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Say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos.
August 12, 2009 6:15 PM   Subscribe

The Corn Refiners Association has created a series of commercials to counter the increasing sentiment against high-fructose corn syrup. One commercial presents a lovely tableau of a couple in a park on a sunny day discussing how HFCS is not much to worry about (previously). A filmmaker reuses the technique to sell something a little bit less sweet.
posted by grouse (136 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
You know what? HFCS is just the latest dietary bad guy in a long string of fads and obsession. It's what saturated fats were ten years ago. If you want to be healthy, eat in moderation and get plenty of exercise. Obsessing over a single ingredient is counterproductive.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:23 PM on August 12, 2009 [12 favorites]


I'll totally buy that HFCS is fine in moderation. But the problem is that people are finding it difficult to moderate their intake... when it's in everything they eat.
posted by keep_evolving at 6:29 PM on August 12, 2009 [37 favorites]


A better version of the original commercial (Batemanimation).
posted by barnacles at 6:35 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Damn straight, mr_roboto. A ubiquitous cheap luxury product could never have deleterious effects on the public health.

*pats pockets* Anybody got a light?
posted by fleacircus at 6:37 PM on August 12, 2009 [10 favorites]


But the problem is that people are finding it difficult to moderate their intake... when it's in everything they eat.

It's not in fresh produce. It's not in organic meat or fish or milk or cheese. "Moderation" includes minimized intake of processed foods. Boom! No more HFCS.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:37 PM on August 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


when it's in everything they eat.

I was preparing a typical knee-jerk response to roboto but found myself agreeing with him.

On a 1800 or 2000kcal daily diet the amount of HFCS isn't going to make that much a difference.

Shooting for your basic split, that's a minimum 600kcal of carbs, 600kcal of protein, and 600kcal of fats. 600kcal of carbs is 150g, and I've read the liver can readily process of 50g of fructose daily, so as long as you don't exceed 100g of HFCS a day (2/3rds of your carb intake) the fructose intake probably isn't going to be harmful. (On a 2400kcal/dy diet you get 200g of carbs, so 100g of HFCS is half your daily carb intake).

Portion control and an exercise regimen solves most dietary problems.
posted by @troy at 6:38 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Oh choice they are giving us more gin again"
posted by mrzarquon at 6:43 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have a friend who gets really upset about the corn syrup commercials. They're just so wrong that they make her mind explode. When we're watching TV together and the damn thing comes on, I just turn the channel.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 6:49 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'll totally buy that HFCS is fine in moderation. But the problem is that people are finding it difficult to moderate their intake... when it's in everything they eat.

It's not in fresh produce. It's not in organic meat or fish or milk or cheese. "Moderation" includes minimized intake of processed foods. Boom! No more HFCS.

But I *have* found it in bread (whole grain not white wonder crud) and in packages of boneless chicken breasts of all things (not seasoned or otherwise prepared, supposedly just chicken breast.). It is showing up in the damndest places anymore.

Saying 'eat organic' is fine, and we do whenever we can obtain it ... but for lots of people organic is priced higher than they can afford. They shouldn't end up eating lots of HFCS because they can't afford organic but are otherwise attempting to eat reasonably well.

Saying minimize intake of processed food is also fine... but bread is something of a staple, and when done properly, is a good source of grains, carb and fibre, and we shouldn't be sticking HFCS in it.
posted by Zinger at 6:50 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


when it's in everything they eat.

That's an argument against processed foods, not against HFCS per se. If Big Corn didn't have such an influence on congress and there was no huge corn subsidy, all those processed foods would just have equal amounts of plain sucrose, or whatever sweetener happens to be cheapest.
posted by Rhomboid at 6:50 PM on August 12, 2009


It's not in organic meat or fish or milk or cheese.

You know how much that shiz costs? Organic meat costs a shitload. And who knows wtf is in non-organic meat. If I had to guess, I'd say it contained HFCS. And if I was wrong, I'd say HFCS is probably in the bun I'm putting my meat on. And the whip cream I'm putting on the meat that's on my bun. And in the chocolate syrup that's on my cream that's on my meat that's on my bun.

You think an average family can afford to live on organic meat? What the fuck is corn syrup doing in bread? In a Popsicle? In my goddamn gimlet! (Okay, it's only in American gimlets--other countries haven't gotten so stupid yet.)

Sit on the sidelines and flap your jaws about organic this and that but the people on either side of you are gonna crush you with their obese asses. They're simply too big to outrun the HFCS.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 6:51 PM on August 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


ah, the original HFCS thread. source of my second most favorited comment of all time.
posted by shmegegge at 6:55 PM on August 12, 2009


You can totally get awesome artisan bread without any HFCS that's not that expensive, for example the stuff by Semifreddi's.
posted by Rhomboid at 6:57 PM on August 12, 2009


Man, give those Blazecock Burgers to the dog--I've got to try one of You Should See the Other Guy's Hamburger Sundaes.
posted by box at 6:59 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


What the fuck is corn syrup doing in bread?

Sugars are hygroscopic and retain moisture from the air, which keeps the bread moist.
posted by Rhomboid at 7:01 PM on August 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


What the fuck is corn syrup doing in bread?

I blame George Lucas.
posted by darkstar at 7:07 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Rhomboid, places like Semifreddi's exist affluent areas of the country, but it's a lot harder to find artisan anything in the "flyover" states or in poor parts of the coasts.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:16 PM on August 12, 2009



You can totally get awesome artisan bread without any HFCS that's not that expensive

Define "not that expensive."

Artisanal bread around here costs $3.25+ per loaf, and the loaf is smaller.

I don't know what a loaf of white goes for as I don't buy it, but a standard whole wheat loaf goes for $1.49, and is bigger. Big difference in price.

There's lots of people who have $20/week to feed a family. They ain't gonna be buying artisanal bread.
posted by Zinger at 7:19 PM on August 12, 2009


Jesus, guys, mr. robot is absolutely right. If they don't want this high fructose corn syrup stuff in their food then qu'ils mangent de la brioche.
posted by Justinian at 7:21 PM on August 12, 2009 [9 favorites]


If you want to be healthy, eat in moderation and get plenty of exercise. Obsessing over a single ingredient is counterproductive.

You are right to an extent, but me, and 99.9999% of the world are not as tough as you, I am guessing.

The moderation stuff can be said for booze, pot, and probably crack cocaine. The problem isn't in HFCS per se, it is firstly, that HFCS exists because of the incredible amount of farm subsidies helps farmers overproduce incredible amounts of corn so it has to go somewhere - voila HFCS, so now we have this cheap sugar substitute that is in everything. And the poor won't be able to by organic anything, and sure as hell won't be buying fresh produce, which isn't subsidized and good luck in finding much in a bodega in the Bronx - I mean jeez, there are people for whom Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and Fairway are luxe chains totally out of reach.

The poor *will* be able to buy chips, white bread, cookies, and Nachos and fries, because farm welfare keeps that coming.
.
Plus, while I definitely believe in a personal responsibility aspect, we have evolved over eons in a state of semi-starvation. Thus we are all the functional equivalent of crack whores when it comes to salty, calorie rich food. This is qualitatively different from alcohol or drug addiction. We had to be that way to survive the famines that came all the time. The ones who had the tendency to get the fattest were the ones who survived.

Well now everyone can feast all the time and that is exactly what our biology demands of us. I am not pooh-poohing addictions, but food is essential to live and thus we are all to greater or lesser extent addicted to gorging ourselves. Obviously we don't all do it, hence the personal responsibility angle, but we all are on the cusp.

Also, don't forget that the salties, fat and carb densest high glycemic load foods are precisely the ones that can be abundantly bought by the poor - who might not have any choice.

Demographers talk now of an "obesity transition" which is where once a person can afford to eat on a regular basis, a tipping point is reached and that person is likely to be the fattest in his or her society, because of this.

Book recommendation Globesity. Fascinating.
posted by xetere at 7:33 PM on August 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


Corn syrup is in bread because of nice people like ConAgra and Monsanto who grow lots and lots and lots of corn because their lobbyists get tax money to subsidize them. The argument that HCFS is just like other sugar and fine in moderation is totally missing the point and agreeing to exactly what these advocacy ads are setting you up for. It's used for several reasons, not the least of which the processed trough fodder that it's added to tends to be fairly bland and tasteless on its own, owing to a preponderance of enriched wheat and other glue-like compounds. So, we're trained to just tolerate most packaged food because of the little sugar rush that is in just about all of it. Why not use cane or beet sugars that require far less fertilizer (mostly urea, derived from petroleum) and can be grown with better utilization of farm lands?

The argument that HFCS just like sugar is totally glossing over the larger picture of how and why there is so much of it out there. There's really probably not one packaged food item containing HCFS that isn't substandard and lifeless.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:34 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


CORN DEALERS ARE STARVERS OF THE POOR!!!
posted by grobstein at 7:40 PM on August 12, 2009


Buy a bread machine. Can't get easier and cheaper bread.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:43 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hmm. They didn't register reichsurprise.com.
posted by A dead Quaker at 7:47 PM on August 12, 2009


I love my bread machine, and would recommend it to anybody (but take out the dough and bake it in the oven). However, not so much an option for the people who can't afford artisinal bread to begin with. My machine was $200.
posted by joannemerriam at 7:52 PM on August 12, 2009


Buy a bread machine. Can't get easier and cheaper bread.
What's that? You only have enough for two loaves of bread this week? And you'll be in the same spot next week? And you're really happy to be there, because it's better than the times you didn't have money for any loaves of bread?

Oh, come on. You need to invest in your future! Now, let me tell you about these high-quality, durable boots -- they'll last you waaaay longer than those cheap ones you're wearing...
posted by verb at 7:53 PM on August 12, 2009 [11 favorites]



You think an average family can afford to live on organic meat? What the fuck is corn syrup doing in bread? In a Popsicle? In my goddamn gimlet! (Okay, it's only in American gimlets--other countries haven't gotten so stupid yet.)


Did you know that you can use food stamps at Whole Foods and farmers markets? Or you can go to a normal grocery store and pick up pretty much anything you want. Some chicken breasts, spinach, apples...doesn't even have to be organic.

There are lots of people on food stamps in this country and sadly, that's not what they are buying.

Cooking from scratch doesn't have to take a lot of time, people just don't know how to do it anymore and unfortunately tasty packaged things don't give them much incentive. They are also a powerful succor for the stressed.

The US has a population that's highly stressed and doesn't know how to cook....a perfect combo for processed food manufacturers.

I'm not sure what the solution is. Making people take cooking classes seems awfully paternalistic. If they don't want to cook...which lots of people don't, trying to make them is not a solution. The technology exists to make easy to prepare meals that might be a little processed, but that don't contain total junk. I'm involved with "added value" processing that connects small farmers to processors who can turn their healthy produce into ready to eat items. A lot of it goes to food banks. It's nice to have an end result like a soup that some busy mom can reheat easily. Skipping the grocery store is good too because it saves time and often people don't have good stores in their neighborhoods. The ones that are there really push the junk.

That's what these industry shills are really worried about, that people will demand that their processed foods contain better ingredients. We don't have to go all Pollan on everyone to oppose unnecessary ingredients.
posted by melissam at 7:57 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why not use cane or beet sugars that require far less fertilizer (mostly urea, derived from petroleum) and can be grown with better utilization of farm lands?

Seriously.

Think about it: What percentage of a corn plant is actually usable? Not frigging much. You've got the ears, which are mostly husk, silk, and cob, and then there's the stalk, and the leaves... All that extra plant needs extra water, extra fertilizer, extra pesticide.

Sugar beet is mostly sugar. Sugar cane is mostly sugar. Corn is mostly garbage.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:07 PM on August 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


My new diet will be 1800 calories consisting of doughnuts and soda. That'll show 'em. Woohoo! Take that First Law of Thermodynamics! You too Islets of Langerhans!
posted by P.o.B. at 8:14 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's not in fresh produce. It's not in organic meat or fish or milk or cheese. "Moderation" includes minimized intake of processed foods.

This is a good point, but the shit does show up in the strangest of places. I was buying walnuts the other day—just plain, unroasted, unsalted, unflavored walnuts, to use in a beet recipe I wanted to try. I grabbed a round cardboard can of walnuts from the nut section in the snack aisle. I'm a compulsive label-reader, so I checked the ingredients on the package. In addition to a bunch of other unnecessary shit, it included corn syrup solids.

In plain walnuts? Why?

So I grabbed a bag of whole walnuts from the baking aisle instead, and the ingredients list on that one listed one ingredient: walnuts.

And, yeah, HFCS is omnipresent in baked goods. I'm planning to buy a bread machine and get in the habit of baking fresh bread a couple of times a week, for a few reasons: so I can have a reliable supply of 100% whole wheat bread (most "whole wheat" breads actually contain a minimal amount of whole wheat, plus molasses to darken the color), so I can enjoy delicious crusty homemade(-ish) bread just the way I like it, and so I can get away from HFCS.
posted by ixohoxi at 8:17 PM on August 12, 2009


Am I correct in assuming that the sugar producers are in bed with the HFCS guys? HFCS keeps its market share, sugar keeps its profits. Is that the way it's working? If so I guess the only losers are us.
posted by crapmatic at 8:18 PM on August 12, 2009


(sugar producers = referring to domestic producers)
posted by crapmatic at 8:19 PM on August 12, 2009


Buy a bread machine. Can't get easier and cheaper bread.

If a family can barely afford the two bucks they'd need to buy a loaf of Wonder Bread, how in the HELL do you expect them to afford the sixty bucks they'd need to buy a bread machine?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:21 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Don't mind me, I'm just sitting here in the corner freaking out at the idea of eating meat with whipped cream and chocolate syrup on a bun.
posted by Robert Angelo at 8:21 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm with mr_roboto. HFCS scares are mindless scapegoating: issues of class and social identity masquerading as public health problems. Which is funny, because scapegoating really was a big part of National Socialism. What other people decide to eat, or not to eat, is their own damn business, and not a 'problem' that needs to be solved by forcible intervention. We all know where that leads.
posted by chrisgregory at 8:21 PM on August 12, 2009


You think an average family can afford to live on organic meat? What the fuck is corn syrup doing in bread? In a Popsicle? In my goddamn gimlet! (Okay, it's only in American gimlets--other countries haven't gotten so stupid yet.)

Did you know that you can use food stamps at Whole Foods and farmers markets? Or you can go to a normal grocery store and pick up pretty much anything you want. Some chicken breasts, spinach, apples...doesn't even have to be organic.
You can use regular money at Whole Foods too, but that doesn't make it any cheaper. Can you really use food stamps at farmers markets (honest question)?
posted by !Jim at 8:22 PM on August 12, 2009


Did you know that you can use food stamps at Whole Foods and farmers markets?

Wow, really? That solves everything!
posted by kathrineg at 8:22 PM on August 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Can you really use food stamps at farmers markets (honest question)?

You can use Oregon Trail at farmer's markets.
posted by madajb at 8:35 PM on August 12, 2009


I'm with mr_roboto. HFCS scares are mindless scapegoating: issues of class and social identity masquerading as public health problems.

So advocacy groups that are independent of large agribusiness ventures, funded by grassroots donations, and seek to cast some sunlight on the blighted landscape that is our mass food production and processing mechanism in the US are just like the Nazis? Sorry, that is a terrible argument.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:36 PM on August 12, 2009


HFCS scares are mindless scapegoating: issues of class and social identity masquerading as public health problems. Which is funny, because scapegoating really was a big part of National Socialism. What other people decide to eat, or not to eat, is their own damn business, and not a 'problem' that needs to be solved by forcible intervention. We all know where that leads.

I wonder if anyone said the same thing about meat before The Jungle came out?
posted by P.o.B. at 8:40 PM on August 12, 2009


When we get universal health care, we'll just all get free liposuction whenever we pig out on too many potato rolls. It's all good.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:41 PM on August 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's not in fresh produce.

Wrong, fructose is in all fruits.
posted by delmoi at 8:48 PM on August 12, 2009


Buy a bread machine. Can't get easier and cheaper bread.

What's that? You only have enough for two loaves of bread this week? And you'll be in the same spot next week? And you're really happy to be there, because it's better than the times you didn't have money for any loaves of bread?


Seriously? I've seen working bread machines at the local thrift store for $20. And I bought one and use it to make bread with. For about .50 - .75 a loaf depending on what's in it.

Or why not just buy flour, yeast, salt, some powdered milk and sugar (most of which you probably already have) and knead by hand to make your own loaves in your oven? I do it and I wouldn't consider myself Iron Chef by a long shot. It just takes a bit of learning how to do it right and enough forearm muscle to work the dough for 10 minutes. And I didn't know how to do it right to start off so there were some mistakes. But they were still tasty... And enough raw ingredients to make 10 loaves can be purchased for the same money as 2 loaves of store bread. And that's assuming you're buying the small, pricey 2 kilo flour bag. You buy in a 20 kilo sack and your costs drop enormously.

Bottom line, if you're locked into buying premade bread because you don't see how you can afford to make it for less at home, you're doing it wrong.
posted by barc0001 at 8:48 PM on August 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


Wrong, fructose is in all fruits.

But corn syrup is only in corn syrup.
posted by mr_roboto at 8:58 PM on August 12, 2009


Can you really use food stamps at farmers markets (honest question)?

The Farmers Market in my town, which I hear is really nice compared to others in the area, only began taking food stamps this year. Before that, it was cash only. I would guess that other Farmers Markets in the area are still just cash, if they even exist.

I love to buy organic foods, especially when it comes to those foods where there's a difference in taste... but I can't do that all of the time because it's so much more expensive. I don't think that people who say "buy organic!" as if it's a solution to poor diet are really familiar with what it's like to be looking at your bank account and thinking, "I don't get paid until next week, and until then I have $30 to spend on food. What can I buy that will keep me full?" Certainly not organic meat or produce.

It's also much cheaper to feed myself on junk food than on healthy food, although, luckily, I'm not poor or time-starved (are we forgetting that the poor are often strapped for time?) enough that I've been pushed towards junk food yet.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:03 PM on August 12, 2009


Mr Roboto, the problem with HFCS is that an overwhelming percentage of Americans still have never even heard of high fructose corn syrup. Don't confuse Mefites with the general public. Anyone who would even consider making their own bread to avoid HFCS is not someone who would ever have to worry about HFCS. I have an old college friend who lives by himself in North Carolina who pretty much every time he's on the phone with me has to interrupt our call so he can order at a drive thru. He probably goes weeks without eating a vegetable that isn't fried. You say it's his life and if he wants to remain ignorant it's his problem huh? Well, my health insurance doubled from 2008 - 2009 and I'm hearing through the grapevine that 2010 isn't going to be any better so his soon to be diagnosed type 2 diabetes will become all of our problem in the form of higher deductibles and co-pays.

We all must fight corporate hegemony with every fiber of our being; because if we don't I wouldn't be surprised at a future where executives from ADM and Cargill were sitting on the board of directors of companies like Bristol-Myers Squibb and Eli Lilly to brainstorm lucrative ideas of how to put ingredients into food that creates diseases the drug companies can create drugs to maintain.
posted by any major dude at 9:06 PM on August 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Anyway, I think the HFCS fear is totally ridiculous. It doesn't matter if HFCS is "in everything" if the amount in everything isn't much. Yes, HFCS is in ketchup and Bread, but those things would have been made with sugar otherwise. A serving of wonder bread has just 1 gram of sugar. The fact that one gram is in the form of HFCS rather then Sucrose doesn't really change anything. "In moderation" means moderating the amount not moderating the number of different items you eat that contain it. Wall-nuts with a tiny amount of Fructose for seasoning are not going to kill you.

And of course, people who think HFCS is the devil often advocate eating fresh fruits and vegetables, but like I said, all fruits contain fructose (that's why it's call fructose in the first place!). So those people are either confused or seem to think the "high concentrated" part is what's bad.

1 gram of sugar is the same weather it's from fruit, or HFCS or Sucrose
posted by delmoi at 9:08 PM on August 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


But corn syrup is only in corn syrup.

Right. Are you saying Fructose in corn syrup is somehow worse then Fructose in, say, Apples? If so, why?
posted by delmoi at 9:09 PM on August 12, 2009


Wonderbread isn't really bread though. Anything that doesn't grow mold after a week (ie. is still a living food) isn't bread. The issue in my opinion is isn't just about HCFS being in everything, but that everything that it is in tends to be substandard. What's wrong with wanting to educate the general public (many of whom went through public schools with vending machines full of HCFS) that it's something that should be regarded with skepticism?
posted by Burhanistan at 9:18 PM on August 12, 2009


It's not so much that HFCS is "bad". It's that it's in EVERYTHING! Who needs chili or spaghetti sauce with HFCS?

I think this is another form of corn subsidy. We pay the farmers to NOT grow corn, and when they do, we then arrange to put the most poisonous part of it into all our foods!

Human digestive systems can't really process corn and corn products. It's animal food, or meant to be ground up very fine and eaten in small amounts.
posted by Jinx of the 2nd Law at 9:20 PM on August 12, 2009


Are you saying Fructose in corn syrup is somehow worse then Fructose in, say, Apples? If so, why?

I think the naive "all sugar is sugar", while common-sensical, may not prove to be correct.

Fructose requires extra effort -- "strategic minerals" -- from the body to metabolize properly, and part of this metabolism involves creating triglycerides. When it is delivered into the body in its free state, unbound to glucose and bereft of its natural packaging found in fruit -- water, fiber, and trace minerals. In isolation, and in moderation, this may not be a big deal. But in the superhuman quantities we Americans are ingesting HFCS, it wouldn't surprise me if this fructose overload was in fact a root cause of the present obesity epidemic.
posted by @troy at 9:23 PM on August 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


delmoi wrote:

Right. Are you saying Fructose in corn syrup is somehow worse then Fructose in, say, Apples? If so, why?

The argument is that your body knows from thousands of years of experience how to process sugar in raw form. The more processed the sugar gets the less idea your body has with what to do with it so it just turns it too fat - but of course if it's consumed in moderation you have nothing to worry about. Except the argument that food laced with HFCS doesn't trigger the "I'm full" switch
posted by any major dude at 9:27 PM on August 12, 2009


I think the naive "all sugar is sugar", while common-sensical, may not prove to be correct.

delmoi is not saying "all sugar is sugar." He is saying all fructose is fructose. What is different about the fructose in high-fructose corn syrup versus the fructose in high-fructose apples (that is, most apples we eat)?
posted by grouse at 9:28 PM on August 12, 2009


barc0001: I'm as big a fan of homemade bread as anyone you'll find, but doing it the 'from scratch' way is not something that's going to be practical for most people. It's not just 10 minutes worth of work, it's a process that involves a significant amount of prior planning. Sure, I guess you could make the dough before work and let it rise all day, but then you still have to punch it down, form it, let it rise a bit more, and bake it after work. For someone who works outside the home and wants dinner within a few minutes of getting in the door (which is what we've been conditioned to by processed food and takeout), not to mention the ability to get out the door ASAP after getting up, it's not practical.

A loaf of Wonder Bread at the discount supermarket in my area is regularly sold for 99¢. Even for someone working at minimum wage, it doesn't take very long for the opportunity cost of their time to surpass that, unless they view cooking and baking as a recreational activity in its own right (which I suspect most people who bake their own bread do).

Even if you can get the raw ingredients for less than a loaf of store-bought bread, the time and necessity of planning in advance are a deal-breaker to a lot of people. If people were to team up or have periodic use of a community bakery where they could produce a lot of loaves at once, that might change the equation, but I don't know if expecting people to make their own bread on an individual basis, as much as a few times per week, is realistic — healthier and tastier though it would be.

I suspect the availability of raw ingredients like flour and yeast may be problems in many areas as well. In some urban areas, you have bodegas with processed food and sodas, and you have fast food joints, and that's pretty much it. A real supermarket could be a significant bus ride away — I've heard serious proposals that the best thing we could do to fight urban obesity might be, somewhat ironically, to open grocery stores in under-served areas.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:29 PM on August 12, 2009


I should note that while this comment thread has been interesting, I originally intended for this post mainly to be a setup for the final link. I hope people aren't missing it.
posted by grouse at 9:30 PM on August 12, 2009


delmoi is not saying "all sugar is sugar." He is saying all fructose is fructose. What is different about the fructose in high-fructose corn syrup versus the fructose in high-fructose apples (that is, most apples we eat)?
We don't extract the fructose from apples and put it into damn near every food product sold in the country?
posted by verb at 9:31 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ah, yes. The calorie is just a calorie argument.

Fructose isn't HFCS. It's different.

How is high fructose corn syrup made?

The corn wet milling industry makes high fructose corn syrup from corn starch using a series of unit processes that include steeping corn to soften the hard kernel; physical separation of the kernel into its separate components—starch, corn hull, protein and oil; breakdown of the starch to glucose; use of enzymes to invert glucose to fructose; removal of impurities; and blending of glucose and fructose to make HFCS-42 and HFCS-55.2

posted by P.o.B. at 9:40 PM on August 12, 2009


HFCS scares are mindless scapegoating: issues of class and social identity masquerading as public health problems.

It's not a zero-sum thing. It can be both a class/race/identity marker and a public health issue.
posted by rtha at 9:44 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


grouse wrote:

I should note that while this comment thread has been interesting, I originally intended for this post mainly to be a setup for the final link. I hope people aren't missing it.


eh, I think the most ignorant non-Republicans among us could reel off at least 3 things wrong with being a Nazi. What I find more offensive from the actual pro HFCS commerical is that who the fuck has a personal cooler so cold that it would keep an ice pop frozen for a picnic in the park? What, does this woman have a dry ice machine in her basement?
posted by any major dude at 9:44 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


So it's far more resource intensive to extract HFCS than to refine or evaporate sugar from cane, on top of the enormous quantities of water corn requires over cane to grow. The exercise in reduction ("it's just a molecule like any other") like this is precisely what the ad campaigns are aiming to accomplish. I can't see any reason why intelligent people continue to persist in the similitude argument.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:45 PM on August 12, 2009


Sugar prices rise to a 28 year high.

Let's not confuse these HFCS commericals with anything other than corporate America colluding to maintain their bottom line in the wake of a tightening supply of their most important ingredient.
posted by any major dude at 9:52 PM on August 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


delmoi is not saying "all sugar is sugar." He is saying all fructose is fructose. What is different about the fructose in high-fructose corn syrup versus the fructose in high-fructose apples

The difference is that people consume a heck of a lot more junk food with HFCS in it than they do fruit. If they ate as many calories in fruit fructose as they do in junk with HFCS, they'd get fat too.

Which is delmoi's point, I guess.

It's funny how people who will take others to task over shaky, bad, or non-existent science will grab at the first hint of a possibility that there may be a problem with HFCS qua HFCS even before the science is in. Look, I want HFCS to be really bad for you. So bad that we start using cane sugar again. Because stuff sweetened with cane sugar tastes better.

But the science isn't there yet, and may never be. There are a few preliminary studies that show HFCS may (may) promote obesity in a way that sucrose does not. There are also a few preliminary studies that show there is no difference. To latch on to the former with such fervor even though you probably don't understand the study's full context simply because it falls in line with your preferred political viewpoint is little different from being a global warming denier.

There just is no scientific basis, at present, for claiming that HFCS is somehow inherently worse than cane sugar if consumed in the same quantity. Maybe the preliminary results will be followed up on and such a link will be shown. Maybe the other preliminary results will prove to be true and it will be proven that the only issue is quantity. Oh, the results aren't nearly as bad. Ending corn subsidy would be good policy. So you might end up doing good for the wrong reasons. But intellectually it's the same.

Yeah, yeah Monsanto blah blah corn lobby blah blah blah fucking iowans blah blah. I know. I hate the power that tiny little states have to drive agricultural and economic policy simply because of an accident of history but I'm not prepared to start making bogus scientific claims because of it.

Eating tons of HFCS is bad for you. So is eating tons of table sugar. It just so happens that today we sweeten way too many foods with the former. But it just isn't clear that we'd be any better off (except in terms of taste dammit) if we sweetened with the latter instead.
posted by Justinian at 10:04 PM on August 12, 2009 [8 favorites]


Fructose isn't HFCS. It's different.

Of course it is. Fructose is one monosaccharide. High fructose corn syrup is a mixture of two monosaccharides, fructose and glucose. The ratio of the mixture depends on the product but Americans mostly consume HFCS in a 55/45 fructose/glucose ratio (soft drinks etc) or a 42/58 f/g ratio (many junk foods).

Of course fruit also contains both fructose and glucose in various ratios. That's cool. Here's what some people seem to think:

HFCS: 42/58 (fructose/glucose ratio) <>shove grapes down their throats every minute of every day while they guzzle soft drinks like it is water.
posted by Justinian at 10:18 PM on August 12, 2009


darnit I made a cool graph and metafilter ATE IT so I have to post it again.

Here's what some people seem to think:

HFCS 42/58 (fructose/glucose ratio) --- Corn syrup. THE DEVIL!
Peaches 43/57 --- Fruit. GOOD FOR YOU!
Bananas 50/50 --- Fruit. GOOD FOR YOU!
Grapes 53/47 --- Fruit. GOOD FOR YOU!
HFCS 55/45 --- HFCS. THE DEVIL!
Apples 73/27 --- Fruit. GOOD FOR YOU!

So peaches and grapes contain virtually the same ratio of fructose to glucose as the two most common forms of HFCS we consume. The difference is we don't shove peaches and grapes down our throats every minute of every day, etc.

memo: don't try to be clever and make an ascii arrow with less than signs or metafilter eats your carefully constructed chart. OOPS.
posted by Justinian at 10:26 PM on August 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


The argument is that your body knows from thousands of years of experience how to process sugar in raw form. The more processed the sugar gets the less idea your body has with what to do with it so it just turns it too fat

We are talking about three specific molecules here Fructose, Glucose and Sucrose. High Fructose Corn Syrup contains Fructose and Glucose in equal amounts. The Sucrose molecule contains one fructose and one glucose molecule, and it dissolves into Glucose and Fructose right away. Glucose is the sugar your body uses for fuel. Your brain runs entirely on glucose and while the rest of your body can run on other sugars, glucose is the main fuel for your body. Sucrose isn't really a "raw" sugar that needs a lot of time to break down, like complicated starches and molecular fructose in an Apple is identical to the molecule in HFCS. There isn't any more "breaking down" to do

This google book page goes over the basic types of nutritional sugars.

Except the argument that food laced with HFCS doesn't trigger the "I'm full" switch

It's interesting you would use the word laced there, as if HFCS is some contaminate and even a tiny amount will fuck you up. That's absurd. Taking a large amount of HFCS is bad, but the same is true of Sucrose. Taking something with a tiny amount of Sugar for flavor isn't bad, and neither is taking something with a small amount of HFCS. Neither is eating an apple or any other fruit.

Fructose isn't HFCS. It's different.

OMG ENZIMES!

The molecule is identical in fruits and HFCS. It has the same effect and it is the same

So it's far more resource intensive to extract HFCS than to refine or evaporate sugar from cane, on top of the enormous quantities of water corn requires over cane to grow.

If you want to argue the production of HFCS is bad for the environment, go ahead, but I've never heard anyone do it. All I've ever heard is people saying that eating it is bad for you, which is ridiculous.

--

The difference is that people consume a heck of a lot more junk food with HFCS in it than they do fruit. If they ate as many calories in fruit fructose as they do in junk with HFCS, they'd get fat too.

Well, my point is that they would get fat if they ate the same junk food sweetened with Sugar. The point about the fruit was that someone actually said fresh produce didn't contain it, and it does. I wanted to point that out because people seem to think that eating anything that contains any HCFS is some horrible crime against nature, when in fact there's no reason to worry about tiny amounts in various foods, and it is actually in all fruits.

One of the worst things from the corn lobby is the ban on importing cane sugar based Ethanol, which Brazil has actually used (along with local drilling for Oil) to achieve energy independence.
posted by delmoi at 10:27 PM on August 12, 2009 [2 favorites]



memo: don't try to be clever and make an ascii arrow with less than signs or metafilter eats your carefully constructed chart. OOPS.


&lt; is ------------------- < your friend.
posted by delmoi at 10:28 PM on August 12, 2009


He is saying all fructose is fructose. What is different about the fructose in high-fructose corn syrup versus the fructose in high-fructose apples (that is, most apples we eat)?

The metabolizing of fructose is complicated shit. Saying that "fructose is fructose" like what this ad did is something I think may prove to be incorrect, in that ingesting 15g of fructose in ten sittings is a lot different than 150g in one.
posted by @troy at 10:31 PM on August 12, 2009


HFCS 42/58 (fructose/glucose ratio) --- Corn syrup. THE DEVIL!

The funny thing is that fructose absorption is codependent on glucose. The science is all over the place on this but I don't knee-jerk poo-poo the doubters, and cutting out all HFCS-laced foods from your diet is incontrovertably a good first step towards more health and fitness.
posted by @troy at 10:36 PM on August 12, 2009


I can see a freight railroad line from the window I sit by at work. I see strings of tanker cars of the stuff go by at least three times a week. Clang, clang. Whhoooo! Whhooo! Whoo.....whoo............WHHHOOOOOO!!

Sometimes school buses full of kids have to wait at the crossing while the syrup chugs by on its way to the soda bottling plant up the line.
posted by longsleeves at 10:48 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Okay. Let's say health wise hfcs is the same as sucrose. Fine, BUT that still isn't a good reason to put it in every goddamn thing on the store shelf. So if hfcs didn't exist maybe we would still see craptons of sugars in random foods just sweeten them up. Okay again. Let's table the whole health discussion. You
don't seem touch upon the idea that hfcs is obviously an industrial stopgap solution

Pollan's logic: HFCS is not necessarily harmful in and of itself, but it is one of the "reliable markers for foods that have been highly processed to the point where they may no longer be what they purport to be. They have crossed over from foods to food products."

It's two different things to meh something, and to actually argue for it. So sitting around and saying where's the SCIENCE? is not necessarily the otherside of hfcs is bad. There's more facets to it than that.

One thing I will say about eating healthy is that if you do get rid of foods by targeting ones with hfcs in them you will start to see and feel changes for a better body. Simple calorie reduction? Maybe, but it's also a change in diet that should be a key component for becoming fitter and healthier.

Fructose is fructose? So drinking a cup of hfcs is comparable to eating the same amount in fruit? No it isn't. Fiber is your friend. No, really it's very friendly when you get to know it. It slows digestion and helps you poop.</small?
posted by P.o.B. at 10:50 PM on August 12, 2009


The science is all over the place on this but I don't knee-jerk poo-poo the doubters, and cutting out all HFCS-laced foods from your diet is incontrovertably a good first step towards more health and fitness.

I thought I was pretty careful to say that eating tons of HFCS laced food is quite bad fpr you but that it isn't at all clear people eating tons of sucrose laced food instead wouldn't be just as bad. I'm not sure how that translated into a lack of support for avoiding high fructose corn syrup laced foods. Of course people should try to avoid food laced with corn syrup. It tastes like crap and it's bad for you.

People eat way too much sugar. Way too much. But a push to eliminate HFCS rather than a more generalized push to reduce the ubiquity of sugar-of-any-stripe laden processed foods in the belief that it is HFCS itself which is the problem is misguided and, at present, unscientific. Apples are great for you but if you boil a bazillion of them down to simple syrup and inject the simple syrup into every freaking piece of food you eat you're not going to be healthy. Even though the sugar all came from healthy, healthy apples.
posted by Justinian at 10:56 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


(Note: A push to eliminate HFCS in the belief that it tastes like shit and will destroy the corn lobby's stranglehold-through-the-Iowa-caucus on America's agricultural policy is not misguided and is, in fact, totally awesome. But that's not a health issue.)
posted by Justinian at 11:01 PM on August 12, 2009


Me and a friend were sitting at a Brazilian themed restaurant a few years back and of course we ordered up some Mojitos. We finished those off while sitting at the bar and watched as the bartender made rows upon rows of Mojitos. He would put ingredients by bulk into each cup, then at one point began ladling a half a cup of solution into each of the glasses. We figured out it was simple syrup. Damn those were good Mojitos.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:07 PM on August 12, 2009


The metabolizing of fructose is complicated shit.

It's complicated whether it's in a fruit, or in HCFS, or dissolved from sucrose. The source of the molecule is not the problem.

Cutting HCFS will be good for you, but not if you just replaced it with Sucrose, and not if you replaced it with tons of fat either.

A person who eats a balanced diet including a small amount of junk food will be healthier then someone who eats a ton organic potato fried in organic pig fat followed up with all-natural Snapple sweetened with sucrose.
posted by delmoi at 11:13 PM on August 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Balanced diet? No one wants that. It takes time and effort and, dammit, I've just spent a day at work and I deserve a prepared meal. Never mind that it's 3000 calories. And that I actually sit on my ass all day. I deserve to spoil myself.

The health problem is a lot more complex than simply eliminating HFCS.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:44 AM on August 13, 2009


Balanced diet? No one wants that. It takes time and effort and, dammit, I've just spent a day at work and I deserve a prepared meal. Never mind that it's 3000 calories. And that I actually sit on my ass all day. I deserve to spoil myself.

The health problem is a lot more complex than simply eliminating HFCS.
You're right, it's about stupid, lazy people with a sense of entitlement.
posted by !Jim at 3:00 AM on August 13, 2009


Corn syrup is in bread because of nice people like ConAgra and Monsanto who grow lots and lots and lots of corn because their lobbyists get tax money to subsidize them. The argument that HCFS is just like other sugar and fine in moderation is totally missing the point

Thank you for adding this to the discussion. This is a very salient point, often overlooked.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:19 AM on August 13, 2009


there are people for whom Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and Fairway are luxe chains totally out of reach.

Yes, me - and I have two degrees.

It wasn't that Trader Joes or the local equivalent of Whole Foods cost more - vegetables were cheaper and better than the Shaws in town. But you had to drive to them, whereas the Shaws was a five minutes walk away. For my husband and I, and for everyone else who couldn't afford to have a car, that means that the middle-class shops on the outskirts of town may have well as been Tiffanny's. I lived in the US for a collective 5 years, and I still have never seen a Trader Joes, let alone gone inside one; I went to the local health food store once, when a friend just happened to be going there (with her car) and invited me to join her. It was great - I can imagine Trader Joes might also be great, but when I lived in the US it was about as real to me as Narnia. I would see a Trader Joes the day I met a sweet but flawed fawn and he took me to his house for tea.

It's possible to eat not stupidly bad from inner city stores, but it's not easy, it is more expensive than it would be for a middle class family and you have very little selection. We were lucky that our store was in the middle of an African-American community with cultural ties to the South - they always had collard greens, which we enjoyed both raw in our sandwiches and cooked in dinner. But we basically had just a handful of fresh vegetables - collard greens, kale, brocolli and (occasionally) green beans. Peppers cost more than beef by weight, as did tomatoes. Even potatoes (your most healthy starch, done right) were relatively expensive.

Back to the HFCS: it is not the same chemical as sugar. Your body doesn't care about calorie count - it cares about chemicals, and this chemical is not processed by your body in the same way as the sugars in fruits or even sugar cane. It may be that it is not so harmful in extreme moderation - like alcohol, which is of course poisonous - but it is not as fine for you as the same amount of sugar cane or sugar beet derived sugar, which is how even very careful people were eating it until now.

It's the same story as transfats - here, the food industry thought they had a winner: something which tasted like saturated fat, while being made of unsaturated fats. The problem is that our bodies don't process it like unsaturated or even like saturated - they process it like something completely different (because it is), and it's worse for your health than a similar amount of saturated fat. You are better off reaching for good old butter (and using it in moderation) rather than the low fat margerine, even in the same moderation.
posted by jb at 7:05 AM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can you really use food stamps at farmers markets (honest question)?

yes. I ate all farmers market/trader joes/whole foods/food co-op food while on food stamps. My calories per day were on the lower side (1700), but that should not be a problem for most people unless they are pregnant or nursing (in that case they would qualify for more stamps) and for most people eating lower calories would be beneficial.

But the choice for most people is:
Tasty fatty sugary easy to make food
vs.
Boring basic ingredients that you have to cook and it takes some skill to make them tasty.
posted by melissam at 7:20 AM on August 13, 2009


guys guys guys. I've figured out the solution to the HFCS problem:

just tell everyone that Corn Subsidies are the product of BIG GUMMINT and call them Death Subsidies.
posted by shmegegge at 8:09 AM on August 13, 2009 [8 favorites]


Wall-nuts with a tiny amount of Fructose for seasoning are not going to kill you.

Nobody said it would kill you, delmoi. And you're missing the point, as usual.

The first problem is that HFCS is being shoved into places where it has no business being, like a package of PLAIN walnuts. Unless you become a compulsive label reader, you could find that you're ingesting rather more sugar than you planned, even if you're eating things that should be sugar free. For someone who is already diabetic or pre-diabetic, this could be dangerous.

And of course, people who think HFCS is the devil often advocate eating fresh fruits and vegetables, but like I said, all fruits contain fructose (that's why it's call fructose in the first place!). So those people are either confused or seem to think the "high concentrated" part is what's bad.

1 gram of sugar is the same weather it's from fruit, or HFCS or Sucrose


No, it most certainly isn't. And this is the second problem. This is like saying one gram of carbohydrate is the same whether it is from a potato chip or from a slice of whole grain bread. Or that a gram of fat is the same whether it comes from olive oil or butter.

"Sugar" is a category, and there are many different types of sugar, with different compositions and they are metabolized or processed by the body in different ways.

Basically though, stuff that is already highly processed and/or has a high hypoglycemic index makes your blood sugar spike... eat a lot of highly processed stuff, and cumulatively and over time, this spiking causes damage to organs and can result in increased insulin resistance, type II diabetes, more body fat and a whole heap of other things.
posted by Zinger at 8:09 AM on August 13, 2009


That should be glycemic index, not hypoglycemic index. Stupid browser dictionary
posted by Zinger at 8:11 AM on August 13, 2009


The HFCS problem is just the tip of the iceberg in a much larger problem of corn consumption in this country. From Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma:

It would not be impossible to calculate exactly how much corn Judith, Isaac and I consumed in our McDonald’s meal. I figure my 4-ounce burger, for instance, represents nearly 2 pounds of corn (based on a cow’s feed conversion rate of 7 pounds of corn for every 1 pound of gain, half of which is edible meat). The nuggets are a little harder to translate into corn, since there’s no telling how much actual chicken goes into a nugget; but if 6 nuggets contain a quarter pound of meat, that would have taken a chicken half a pound of feed corn to grow. A 32-ounce soda contains 86 grams of high-fructose corn syrup (as does a double-thick shake), which can be refined from a third of a pound of corn; so our three drinks used another 1 pound. Subtotal: six pounds of corn.

posted by HumanComplex at 8:26 AM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


If your point is that many foods are oversweetened, then it would help if you didn't even mention HFCS, since it tends to reframe the argument and is essentially a moot point.
Yes, too many foods are oversweetened and that's bad for our general health. It doesn't matter whether it's done with sucrose, HFCS, or organic honey.
posted by rocket88 at 8:45 AM on August 13, 2009


If your point is that many foods are oversweetened, then it would help if you didn't even mention HFCS, since it tends to reframe the argument and is essentially a moot point.
HFCS, though, isn't an inconsequential part of that equation. In many cases, foods are over-sweetened because HFCS is one of the cheapest substances around, and gives things a quick zip taste-wise.
posted by verb at 8:51 AM on August 13, 2009


If you want to argue the production of HFCS is bad for the environment, go ahead, but I've never heard anyone do it.

Oh, okay. I'll be sure and let everyone know they can dismiss the very real environmental angle, because delmoi's never heard about it.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:04 AM on August 13, 2009


It doesn't matter whether it's done with sucrose, HFCS, or organic honey.

Yes, it does. As I said, the body processes different sugars in different ways.

Evidence shows that fructose may bypass many of the body's satiating signals, promoting overconsumption of energy, weight gain, and the development on insulin resistance.

It has also been shown to increase uric acid levels, which also has metabolic consequences.

Incidentally, the GI of fructose is around 22, but HFCS is around 62 and considered high.

Sucrose itself is around 64, so one could argue that it's no worse and perhaps slightly better than sugar. On the other hand if HFCS has a high GI and it also does an end run around satiating signals, then we have trouble.
posted by Zinger at 9:20 AM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Data point: HFCS leaves a burning feel in my throat. Other sugars do not.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:31 AM on August 13, 2009


Data point: HFCS leaves a burning feel in my throat. Other sugars do not.

I also notice this but was hesitant to mention it here previously for fear of being called down on some kind of psychosomatic MSG China Syndrome confirmation bias thing or whatever. But yeah, my throat registers irritation after drinking something with that crap in it.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:47 AM on August 13, 2009


I get that feeling from sucrose too. I love it!
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 10:04 AM on August 13, 2009


Back to the HFCS: it is not the same chemical as sugar. Your body doesn't care about calorie count - it cares about chemicals, and this chemical is not processed by your body in the same way as the sugars in fruits or even sugar cane.

This sounds like something you read on some website somewhere and don't really understand. "Chemicals"? Eh. There is no good evidence that the fructose in high fructose corn syrup is in any significant sense different than the fructose in various fruits. I spent some time I could have been doing something else demonstrating that various fruits are extremely similar to HFCS in terms of their fructose/glucose ratios.

Evidence shows that fructose may bypass many of the body's satiating signals, promoting overconsumption of energy, weight gain, and the development on insulin resistance.
...
It has also been shown to increase uric acid levels, which also has metabolic consequences.


Oh boy, passive voice. That's where I'm a viking!

What evidence? You mean that one preliminary rat study? There are other preliminary studies that show the opposite. This is not how science works.

Incidentally, the GI of fructose is around 22, but HFCS is around 62 and considered high.

Incidentally, fruits contain both fructose and glucose. Glucose has a glycemic index of 100 (for obvious reasons). If fructose has a GI of 22, glucose has a GI of 100, and bananas have a fructose/glucose ratio of 50/50, explain how this differs significantly from HFCS with a GI of 62.


It's rather discouraging to address all this much earlier in the thread and then have people skip over all of it and post the same "BUT ITS CHEMICALS!!!!1!!11!11!" kind of stuff again.
posted by Justinian at 10:31 AM on August 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you want to argue the production of HFCS is bad for the environment, go ahead, but I've never heard anyone do it.

It's bad for the environment - all monocropping is, but especially monocropping without any crop rotation. (Crop rotation is now almost unknown in North American commercial farming, leading to the overuse of fertilizers and pesticides and very poor soil health inaddition to pollution of streams, etc, through run-off.) Corn is a really tough crop on soils - especially when you consider that other animal feeds such as clover or legumes would have nitrogen fixing properties. Crop rotation also has the property of reducing the need for pesticides because weeds and bugs prefer specific crops - changing crops every year disrupts them. North America should be reducing the amount of corn grown and rotate what they do grow with legumes for the sake of the health of our land. And land near cities should be dedicated to market vegetables if appropriate. (Much is, but we need more).

It's also bad for the world economy - HFCS happens because of the massive corn subsidies, which undermine the price of maize for the whole world, hurting farmers in developing countries. (Insisting that all food aid be provided in American-grown crops is also a terrible thing, since it undermines the local markets and just makes things worse for an area that is already suffering.)

We should end subsidies for any staple crop: if it is shipped internationally, no subsidies. Subsidies should instead go through health care funding and be concentrated on providing access to cheap market vegetables to all people - rural, suburban and inner city - especially greens and other low-carb, high fibre vegetables.

On preview: yes, Justinian, HFCS is a chemical. Just like all food is. In this case, there is evidence to suggest that this particular chemical combines two things that individually aren't great, but in combination are really really bad: high glycemic index and not stimulating the sense of satiation. Taking your example, the banana with a fructose/glucose ratio of 50/50 would stimulate more of a satiation sensation than something sweetened with HFCS with a GI of 62 - so you feel full, and you stop eating. There are also serious questions about how your body metabolises the HFCS.

There is still more research to be done, as there usually is, but there is a very similar problem with transfats - 100 calories of transfats are actually worse for your health than 100 calories of saturated fat. In the meantime, those of us who prefer not to risk our health eating something who use is strongly correlated with a growing epidemic of obesity and type II diabetes are being cautious. I would rather be wrong in my caution than wrong in my risk taking.

By the way - preliminary rat studies is how science works. That's why scientists talk about "evidence for" or "evidence to suggest" and "evidence against", because even preliminary studies are significant, though of course they need to repeat the experiment and vary it to study the issue further.
posted by jb at 10:50 AM on August 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's rather discouraging to address all this much earlier in the thread and then have people skip over all of it and post the same "BUT ITS CHEMICALS!!!!1!!11!11!" kind of stuff again.

That's not what I, or anyone else has said. Quite the opposite, in fact, which you'd know if you'd climb down off the 'gosh I understand this science stuff better than anybody here!' horse long enough to read things through.

On preview: jb has summed up quite nicely.
posted by Zinger at 11:39 AM on August 13, 2009


Guys, we have to rally together to stop HFCS. It needs to be put an end to, so that I can have year-round Passover Coke.

I am an addict and my stock pile is low :(
posted by sephira at 12:25 PM on August 13, 2009


Guys, we have to rally together to stop HFCS. It needs to be put an end to, so that I can have year-round Passover Coke.

Whole Foods sells a great cola that tastes better than Coke and is made from cane sugar, but I think we're supposed to be boycotting them now.

posted by Burhanistan at 12:59 PM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Look for Jones Soda if you like real cane sugar based sodas. Delicious.
posted by lyam at 1:43 PM on August 13, 2009


In this case, there is evidence to suggest that this particular chemical combines two things that individually aren't great, but in combination are really really bad: high glycemic index and not stimulating the sense of satiation.

You're just repeating the same unsubstantiated assertions from earlier in the thread. You read something that fit in with your preferred politics and so accepted it uncritically. There is no good evidence that HFCS acts any differently on a sense of satiation than any other sugar.

Here, for example, is a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showing no difference in satiation between HFCS and sugar.

Taking your example, the banana with a fructose/glucose ratio of 50/50 would stimulate more of a satiation sensation than something sweetened with HFCS with a GI of 62 - so you feel full, and you stop eating. There are also serious questions about how your body metabolises the HFCS.

Heh. You appear to be under the impression that most fruit has a low glycemic index. Hey, it's healthy, right? But bananas have a GI that depends on how ripe they are (as ripening means more sugar) and the GI ranges from fairly low in an unripe banana to almost 70 in an overripe banana. A perfectly ripe banana probably has a GI just under 60 which is insignificantly lower than high fructose corn syrup and if that banana is even slightly overripe it will have essentially the same (or higher) index than HFCS. Raisins, to pick another example, also generally have a higher glycemic index than high fructose corn syrup. Ditto a bunch of other fruits, particularly many melons. And sucrose itself has a GI of 64 or so which is higher than high fructose corn syrup.

You essentially decided that bananas are healthy and HFCS is not, so bananas must have a significantly lower GI than HFCS since otherwise the whole satiation argument falls apart.

Again, you read something that fit your preconceived notions and seem unwilling to accept that you might have been in error. There is, at present, no reason to believe that sweetening with HFCS is worse than sweetening with any other type of sugar. The issue is that we sweeten way too many foods, not that HFCS is particularly problematic from a health (as opposed to environmental or political) standpoint.

...

which you'd know if you'd climb down off the 'gosh I understand this science stuff better than anybody here!' horse long enough to read things through.

Yeah, now I'm a little annoyed. Because I'm taking the time to post facts, figures, and studies and folks are replying with the same tired arguments with no understanding of the science behind them or whether there is any evidence for those arguments. I went and researched the fructose to glucose ratios in various fruits and HFCS formulations. I got the glycemic index values of various fruits and sugars. I found journal articles that show no difference in the effects of HFCS and sugar. And yet you seem to think I'm the one who doesn't understand what he's talking about or bother to read the thread. I think anyone who has read the thread without being emotionally wedded to a position can judge who actually has a grasp of the facts here and has taken the time to read the thread.
posted by Justinian at 2:04 PM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't understand why Trader Joe's is being presented as some Mecca of health food, and I say this as someone who shops there once a month or so.

They sell food with trans fats. I've been to several TJ's in several states, and the produce sections are never anything special -- my local Safeway is better, and that's an awfully low standard. Most of the food is processed, and as far as I know they don't have a position on HFCS. (Their hotdog buns don't have HFCS, so maybe they do have a policy about it.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:18 PM on August 13, 2009


Here's what I don't understand: any food with either HFCS or refined sugar leaves a bad aftertaste for 30-40 minutes, but an apple or a banana that have the same molecules of glucose and fructose do not. If the molecules are the same, why is there such a strong difference?
posted by rainy at 2:26 PM on August 13, 2009


My guess would be either:
(a) Confirmation bias, or
(b) Some other chemical in the processed foods, such as artificial flavor, color, or preservative.
posted by rocket88 at 2:43 PM on August 13, 2009


rocket88: it's too strong to be confirmation bias. It's like getting punched in the face - you don't wonder if it really happened or you imagined it, you're just pretty sure it was real.

It can't be artificial flavor because some foods don't have them in ingredients. Can't be color for the same reason, and can't be preservative because for example most candy doesn't have preservatives, and I think most (if not all?) chocolate bars don't have them, either.
posted by rainy at 3:03 PM on August 13, 2009


rocket88: it's too strong to be confirmation bias. It's like getting punched in the face - you don't wonder if it really happened or you imagined it, you're just pretty sure it was real.

But it could well be something colored by how you think about those foods. You're not indulging in a blind taste-test, you have preconceived notions about fruit vs processed food.

Many of us have no idea what you're talking about, so I think the idea this is some sort of actual difference is iffy. I have not experienced this aftertaste thing you talk about (not in some consistent way in HFCS vs fruit).
posted by wildcrdj at 3:19 PM on August 13, 2009


Yeah, I don't experience any aftertaste either, at least none that could be attributed to HFCS. As far as I know, there's nothing in it except glucose and fructose.
HFCS's only sin appears to be its ubiquity, which is a result of its low cost...which in turn is partially a result of corn subsidies.
posted by rocket88 at 3:38 PM on August 13, 2009


wildcrdj: no, I don't think you need a double blind test for something like that. Let's make this analogy: you travel to a high criminal rate country like a brazil and when you walk through a badly lit area, somebody punches you in the face. When you come back I tell you that you just had a preconceived idea about brazil and we need to perform a double-blind test: let you go several times to japan that has low crime rate, walk around blindfolded, and punch you a few times, and then do the same thing in brazil and ask you how many times you were punched in which country, and compare your responses to what really happened.

I have some healthy mistrust of my perceptions but you have to draw a line somewhere.
posted by rainy at 4:03 PM on August 13, 2009


rainy, that's not really the same thing at all. First, whether you have been punched in the face can be verified objectively. Anything relying entirely on your own sensation is different. It is also easy to find crime statistics by country if you want to make statements about broader trends, whereas I haven't seen any literature here about this aftertaste (widely reported, but which I consider unverified) or the burning sensation (which I have never heard of before).

I have some healthy mistrust of my perceptions but you have to draw a line somewhere.

Sure do, and after the Chinese Restaurant Syndrome debacle (people claiming symptoms from MSG for years which could not be reproduced in double-blind studies), the line isn't drawn on the side of relying on the subjective interpretation of individuals.
posted by grouse at 4:30 PM on August 13, 2009


That HFCS is bad for you is an article of faith for many people. It sounds scary, it's used in processed foods, people have issue with corn-farming techniques. None of which answers the question: is it bad for you? Well, it's food, it provides sustenance in the form of calories, it has many useful characteristics (it won't crystallise under any circumstance), it's been tested a lot, and because it's artificial it's going to have a lot less impurities than a natural equivalent. There's no good reason to think that there's a problem with it. We're talking reasonable doubt, and I don't think there's anything in any of the literature that indicates any special risk associated with HFCS.

But we have a culture that has certain biases, and there are people with certain political beliefs who use scapegoating as a tactic. HFSC is just the latest scapegoat in a war of ideologies. Some people *want* the stuff to be bad for you, so they'll say it is, and they'll believe it no matter what. Which is the trap Justinian just found himself in...arguing with true believers.

It's all pretty academic to me, anyway. I live in Australia, and as far as I know we still use sugar cane in our soft drinks. But corn syrup is handy stuff for baking, I can tell you that.
posted by chrisgregory at 4:44 PM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


grouse: I believe it is entirely analogous. Let's say you did come back from Brazil or wherever and say to me that once on a subway in Rio you were punched in the face. Let's imagine that we're now sitting in a cafe in New York and you're telling me what happened. How am I going to verify objectively that it really happened? My position will be that you have no proof, you just went there having read of how much crime there is in Brazil and maybe you were in a bad mood at the time and it felt to you like someone punched you in the face, but having no evidence of any kind it may have just been that you imagined it. Does that sound like a reasonable position? Again, I don't claim that noone is ever punched anywhere in the world, I would only say that I have no reason to believe that that particular incident isn't in your imagination.

Re: chinese restaurant/MSG - would you think it reasonable if I cited this example when you complain that you definitely did feel someone's fist landing on your skull? This is the first time I hear about the CRS and I don't see how it proves me unreliable.
posted by rainy at 4:46 PM on August 13, 2009


The reason I don't really think those cases are analogous is that it's highly unlikely that someone would experience a psychosomatic punch in the face. Still possible, but usually this is part of some broader neurological or psychiatric issue. Whereas there have been many examples of people reporting symptoms far more severe than an aftertaste when knowingly ingesting some ingredient, or when they are told they are doing so, but that are not reproduced when they do not know of the ingestion.

Simply, an aftertaste is a symptom, whereas a punch to the face will leave multiple signs. They're very different things.

It's not really a matter of not believing you, or any other person. If I myself experienced an aftertaste, I would not trust that it was due to the biochemical effects of the ingredient without conducting a blind experiment.
posted by grouse at 5:06 PM on August 13, 2009


And yet you seem to think I'm the one who doesn't understand what he's talking about or bother to read the thread.

Well, you mustn't be reading the thread because that's at least twice now that you've characterized it as people going OMG! CHEMICALS! or being "emotionally wedded to a position" when it's nothing of the sort.

The discussion here has been by a few reasonably well-informed people presenting some interesting arguments for 1) the idea that HFCS usage is bad for the environment 2) the idea HFCS usage is bad for the economy and 3) the idea that HFCS may possibly also be bad for your health, in that order and with all the appropriate qualifiers.

Because I'm taking the time to post facts, figures, and studies

Bully for you, you've taken a few minutes to scan for a few things on the internet and posted them here. Know what? I did extensive reading of the most recent literature on diabetes and diet etc., some months back when I had gestational diabetes. Doesn't make me an authority.

So let's put 'everyone here is freaking out' strawman doll away for a while and play with something else, okay? The poster will be understandably disappointed that the thread was derailed away from his final link, which seemed to be the main point of the post.
posted by Zinger at 6:05 PM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


You essentially decided that bananas are healthy and HFCS is not, so bananas must have a significantly lower GI than HFCS since otherwise the whole satiation argument falls apart.

To be fair, the banana is also loaded with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It is a slower food, and it will use more energy in gut processing than a shot of HFCS.

Further, other than the risk of pesticides, it's pretty much the fastest, tidiest fast fruit: a quick picker-up snack that's reasonably good for you.

The same is not likely to be said of a processed snack food that contains equivalent amounts of sugar.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:30 PM on August 13, 2009


But corn syrup is handy stuff for baking, I can tell you that.

Before you go around throwing out terms like "scapegoating" and "true believers", you should know that the corn syrup that is in the baking goods aisle is not the HFCS we're discussing here.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:32 PM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


grouse: I think they're analogous in the sense that you're not trusting the sensory input that you get because there was no double blind test. I can't comment on the examples you mention because you don't provide any reference. I bet there are also examples of psychotic people who perceive that they are attacked, physically or otherwise, when nothing of the sort happened. I haven't noticed anything like that about myself.

The essence of what I'm saying is that we may mistrust our senses but when experience is strong enough, at some point it's insane to second guess oneself, and it doesn't make principal difference as to which senses were involved.

If you don't like the "punch" example, how about this: if there is a double blind test study that reaches the conclusion that people (let's say a random sample of hundreds of people) can not tell the difference in taste between ice cream and mayonnaise, what would you do? Fill yourself a bowl of mayonnaise for dessert and shove it down your throat, all the while repeating, like a mantra: "It's all in me head, I could never tell the difference anyway, they're all the same, dammit."

As for me, when the difference is slight, I may have a certain opinion, but I will readily admit that it may be wrong. If the difference is strong enough, all doubts disappear.

In fact, I'd suggest an experiment: eat something with high sugar content, a candy bar, or a candy, or a cola, and then pay attention to what kind of aftertaste you will get. I think it may be far more common than you'd think. It may well just be a matter of being distracted with other things, and, then again, what are you going to do? Stop eating anything that has sugar in it? Good luck!
posted by rainy at 7:48 PM on August 13, 2009


think they're analogous in the sense that you're not trusting the sensory input that you get because there was no double blind test.

I've explained my reasoning in full, and the difference between signs and symptoms is well-established. I know you like this analogy but arguing that this is the sole reason I don't trust people's self-reporting of taste is a bit of a straw man.

if there is a double blind test study that reaches the conclusion that people (let's say a random sample of hundreds of people) can not tell the difference in taste between ice cream and mayonnaise

But there's not. And proposing bizarre counterfactuals does not prove anything.
posted by grouse at 8:09 PM on August 13, 2009


grouse: you are assuming that a punch would leave a sign. Suppose that it did not? You're still missing my point - that of whether you or me would trust our tactile perception of receiving a punch *before* the question of evidence (swelling, etc) is raised.

But there's not. And proposing bizarre counterfactuals does not prove anything.

You're misunderstanding me. My point is whether you trust your own taste or not, at some point. Once we establish that, we can argue about whether that point would be. I agree that my example is bizarre, but I'm trying to establish whether your position is as bizarre: if you said that after learning of such study you would happily eat bowls of mayo for dessert, then I have further insight into your position.
posted by rainy at 8:29 PM on August 13, 2009


At the very least, there would be the sign that an independent observer there at that moment would be able to see you punched in the face. Not so with taste.

I think that our perceptions of flavoring are very likely to be influenced by psychological context. If you want some insight into my position, let's use an example that is a tad less absurd. Let's say that I am one of those people that thinks cilantro has a soapy flavor. (This is not true, or I wouldn't have just cooked a bunch of the stuff into my dinner.) Let's also posit that I am unaware that there is a large number of other such people, or that taste scientists believed this might be due to a genetic trait.

When I encountered this soapy flavor that everyone else denied, strong as it is, would I assume that there was a biochemical mechanism for the flavor? No, not without doing some sort of blind test. Would I consider that confirmation bias was a likely reason for the flavor? Yes.

Would I still eat cilantro? No. Even though the flavor might be psychosomatic, that would be enough for me not to eat it. But I wouldn't use my own experience to influence public policy or the decisions of others without more data.
posted by grouse at 9:03 PM on August 13, 2009


That HFCS is bad for you is an article of faith for many people. It sounds scary, it's used in processed foods, people have issue with corn-farming techniques. None of which answers the question: is it bad for you?

Anything is bad for you if it is done to excess. Even water. Even air. The corn refiners(notice they call themselves "refiners" and not "farmers?") even admit this (why else would they say "it's fine in moderation"?)

But because HFCS is showing up in so many things, it is hard to have it in moderation, even if you try. Most people aren't trying, because they don't know any better. Not because they're dolts -- but because, seriously, why would you go looking for HFCS in things like walnuts?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:04 PM on August 13, 2009


Zinger: There have been a lot of different discussions going on simultaneously but your representation of them strikes me as not true. So I doubt we're going to get anywhere.
posted by Justinian at 9:49 PM on August 13, 2009


grouse: I hear you but we're still talking about slightly different things. First of all, I wasn't talking about policy change anywhere. Secondly, I agree, let's take your cilantro example. What exactly is the confirmation bias? What preconceptions might you have had to think that cilantro should have soapy taste? Let's expand on this example and add a few details: 1. even before you tried cilantro for the first time, your sister/ older brother/ whoever used to say, over and over, that it does taste like soap. 2. once you did try it, it tasted precisely like soap to you - like someone took a bar of ivory soap and stuffed it in your mouth. Obviously you would not eat it. 3. One of your friends thinks it ridiculous and conducts an experiment, without your knowledge: he takes a herb, tells you it is sage, and lets you eat it and you say that it tastes bitter, herbal and spicy. Then he gives you another herb and tells you it's cilantro and you taste it and it tastes like an ivory soap bar, no more and no less. He proceeds to tell you that in fact both were cilantro and taken from the same plant.

Now, do you believe it possible that confirmation bias would account for such strong difference in taste? I don't. My opinion is that it can only account for relatively milder difference.

We're in agreement, though, in that I would also refuse to eat something disagreeable even if I knew it is only disagreeable because of confirmation bias. But, going back to the ice cream/mayo example.. I hear you that you would not have mayo for breakfast.. but would you really believe in your mind that they have the same taste and only appear to taste different to you?!
posted by rainy at 9:51 PM on August 13, 2009


doh, I meant: s/have mayo for breakfast/have mayo for dessert/
posted by rainy at 9:53 PM on August 13, 2009


Can't see the forest for the trees. Molecules is molecules; larger picture be damned.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:56 PM on August 13, 2009


The question of whether or not HFCS is "healthy" or "safe" seems to play right into the hands of the corn refiners. I'm sure, after watching those commercials, that they'd just lurrve to get into a nitty-gritty discussion of exactly how safe and healthy and totally just like sugar HFCS is. I'm sure that they have battalions of scientists and truckloads of literature to inundate anyone who even tries to argue that.

And frankly, I'm tempted to believe them. HFCS may be—heck, probably is—very little different from (refined, white) sugar.

But that's not the point. If refined white cane sugar was as dirt cheap as HFCS, we'd probably be just as fat as we are today—or pretty darn close. That's the real problem, and when we spend a lot of time debating the biochemistry of how HFCS is absorbed versus regular sugar, particularly in the context or realm of public policy, we're letting the corn refiners frame the debate exactly the way they want to.

I'd rather take on premise that HFCS is just as safe as sugar, but then cut right to the chase: why are we subsidizing the production of cheap sweeteners when we have an out-of-control obesity problem? One which is likely predominantly caused by overeating, not inactivity?

The problem isn't that a modern Coke contains HFCS while one in 1970 used cane sugar. The problem is that Coke costs $0.016/oz today ($1.19 for a 2L), while it was more like $0.053/oz in 1970 when you adjust for inflation (69¢ for a 6-pack of 12oz cans, inflated using CPI), and the number of calories has not changed.

And that's without getting into all-you-can-drink fountain beverages, which I suspect are a large part of consumption. Using HFCS instead of cane sugar has made soda—which deserves the "liquid candy" moniker it's sometimes given, because it ought to be consumed like candy—far less expensive than it used to be. And as the price has decreased, consumption and serving sizes have gone way up too. What was once a minor extravagance is now a staple food.

The "is HFCS worse" argument is a bit ridiculous. Imagine if someone had invented, several decades ago, a machine for producing synthetic foie gras, and that we now ate several pounds of the stuff a day, and looked the part. It'd be a bit silly to sit around and obsess over whether the synthetic foie gras is really marginally worse than the real deal—the problem is the quantity, and the quantity comes from the low price.

At least in the case of HFCS, there's no magic black box at work: HFCS is cheap because corn is subsidized heavily. Turn off the cheap corn and you turn off, at least to some extent, cheap HFCS. Turn off cheap HFCS and you turn off cheap all-you-can-drink Coke. Turn that off, and we'll be that much further towards eliminating some of the 500+ calories that, on average, we just weren't eating thirty years ago, and which probably have a lot to do with why we're suddenly so fat.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:12 PM on August 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Kadin, is the sugar in 5lb bags sold in supermarkets refined from corn or from beets or sugarcane? I don't think it's from corn, and it's pretty damn cheap, even without wholesale discount. I think we can't rely on inherent price of soda or twinkies to stop obesity epidemic. I think it's more a matter of availability, convenience, advertising. Want to stop obesity? How about outlawing all advertising of fast food and processed foods? The money government gets from taxes from these companies will be spent many times over on resulting healthcare costs anyway. Instead, money from revenues of companies who contribute to obesity epidemic should be used to create counter-ads that promote healthy/warn against unhealthy food.
posted by rainy at 11:04 PM on August 13, 2009


What I'm trying to say is that there's little that can be practically done about availability and convenience of unhealthy food, the only part of the puzzle that you can legislate around is advertising, awareness, etc. It seems like cigarettes are not advertised on tv and in public spaces generally, the same thing would be reasonably applied to alcohol and unhealthy food.. in fact, while we're at it, also legalize most drugs but forbid ads and run counter-ads that warn about dangers so as not to make an impression that legalization means they're good for you.
posted by rainy at 11:08 PM on August 13, 2009


I'm no nutritional scientist - I'm a historian with a speciality in agriculture and society (and a part-time job working with epidemiologists). But I know that there are nutritionists and other health scientists who are very concerned about the correlation between the use of HFCS and the growth in obesity in the United States. And despite very similar lifestyles and diets, the prevalence of obesity in the United States remains somewhat higher than it is in Canada.

Of course, there is not one cause - it's obvious than changing eating habits in general, lack of exercise, and other factors play a part. But that does not prove that HFCS plays no part, or that people don't have a good reason to be concerned about it, especially as it is used in products where people do not expect that level of sweetening (no matter what the manner of sweetening).
posted by jb at 9:01 AM on August 14, 2009


is the sugar in 5lb bags sold in supermarkets refined from corn or from beets or sugarcane?

Most of it is from sugar cane, I believe. I think it is possible to refine white sugar from beets, but I'm not sure if it's done that often. WP says 30% of world sugar production is from beets; depending on how they're defining "sugar" (provided they don't mean 'all sweetener') I assume that means the rest is from cane.

This USDA graph basically sums up the problem. Starting around 1975, you had a dramatic increase in the amount of HFCS being used, generally at the expense of sugar---but not entirely. The amount of sugar didn't decrease as quickly as the amount of HFCS increased, so that the net result was more sweetener consumed over time.

This makes a certain amount of sense as an example of Jevons paradox or just the effect of a non-linear demand curve: as the price of sweetener decreased (due to the HFCS changeover), even more of it got used than the more-expensive sugar it replaced. (E.g., if you hypothetically dropped the price of sweetener 10%, you'd see more than a 10% increase in sales.)

There are doubtless other factors which contribute to why a Coke today is a fraction of the price of a Coke in 1970; I don't want to imply that's the only thing at work, because a lot of things have happened to distribution chains in the past 30 years to increase efficiency significantly, and as consumption has increased you get to take advantage of economies of scale, but it sure seems as though it was the HFCS cost decrease that got things rolling.

It may well be too late to put the genie back into the bottle completely: the price of corn is high enough at the moment that I think HFCS and sugar may be back on approximately equal footing (although HFCS is still cheaper because it's easier to move around and add to products as a liquid), but we should certainly stop subsidizing it and making it artificially cheap when it's clear we don't need the extra calories.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:05 AM on August 14, 2009


It doesn't help that single serving sizes have increased by multiples.

You know those half-size Coke cans you can sometimes buy? Those teeny things used to be a regular serving size! 8oz. Looks minuscule against the monstrosities they now pitch as a bottle of pop.

Some of you pop drinkers should probably do the math. I'll bet you're drinking well over 100% more sugar water than is recommended. You can't avoid it: you can't easily purchase an 8oz single serving. And you don't want to dump over half the bottle down the drain. So you knock it back, killing yourself because it's cheap.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:24 PM on August 14, 2009


Here is an in-depth lecture from Robert H. Lustig, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Endocrinology at UCSF on exactly what we've been talking about in this thread. It's long, but if you have any interest in the subject it is absolutely worth it.

A quote from 19-20 minutes in.

"They are correct. There is absolutely no difference between high fructose corn syrup and fructose."

I think that pretty much settles it unless somebody feels they have a better grasp of the issue than Dr. Lustig.
posted by Justinian at 5:11 AM on August 16, 2009


That actually doesn't "settle it," Justinian, because if you look back at the thread, whether or not HFCS is the same as fructose is only part of the puzzle.

The rest of the puzzle pieces are as follows:

* HFCS is being put into all sorts of things that sugar and other sweeteners did not use to be put into.

* HFCS is cheap to the point that sizes on things have dramatically increased, and people are being subtly encouraged to consume things in these larger sizes. Five Fresh Fish's example above about those little "baby" 8 oz cans of soda once being the standard size? That's part of it. The 20 oz size which you typically get now didn't use to be the standard size until HFCS made soda cheap enough to sell in that big size. Sure, the 20 oz size still has a 'suggested servings: 3-4" on the side of the bottle, but who do you see ever splitting a 20 oz bottle of coke? No, you see people getting the entire bottle for themselves and having it in one go.

Sure, there's no difference between HFCS and fructose. But that doesn't address the fact that HFCS is ubiquitous and that people are now eating/drinking three times the amount of it that they used to.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:49 AM on August 16, 2009


HFCS is being put into all sorts of things that sugar and other sweeteners did not use to be put into.

For me, this is the thing. Doesn't matter if HFCS is the same as fructose or totally harmless or not, but it is in everything, even things that never needed added sugar or any sugar before.
posted by Orb at 7:24 AM on August 16, 2009


EmpressCallipygos: But those things are complete uncontroversial. Has anybody in this thread... one single person... claimed that it's not a bad thing when people are eating mountains and mountains of sugar (in whatever form?). The only debate was over whether HFCS was even worse than regular ol' sucrose. So, yeah, in that respect I think the question is settled as follows:

1) High Fructose Corn Syrup is no better or worse for you than table sugar. It's essentially the same thing.

2) Both HFCS and table sugar are, in effect, poisons that are slowly killing us.
posted by Justinian at 11:41 AM on August 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Has anybody in this thread... one single person... claimed that it's not a bad thing when people are eating mountains and mountains of sugar (in whatever form?).

I didn't explicitly state as such, but I agree wholeheartedly. I did, however make the case that HFCS production is far more of a resource intensive operation than cane or beet sugar, which means more water, fertilizer, labor, electricity, et cetera. Choosing between the lesser of two evils, sugar seems to be the better option.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:53 AM on August 16, 2009


EmpressCallipygos: But those things are complete uncontroversial. Has anybody in this thread... one single person... claimed that it's not a bad thing when people are eating mountains and mountains of sugar (in whatever form?).

No, but that's not the controversy either.

The controversy is that people haven't been understanding that we ARE eating mountains and mountains of sugar without realizing we're doing it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:18 PM on August 16, 2009


The only debate was over whether HFCS was even worse than regular ol' sucrose.

Uhm, no? Perhaps in the limited context of the thread, sure, but more broadly that's not the debate at all.

The Corn Refiners Association obviously wants to frame the entire national discussion of HFCS in terms of whether it is or isn't "the same as sugar." Presumably this is because they know that it is equivalent to sugar in every way that matters. But letting them frame and control the debate in this way would be a serious mistake, because it misses the point.

The question of whether HFCS is worse than sucrose is a red herring: the question is whether we should stop using, or at least use a lot less, HFCS even though it's equivalent to sugar, because it's a cheap, empty-calorie filler that's overused and generally signifies unhealthy food. The corn lobby wants, more than just about anything I think, to keep people from going down that road. That's why they're trying to frame the opposition to HFCS as one that hinges on whether or not it's the same as sugar.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:32 PM on August 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Uhm, no? Perhaps in the limited context of the thread, sure

Happily, what we're doing is talking in the thread.
posted by Justinian at 8:54 AM on August 17, 2009


True that. However, we're discussing also its impact on society on the whole, not just the thread.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:52 AM on August 17, 2009


Another win for sugarcane. This time, it's used to reclaim a vast amount of waste water.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:35 PM on August 17, 2009


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