. Demonizing HCFS might be nevertheless worthwhile if it increases the cost of adding sugars to food (because manufacturers might give us smaller portion sizes or even find some healthier way of adding flavor to processed food) or if it encourages consumers to avoid processed foods in general.
posted by straight at 11:21 AM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've often wondered how much money and calories someone could cut by replacing coke with home made iced tea (my drink of choice)

Great! Now can you make the iced tea taste like coke?
posted by Evangeline at 11:23 AM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


I hoard Canadian Coke every time I go to Canada. People come over and steal it from my house (YES I SAW YOU, MOM). Tastes a million times better...
posted by bitter-girl.com at 11:25 AM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't get all this talk about how HFCS is no worse than cane or beet sugar.

Quite apart from any adulterants other than the fructose, fructose is a very problematic nutrient:

Fructose, weight gain, and the insulin resistance syndrome1,2,3

This review explores whether fructose consumption might be a contributing factor to the development of obesity and the accompanying metabolic abnormalities observed in the insulin resistance syndrome. ...

Because fructose does not stimulate insulin secretion from pancreatic ß cells, ...

The combined effects of lowered circulating leptin and insulin in individuals who consume diets that are high in dietary fructose could therefore increase the likelihood of weight gain and its associated metabolic sequelae. In addition, fructose, compared with glucose, is preferentially metabolized to lipid in the liver. Fructose consumption induces insulin resistance, impaired glucose tolerance, hyperinsulinemia, hypertriacylglycerolemia, and hypertension in animal models. The data in humans are less clear. Although there are existing data on the metabolic and endocrine effects of dietary fructose that suggest that increased consumption of fructose may be detrimental in terms of body weight and adiposity and the metabolic indexes associated with the insulin resistance syndrome, much more research is needed to fully understand the metabolic effect of dietary fructose in humans.

posted by jamjam at 11:27 AM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hint: head to your nearest Middle Eastern grocery, and start reading labels on the jams and jellies aisle. You'll notice that since there's no corn lobby in Turkey or Lebanon or wherever, brands like Cortas or Tamek or Chtaura tend not to have so much HFCS in them. (Plenty of regular sugar, of course...)
posted by gimonca at 11:32 AM on April 29, 2009


jamjam,

We have some reason to believe HFCS might be worse for you than cane/beet sugar.

Meanwhile, we know without question that eating too much sugar of any kind is very bad for you.
posted by straight at 11:33 AM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


How can anyone not taste the difference between a diet soda with artificial sweeteners and a a regular soda with HFCS or sugar? Both are pretty gross, but that diet stuff is disgusting. It tastes like soap. And ass. Like some kind of soapy ass.

Here's how much I hate aspartame and just about every other artificial sweetener I've ever met...

I once had a terrible accident with an aspartame-flavored beverage. It was a hot day, I had been riding my bike for about 15-20 miles, and was just about out of water but I knew there was a corner store coming up, so I drank the last of my water.

By the time I got to the store I was very thirsty. For water. Just water. So I run in and grab what I thought was a nice cold bottle of water with a cool nozzle. "Hey, this will be nicely reusable and fits in my bottle cage on my bike," I thought. I buy it and step outside, cracking it open.

I chugged about half of it in a go before realizing it wasn't water. It was some kind of fucked up "sports water" chock full of aspartame and some totally fake raspberry flavor. My body just went "WHAT THE FUCK, MAN? THIS ISN'T EVEN WATER!!", my stomach immediately cramping and then violently rejecting everything I just drank and whatever water was left down there. All over the window and door of this gas station minimart. We're talking like Exorcist sick, a firehose of clear, foamy bile and disgustingly sweetened "water".

Yeah, I'm talking about that abomination called Propel sports-water. That is not water. I seriously doubt it can actually hydrate you like water can. Plus it tastes like soapy ass! WHY? WHY DO PEOPLE DRINK THAT FOUL SHIT? Please tell me people don't actually work out and try to hydrate with that crap. They might as well drink antifreeze. Guh.


So, yeah. That's about as blind of a taste test as it gets, and it pretty clearly illustrates how a lot of people feel about drinking and eating aspartame and other artificial sweeteners - which is "Gack. Excuse me, I think I'm going to puke."

If you bake or cook with splenda or nutrasweet or anything like it, please warn and inform whoever you're offering it to. It is NOT the same as sugar - neither in taste nor biochemistry. While some people just don't like it - some people are actually allergic to it and can suffer from reactions.
posted by loquacious at 11:33 AM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I only eat artificially-sweetened high-fructose corn syrup.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:39 AM on April 29, 2009


jamjam, sucrose (table sugar) = glucose + fructose. Digestive enzymes break the disaccharide sucrose into fructose+glucose. Fructose is in fruit. You eat fructose every day. Too much of anything, HFCS and sucrose included, is a bad thing. You don't need to assign dubious pseudo-scientific properties to HFCS to realize that it's not a good thing to eat in large quantities. Nor is sucrose.

The issue here is that people are looking for this amazing qualitative difference between HFCS and sucrose to explain the explosion in obesity; but the difference is quantitative: People eat more of everything, including sweeteners (HFCS AND sucrose, per the linked article), and voila, they get fat in greater proportion. I actually agree with straight's points 1-5, above, but disagree strongly on #6: demonizing HFCS provides an easy psychological "out" to help explain obesity in the US without addressing the real root causes of the problem (lack of exercise, too many calories).
posted by Mister_A at 11:41 AM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm wondering what it was that increased consumer awareness of this to the point where people actually started avoiding HFCS, to the degree that the corn lobby is getting worried enough to try to counter the trend. There are all kinds of other things out there that's bad for people that they don't actively try to avoid. Why this? Is there another lobby out there that's got a beef with HFCS? Is it even possible for a truly grassroots public health movement to occur anymore?

From the article:
That said, widespread anecdotal reports suggest that people really can tell the difference between sugar-sweetened and HFCS-sweetened colas. (I'm pretty sure I can taste it myself.) What's less clear is whether one is really any better than the other.

If they taste different, then some people will prefer one over the other. There's no such thing as universal tasting better.

Last paragraph:
Let's review: HFCS isn't healthy, but there's no reason to believe it's any worse for you than cane or beet sugar; HFCS is just as "natural" as any other sweetener, at least according to the U.S. government; and while HFCS seems to have a slightly different taste from pure sucrose, many people prefer it. So why are we abandoning high-fructose corn syrup? It doesn't matter how weak each claim is on its own terms; together, they seem irrefutable. You can win over hypochondriacs with one argument, environmentalists with another, and gourmands with a third. That's the beauty of the three-pronged critique: It's customizable. The foodies haven't just killed HFCS—they've stuck a fork in it.

I'm opposed to HFCS because it's EVERYWHERE. It's unavoidable. Three-pronged nothing. HFCS is in so many things now that we've forgotten what things taste like without it.

"Foodies" are now a strong force for social change in the U.S.? Is there an actual large-scale organized movement against HFCS?

Would we even be reading this article if there hadn't been that throwback beverage? Is this really an extremely subtle form of Pepsi That-Color?

uncleozzy: To be fair, though, except for Coke Zero and Pepsi One, diet colas are designed to have a different flavor profile than the sugar-sweetened versions.

You mean they taste like that on purpose?
posted by JHarris at 11:47 AM on April 29, 2009


I hoard Canadian Coke every time I go to Canada. People come over and steal it from my house (YES I SAW YOU, MOM). Tastes a million times better...

Canadian coke, well at least Ontario coke, has HFCS, except in Canada it is called fructose-glucose.
posted by Bovine Love at 11:49 AM on April 29, 2009


"Foodies" are now a strong force for social change in the U.S.?

You tell me. The industrial agriculture lobby clearly feels the threat.
posted by dersins at 11:55 AM on April 29, 2009


Not to extend the derail too far here, but the statement that there aren't significant and worthwhile subtleties and differences between different kinds of wine and marijuana is pretty outrageous, and strikes me as akin to people saying there's no tangible difference between aspartame and sugar (which to me are night and day).

Never said that. I just think it's kind of a silly excuse for a "hobby."
posted by Afroblanco at 12:04 PM on April 29, 2009


I don't get all this talk about how HFCS is no worse than cane or beet sugar.

It's because they're essentially the same: The stuff we put in our coffee, called sucrose, is a mixture of 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose, while the corn syrup used in soft drinks is 55 percent fructose and 42 percent glucose.[from the link]
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:28 PM on April 29, 2009


On sweeteners in bread:

Okay, some people do put a DROP of honey or a BIT of sugar into bread to help the rise. It's not essential, but for some breads, it just helps the process along.

However, the packaging on bread with HFCS indicates that percentagewise, there's hella more than just a drop or a bit. As I understand it, HFCS is added to processed bread not for taste but as a preservative, so it stays "fresher" longer. It has nothing to do with taste. ....Unfortunately, because the taste kind of suffers anyway.

On cost-per-soda:

"just a few pennies difference" doesn't sound like much. But it let the soda companies start marketing the 16-oz bottle of soda for "just a few pennies" more than the 8-oz bottle, and then jacked it up to the 20-oz because that was "just a few pennies more" than the 16-oz. True, it doesn't sound like much of a difference, but when "just a few pennies" is talking about the difference between 8 ounces and 16 ounces of soda being considered "a serving" by the layman, that makes a much bigger difference.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:53 PM on April 29, 2009


XMLicious: I have had ... sweetbreads ... served to me proudly by friends

I can only assume you mean stuff like cinnamon rolls and danishes, not, you know, sweetened pancreas, correct?
posted by shiu mai baby at 12:58 PM on April 29, 2009


"According to a critique popularized by Michael Pollan, the development of HFCS allowed cheap, subsidized corn to be converted into cheap, subsidized sugar. Food processors plumped up with empty calories, and America got fat. But it's not clear we'd be consuming any less sweetener if corn weren't so cheap and plentiful."

I see. Interesting. Go on.

"Since the corn content of HFCS contributes less than 2 percent (PDF) to the cost of producing a can of soda, the effect of the subsidies amounts to just a few pennies in the retail price."

Well, that would be a good point if companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi only sold one can per year. However, in 2005 Coke sold 431 8 oz servings of beverage per capita in the US. A can is 12 oz, so that's the equivalent of 287 12 oz cans per year, per American. Assuming intake stayed stable, with the 2009 population estimate (309 million) that's 287 x 309 million for an average of 88,683,000,000 servings sold per year in the US. That's 2 cents a can x 88.6 billion. That is not an insignificant number of pennies and you can be damn sure if the company can cut one cent per can in production costs, they would so it, to pad the profit margin that much more.

"And while the price of corn syrup is kept artificially low by farm subsidies, the prices of other sweeteners are artificially inflated by tariffs and quotas on imported raw cane sugar and refined sugar. In other words, if we wiped out all of our subsidies and trade restrictions, we'd still have plenty of cheap sugar around, and processed foods would be just as caloric."

Yes, of course. If we end subsidies for HFCS and end tariffs for sugar we'd have the same amount of sugar. But, if we just ended subsidies for HCFS, and kept the sugar tariffs up, we'd have less sugar. The argument above depends on us doing both and therefore isn't really that good an argument at all.
posted by caution live frogs at 1:11 PM on April 29, 2009


I can only assume you mean stuff like cinnamon rolls and danishes, not, you know, sweetened pancreas, correct?

Oh god, don't go putting sugar or HFCS in my sweetbreads, either. They're not sweet. Also, thymus is preferable to pancreas.
posted by Nelson at 1:12 PM on April 29, 2009


I can only assume you mean stuff like cinnamon rolls and danishes, not, you know, sweetened pancreas, correct?

Why does everyone who has ever read that internal organs are sometimes called sweetbreads feel compelled to ostentatiously ignore normal English compounding of words and sentence context? Yes, by talking about "homemade muffins and sweetbreads" I was referring to the genre comprising banana bread and brown bread and other things like that, rather than homemade internal organs.

And oh, look, in one place I hyphenated home-made and in another I compounded it!

Sorry to be snippy but I have run into people who insist on doing this in response to the term being used verbally (when you obviously can't distinguish between "sweet breads" and "sweetbreads" anyways) and it's a pet peeve of mine. I intentionally typed it without the space in the same way you intentionally ignored the context, no hard feelings.
posted by XMLicious at 1:38 PM on April 29, 2009


So is there any pancreas in the muffins at all, then?
posted by Mister_A at 1:49 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh god, don't go putting sugar or HFCS in my sweetbreads, either. They're not sweet. Also, thymus is preferable to pancreas.

Quoted for truth. Except I would describe the taste of sweetbreads as sweet (though not in a sugar or HFCS way.)
posted by desuetude at 1:50 PM on April 29, 2009


Sugar is not necessary in yeast breads. I think the misconception that it's necessary for a good rise is coming from the fact that some bakers "proof" the yeast -- i.e., make sure it's alive -- by adding a little sugar to the warm-water-and-yeast mixture. It doesn't help the rise, though, and it's certainly not necessary, especially in these days of reliable yeasts.

As for a caramelized crust, I get a beautifully crackly, caramelized exterior in a 500-degree home oven with just flour, water, yeast, and salt -- the ingredients for many kinds of bread other than "French."
posted by palliser at 1:59 PM on April 29, 2009


"Sorry to be snippy but I have run into people who insist on doing this in response to the term being used verbally (when you obviously can't distinguish between "sweet breads" and "sweetbreads" anyways) and it's a pet peeve of mine. I intentionally typed it without the space in the same way you intentionally ignored the context, no hard feelings."

I believe you meant sweetmeats.

(Even though you really didn't, but still, getting peeved over someone correcting your usage is like getting annoyed that someone corrected your typing of a misused homophone. Unless you're prepared to pun, you should probably avoid it.)
posted by klangklangston at 2:06 PM on April 29, 2009


How can anyone not taste the difference between a diet soda with artificial sweeteners and a a regular soda with HFCS or sugar? Both are pretty gross, but that diet stuff is disgusting. It tastes like soap. And ass. Like some kind of soapy ass.

Just what kind of ass are you eating?
posted by delmoi at 2:46 PM on April 29, 2009


Why does everyone who has ever read that internal organs are sometimes called sweetbreads feel compelled to ostentatiously ignore normal English compounding of words and sentence context?

Sooooo, this happens to you frequently? Weird.
posted by desuetude at 3:01 PM on April 29, 2009


Coming in late but somewhat addressing Pollomacho's question above about changes in total calorie and sugar calorie consumption,

Whole Health Source: U.S. Weight, Lifestyle, and Diet Trends, 1970-2007


If you trust this guy's graphs generated from USDA and NHANES data, it looks like
  • we're consuming 250-350 more calories daily than we did in the 1970s,
  • the increase is coming pretty much entirely from carbohydrates,
  • and those extra carbohydrates are coming mostly from added sweeteners (30-40%) and grains (60-70%), mainly wheat.
EmpressCallipygos's point about the ubiquity of high-fructose corn syrup and the ease of adding it to foods that didn't have it a hundred years ago is a good one, but that may not be just an HFCS thing. The Slate article says that Australia uses mostly cane sugar but still has a similar percentage of overweight and obese people.

I'm okay with people demonizing HFCS as a proxy for learning to reduce their consumption of highly-processed foods, but it won't be enough if the industry wises up and starts replacing HFCS with other forms of sugar like "organic evaporated cane juice," apple/pear juices, and "brown rice syrup." To first order, sugar is sugar (and starchy foods are sugar-y), and you can't make a cookie into a healthy food by replacing the HFCS with white pear juice and the white flour with whole wheat flour.

It does seem pretty clear by now that we have not evolved to use refined carbohydrates of almost any type for the bulk of our calories.
posted by jeeves at 3:13 PM on April 29, 2009


Guzzling gallons of high fructose corn syrup in all sorts of products is bad for you? Wow.
We'd better guzzle gallons of pure cane sugar instead!

...what?

They going to start injecting the stuff into apples now or what? Apples! Now FORTIFIED!
I'm going to dip my hat in some cold mountain stream and some guy will be 20 feet upriver dumping sweetener into it with real(tm) outdoorsy flavoring.

"I chugged about half of it in a go before realizing it wasn't water. It was some kind of fucked up "sports water" chock full of aspartame and some totally fake raspberry flavor. My body just went "WHAT THE FUCK, MAN? THIS ISN'T EVEN WATER!!""

But...Brawndo has electrolytes...

Buddy of mine makes fun of me for packing water with me everywhere I go. I reuse bottles (metal, plastic, whatever) and fill them with tap water. So he says "Why carry water with you? You can get a drink anywhere."
So I said "Really? Where?"
*pause*
"Uh...gas station..."
So we we went into a nearby Mobil. Nada. You got to buy one. Or try to get a bottle under the sink. Went to a convenience story - nope. Gotta buy "something." Found a White Hen that let us use the soft drink machine to get water, but that tasted like Sprite and plastic.
Show me a place that has a sink anymore where you can just get a cup of water. If it exists it's not in downtown Chicago.

I suspect HFCS is added to things just as an excuse to market it. I don't think companies can make just water. I've tried some Fiji, et.al. I buy Fiji for the bottle, that's about it. Lasts years. But Dasani? WTF is that? It's not water. It's like what a machine thinks water would taste like.
So they gotta add some crap to it. Rasberry flavoring or some such, with HFCS to block out the overprocessed taste that just basic water or whatever, would have.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:25 PM on April 29, 2009


They going to start injecting the stuff into apples now or what? Apples! Now FORTIFIED!

Uh, apples already have fructose.
posted by delmoi at 3:51 PM on April 29, 2009


I suspect HFCS is added to things just as an excuse to market it. I don't think companies can make just water. I've tried some Fiji, et.al. I buy Fiji for the bottle, that's about it. Lasts years. But Dasani? WTF is that? It's not water

Well, I'm glad you'd rather support a military dictatorship that ships it's spring water around the entire world in heavy glass bottles then drink local tapwater that's been purified and had a coca cola label on it. Or just buy pure water from a local grocer.
posted by delmoi at 3:56 PM on April 29, 2009


Or, just pour some local tapwater in a glass and drink it. If you are really hard up and totally demand "purified" water (my g/f does), you can install a small reverse osmosis unit. Mine has 2 carbon filters and a reverse osmosis filter. But I don't mind the tap.

In full disclosure, we do buy Pelligrino, just 'cause I like the taste of it, but that is as a drink (i.e. instead of something like beer or wine or, god forbid, soda); regular hydration needs can be met by tapwater.
posted by Bovine Love at 4:27 PM on April 29, 2009


Just what kind of ass are you eating?

Sounds like they washed it, but forgot to rinse.
posted by nomisxid at 4:29 PM on April 29, 2009


I haven't read the thread yet, but Mexican Coke in glass bottles definitely tastes better to me. I don't know if it's the cane sugar, glass bottle, different formula, or placebo effect, but I can't stand normal Coke anymore.
posted by archagon at 4:35 PM on April 29, 2009


Also, HFCS is indirectly pretty bad for the environment, if Omnivore's Dilemma is to be believed.
posted by archagon at 4:36 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, some people can't taste the difference between artificial sweeteners and sugar/HFCS? Really? I always thought it was just something you got used to.
posted by archagon at 4:49 PM on April 29, 2009


Yes, a thousand times yes. I am willing to believe people when they say that they can't taste the difference, but to my taste buds it's like the difference between licking a 9-volt battery and eating an orange.

You know what else (allegedly) tastes like a 9-volt battery?
posted by MikeKD at 5:21 PM on April 29, 2009


I've been known to remark loudly in restaurants when I've encountered un-deveined shrimp, and I actually took part in a heated debate once about the best way to section a grapefruit. The word "foodie" just appeared out of the blue within the last five years or so, and I'm mystified by it, as well as not liking it as a word. I'm wordist.

Remarking loudly in a restaurant might be rude.

I can be described as a foodie/epicure/whatever-word-for-denoting a studied and sophisticated/sensitive interest in food (both in preparing and eating it, and also researching and studying the cultural and historical significance of it), and I should say that I've eaten plenty of un-deveined (er...veined?) shrimp. It's not always a sign of poor preparation or lack of epicurean knowledge or something. Whether it's a necessary step really depends on the dish, and especially the size of the shrimp and how much black is in that vein.

There are multiple ways to section a grapefruit, and like the shrimp, it should totally depend upon what you are doing with it afterward. Supremes, for example, are fabulous, and also can be indulgently wasteful, particularly when done by someone who lacks a very sharp knife, good knife skills, or is in a big hurry. I watched the estimable Jacques Pepin toss out half a grapefruit's worth of flesh so he could make supremes for a salad in 20 seconds.

Also, we were using "foodie" 10-12 years ago when I lived in DC. That was where I first heard it, and it was NOT a pejorative term at the time. I'm pretty sure someone else heard the term just after the Big Bang, and they will chime in soon.

I assure you that this is wrong. I work at a pizza place, and it is instantly obvious when sugar has been omitted because the crust is not carmelly brown. Unless your oven at home goes to 650 degrees I'm pretty sure we're cooking pizzas at a higher temperature than you.

That may be true, in terms of the recipe and technique being used for that particular dough, but I have made bread with a well developed, perfectly crispy, deeply browned, flavorful crust in my apartment using a dutch oven pot and a regular gas oven at about 450 degrees. No sugar (or HFCS...) anywhere near the bread. I also ferment the bread anywhere from 12-24 hours first. You have to be patient if you want this bread without unnecessary additives.
posted by ViolaGrinder at 5:23 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


MuffinMan:A master baker of my acquaintance swears blind that only flour, water, yeast and salt are necessary.

Too much masterbaking will do that to you.
posted by dr_dank at 5:39 PM on April 29, 2009 [8 favorites]


Since 1985, an an American's annual consumption of HFCS has gone from forty-five pounds to sixty-six pounds. …consumption of refined sugar actually went up by five pounds.

So that's an extra 1815 calories/lb x 16 lbs/yr = 29040 calories/yr. Divide that by 3500 calories/lb gained = putting on an extra 8.2 lbs per year. Or 188.6 pounds since 1985.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:53 PM on April 29, 2009


Also, an anecdote: I've dropped twelve to fifteen pounds in the past four months just by following the recommended serving sizes. Instead of a mound of pasta, I eat the appropriate amount; instead of a big-ass steak, an appropriate amount; etcetera.

I've noticed that it is very, very easy to put the weight back on. But in all honesty, it's been very easy to take the weight off. The basic science is pretty sound: reducing caloric intake reduces weight.

Still haven't gotten used to feeling hungry, though. But that's a piddling small problem compared to being overweight.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:58 PM on April 29, 2009


American craft beers are too sweet. I'd be welcome the lower ABV if it meant i could enjoy a beer instead of having to do the equivalent of quaffing a can of molasses.
posted by afu at 6:03 PM on April 29, 2009


cntl+f "mercury," "environmental health" not found.

the current (outmoded) method of production of HFCS involves using a "mercury-grade" caustic soda that has led to traces of mercury in 9 of 20 industrial HCFS sources, and more than probably led to elevated amounts of mercury in very common foods.

there was an article detailing this in the journal environmental health recently.
posted by eustatic at 6:21 PM on April 29, 2009


Why in gods' names would anyone buy bread? Get a good (Zojirushi) bread machine. It takes less than five minutes to put the ingredients in the pan, and it tastes hella better than anything you're getting from your supermarket. Plus it's cheaper and fresher.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:29 PM on April 29, 2009


The word "foodie" just appeared out of the blue within the last five years or so, and I'm mystified by it, as well as not liking it as a word.

Five years ago? Naaah. Was using it ten years ago, and not as a pejorative. In fact, I still hear it non-pejoratively quite often.

I don't love it, but epicure and gourmand sound really snooty to those not particularly interested in obsessing over food. "Foodie" at least makes a sort of parallel sense to "sportsfan" or "avid gardener" to succinctly communicate hobbies and interests.
posted by desuetude at 6:40 PM on April 29, 2009


You know what else (allegedly) tastes like a 9-volt battery?

I'd bet you $5 that I could tell the difference between that and aspartame blindfolded, too.

I have friends who call themselves, non-ironically and non-disparagingly, "foodies." I like to eat and drink (though I'm far from refined), but the word "foodie" makes me cringe. Too much self-satisfaction in the word, at least in how I hear it used, for my taste.
posted by Forktine at 6:44 PM on April 29, 2009


...getting peeved over someone correcting your usage is like getting annoyed that someone corrected your typing of a misused homophone. Unless you're prepared to pun, you should probably avoid it.

I'm entirely prepared to pun, but I'll have to see a decision handed down by the World Food Court before I regard it as impermissable or incorrect to call breads that are sweet sweetbreads, much less sweet-breads or sweet breads. My pet peeves, cold dead hands, etc.
posted by XMLicious at 7:32 PM on April 29, 2009


...and actually, come to think of it klang, I think I recall occasions when I've seen you open up with vilifying vulgarity on people if they don't use a word to your satisfaction. So I definitely reserve the right to be a little bit annoyed and make my pedantic claims that it's baseless and foppish to regard that particular space as non-omittable.
posted by XMLicious at 7:57 PM on April 29, 2009


No shit. If someone gets offended by some generalization about the word "foodie" they need to pack it in and quite the internets.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:37 PM on April 29, 2009


They going to start injecting the stuff into apples now or what? Apples! Now FORTIFIED!

Okay, that actually sounds pretty appealing. Integrally candied apples. Also dipped in caramel and available at the county fair right next to the vendor with the deep fried Twinkies and deep fried Oreos. I can feel the β-cells in my sweetbreads vaporizing at the mere thought of it.

And yes, I realize that this meaning of sweetbreads "properly used" is a culinary term and not simply a synonym for pancreas. I'm just engaging in more pedantry.

Oh, I thought of another example of overwrought omnipresent sugar: there aren't any Long John Silvers chain restaurants in my locale but I went to one on a business trip a few years ago. I got a pu-pu platter type thing and not only was it gross and everything - fish fillet, shrimp, crab cakes, even hush puppies - tasted identical (like they were just differently-shaped cast shapes of "krab pulp" or something) but the batter and everything else was weirdly and pervasively sweet for no apparent reason. Even the grease oozing out of things tasted sweet, as though there was HFCS mixed in with the frialator oil, although I can't imagine how that would work since it would burn.

I have had some pretty execrable meals while doing my road warrior thing but that one was memorable.

Tee hee, the Firefox spell checker (oh, okay, spelling checker, I have come to terms with that argument) evidently does not recognize "frialator" and suggests replacing it with "lavatorial".
posted by XMLicious at 9:31 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


"...and actually, come to think of it klang, I think I recall occasions when I've seen you open up with vilifying vulgarity on people if they don't use a word to your satisfaction."

Dude, that only happens when my asshole gland overwhelms my common sense. I'm not a role model.
posted by klangklangston at 10:29 PM on April 29, 2009


Well maybe this will end the "fructose will destroy your liver! This includes all FRUIT! Beware you junk-foodies!" nonsense.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 11:38 PM on April 29, 2009


XMLicious, sorry to have pissed you off so royally. For the record, I wasn't being ostentatious, I was genuinely seeking clarification. How the fuck should I know whether or not your friends once served you thymus in a Spenda beurre blanc? It would be unusual, sure, but jesus, this place is filled with people who have done all sorts of crazy things well outside of what my foppish brain could assume.

Secondly, internal organs aren't "sometimes" called sweetbreads. They're pretty much always called sweetbreads, and I can't help it if this little fact stokes your particular pet peeve. I've eaten the dish several times in my life, and I can tell you not once have I ever seen any menu advertising braised thymus. It's a euphemism, one that's been in use for, god, I don't know, a few centuries? It's not just something invented by the pretentious foodies who get off on being pedantic.

In other words: when I wrote what I did I wasn't making any assumptions about your personal experience. It would be great if you could, in the future, extend me the same courtesy.
posted by shiu mai baby at 5:03 AM on April 30, 2009


You didn't piss me of royally shiu mai, you just happened to press one of my pet peeve buttons. Like I said right off the bat, no hard feelings; it's as much humorous as annoying. But I frequently intentionally omit that space for the reasons I described.
posted by XMLicious at 7:42 AM on April 30, 2009


asshole gland*


*not one of the traditional sweetbreads
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:56 AM on April 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's a delicacy in France!
posted by klangklangston at 8:42 AM on April 30, 2009


So's snails, though.
Interesting thing about snails, they lack asshole glands.
posted by Mister_A at 1:40 PM on April 30, 2009


I thought the hotdog was an American delicacy?
posted by Artw at 1:55 PM on April 30, 2009


Americans of course crave the synergy of lips as well.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:19 PM on April 30, 2009


XMLicious: According to the packaging for my sugar free Reese's Miniature Peanut Butter Cups, Sugar Alcohols (Lactitol and Maltitol - sugar substitutes) are slowly metabolized carbohydrates that generally cause only a small rise in blood glucose levels.
posted by interiority at 6:27 AM on May 1, 2009


And unfortunately for diabetics such as myself, the sugar alcohols aren't a magic bullet, either. This is from the wiki on Maltitol:
Due to its slow absorption, excessive consumption can have laxative effect and sometimes can cause gas and/or bloating. It is very easy for food producers to use it in vast quantities, due to its similarity to sugar, so consumers often end up ingesting far more than they could most other sugar alcohols. This means that maltitol is particularly associated with gastric issues.
Sorbitol and Lactitol are no better in terms of unpleasant side-effects. Oh, fabulous.
posted by shiu mai baby at 7:09 AM on May 1, 2009


Thanks interiority, that's exactly what I wanted to know. I had only come across the sugar alcohol in the nutrition into on some tiny individually-wrapped hard candies that weren't even labeled as specifically for diabetics so I had no leads.

I'm diabetic too, alas, and annoyingly it developed just a year after I'd started doing all of my sugar-cutting things after giving up on finding any low-sugar manufactured food, so it obviously was too little or too late. And so it pisses me off even more that food companies don't make non-aspartame "Lite" and "Diet" foods that simply contain less sugar despite all those years I spent scouring the shelves for some. (But I also feel dumb for not thinking of simple things like mixing double the amount of water into orange juice concentrate, for example.) The one exception I've come across is the "HonesTea" brand of drinks that's manufactured out of Connecticut but they're not marketed as a "Diet" brand and they're extremely expensive.

This person claims that some manufacturers of "low-carb" foods are faking it by prominently mentioning Splenda on their labels but then making the products primarily out of sugar alcohol. I haven't come across those but I wonder if this is where we're getting at least some of the people who say they can't tell the difference between real sugar and diet soda brands, maybe they're drinking something that's technically sugar-free this way but not actually a product for dieting.
posted by XMLicious at 8:54 AM on May 1, 2009


For the record, I have never in my life seen sweet breads listed as anything but "sweet [space] breads". I have never in my life seen banana bread, et. al. described as "sweetbreads", rendered thus, with no space.

That is all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:56 AM on May 1, 2009


Glad to introduce you to something new. For both meanings I've also seen it with the hyphen a few times, even in cook books, cookbooks, and cook-books going back to the turn of the last century.
posted by XMLicious at 12:13 PM on May 1, 2009


Really? Because as early as 1918 "sweetbreads" was pretty unambiguously the thymus gland, not a freaking donut.
posted by dersins at 12:43 PM on May 1, 2009


That's odd, given that the OED here in my bookcase clearly separates sweet bread referring to confections, and I'm unable to find a single citation of someone using sweet bread to mean thymus.

Likewise, sweetbread doesn't ever seem to be used as a term for muffins, etc. Noting that this is your pet peeve, and that you're striking some sort of bold blow against clarity, I assume that you have citations. I'd be interested in seeing them.
posted by klangklangston at 12:44 PM on May 1, 2009


A search on Google for "sweetbreads" yields roughly 294,000 hits, none of which (in my preliminary and rather half-assed perusal of the results) is talking about sweetened bread.

On the other hand, Googling "sweet breads" (including the space and the quotes, obviously), yields 77,200 hits that are a blend of sweetened breads recipes and directions on how to cook thymus or pancreas.

Which leads me to believe that the definition of sweetbreads, no space, is pretty unambiguous, frankly.
posted by shiu mai baby at 12:52 PM on May 1, 2009


The term "sweetbreads" for internal organs goes back to the 16th century I believe. I'm not saying that it's a neologism, nor that people shouldn't use it that way, nor that leaving the space out intentionally as I've done isn't a rare thing (by saying "I've seen it" that's literally all I meant, that I have anecdotally seen it), but sweet bread at least referring to a bread that is sweet is a valid term, it's probably the term that the internal organ meat derived from in the first place, and even if you're going to stand on rules it's completely valid to compound words in English that way. In the mother tongue German they'll practically compound an entire sentence into one word.

And no, this is not a matter of clarity. Anyone who is insisting that internal organ meat be named as a type of bread is not concerned with clarity, so I have no belief in the purported marginal increase in clarity that being strict or chiding and making up rules like "pancreas is allowed to be written 'sweetbread' or 'sweet bread' but breads that are sweet can only be "sweet breads'" would bring. I am replying to the subtle dickishness, not anything serious but dickishness none the less that I think I'm entirely justified to be mildly annoyed and pedantic in response to, that is the pretense that such a rule exists and that it's one's place to scold others about it. Or if it's just jokey censure for the purpose of name-dropping a culinary term I find that kinda dickish too.

And for whatever reason I have run into this repeatedly in the last several years, even as I mentioned to the point where people try to get away with saying that breads which are sweet can't even be referred to as sweetbreads or sweet breads verbally (and hence can't be used at all for actual breads, I assume was the point being made in that case, but I just gave in on that occasion and let it drop.)
posted by XMLicious at 1:53 PM on May 1, 2009


I'm going to go ahead and admit that I'm just not advanced enough in reading comprehension to parse your sentence structure.

That said, I would like to point out that the sweetened bakery products that you insist on referring to as "sweetbreads" (against all commonly accepted usage) are-- or were-- actually called "sweetmeats." (Sweetmeat is more commonly used now to refer to candy or candied items, but used to also refer to cakes, pastries, etc.)

So, yeah. Irony. Or Stephen-Wright-ism. Whatever.
posted by dersins at 2:09 PM on May 1, 2009


"The term "sweetbreads" for internal organs goes back to the 16th century I believe. I'm not saying that it's a neologism, nor that people shouldn't use it that way, nor that leaving the space out intentionally as I've done isn't a rare thing (by saying "I've seen it" that's literally all I meant, that I have anecdotally seen it), but sweet bread at least referring to a bread that is sweet is a valid term, it's probably the term that the internal organ meat derived from in the first place, and even if you're going to stand on rules it's completely valid to compound words in English that way. In the mother tongue German they'll practically compound an entire sentence into one word."

Yes, "sweet bread" referring to breads that are sweet is a valid term. But that's not where sweetbread comes from, which is believed likely to have been brœd, OE for "flesh."

Anyone who is insisting that internal organ meat be named as a type of bread is not concerned with clarity, so I have no belief in the purported marginal increase in clarity that being strict or chiding and making up rules like "pancreas is allowed to be written 'sweetbread' or 'sweet bread' but breads that are sweet can only be "sweet breads'" would bring."

That's a stupid argument, both in fact and logic. Compound words frequently have a different meaning than just the two words separated, and sweetbread is an excellent example of that exact concept. Not only are sweetbreads not named as a type of bread, but since there are two fairly different things being referred to, it makes sense to delineate them as much as possible.

I am replying to the subtle dickishness, not anything serious but dickishness none the less that I think I'm entirely justified to be mildly annoyed and pedantic in response to, that is the pretense that such a rule exists and that it's one's place to scold others about it. Or if it's just jokey censure for the purpose of name-dropping a culinary term I find that kinda dickish too."

If you want to pedantic, you also have to be correct. With the lack of sources to posit otherwise, I'm going to say it's a fair rule that sweet breads refers primarily to muffins and the like, and archaically to pancreas and thymus, and that sweetbreads refers exclusively to the meats. So while you're free to get huffy when corrected, that's the price you pay for attempting to force a non-standard usage that doesn't serve any purpose except to make you seem confused.
posted by klangklangston at 2:16 PM on May 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


"The term "sweetbreads" for internal organs goes back to the 16th century I believe. I'm not...was the point being made in that case, but I just gave in on that occasion and let it drop.)"

I've never seen anyone work so hard to obscure a mistake, especially one so innocuous, and I work in academe...
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:23 PM on May 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm not trying to force anyone to do anything, except perhaps let me spell my words in peace. I'm tellin' ya, I really did stop as I was typing that sentence, consider whether or not to put the space in, and decided not to. It's quite possible that fixating on things like this on my part is pathological, I've gotten a fairly confident diagnosis of OCPD. And one of the other people who did this a couple of years ago is a good friend of mine who I was especially annoyed with at the time for unrelated reasons, so perhaps there's some psychological complex going on besides.

But the Sweetbreads Mafia is just one of the windmills I choose to tilt with I guess. Just because I'm crazy doesn't mean they're not out to be slightly patronizing to me.

Look at it this way: at least my offense isn't to type in all lowercase or all caps or something like people who are really screwed up. And I promise I'll try to leave even more contextual hints in the future as to whether I'm referring to bakery products or internal organs. Maybe I'll even parenthetically say "not pancreas, bread" right after the word; your pleas have softened my flinty heart. But it's my sentence and I'll compound those words if I want to. (♪ You'd compound them too if it happened to yoooouuu... ♫)
posted by XMLicious at 5:06 PM on May 1, 2009


But the Sweetbreads Mafia is just one of the windmills I choose to tilt with I guess. Just because I'm crazy doesn't mean they're not out to be slightly patronizing to me.

Your "pet peeve" seems to essentially be being angry that people do not accept or understand your misspelling. There is no mafia. Your attempts to soften your approach are not helping very much, because of the SRSLY!! problem. There is a SRLSLY problem.

This is all very strange.
posted by desuetude at 12:08 AM on May 2, 2009


I apologize for being strange. (Though as the kind of person who likes to argue extensively about topics which don't amount to a plate of beans, I must say I feel quite at home on MeFi.) My pet peeve, which although no one appears to believe it does not make me angry or enraged, is people who seek to forbid me from spelling it that way or who otherwise want to prevent the use of the term, compounded or otherwise, to refer to breads that are sweet.

The promise above to provide a parenthetical notice in the future, which I described as softening, was in case anyone is actually concerned about clarity. (Though I'm pretty skeptical that clarity is anyone's actual objective, so I can see why it wouldn't help.)
posted by XMLicious at 7:31 AM on May 2, 2009


Oh, goodness, I don't think anyone prevents you from spelling it incorrectly. This is MeFi; we don't try to prevent you from being wrong, we celebrate it.
posted by Bovine Love at 9:46 AM on May 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Look, as a child I was forced to eat tomato ketchup made without sugar. Ketchup with sugar really does taste better. I agree that apple sauce needs no sugar and that there is too much HFCS in everything.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:08 AM on May 5, 2009


Also: Ketchup on a hotdog, by the way, is an abomination unto the Lord.

And, like many other abominations unto the Lord, extremely enjoyable.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:14 AM on May 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


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