Consider the Source: Corn Syrup Ads

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
9/17/2008 4:02 PM   :  139 comments

This is a the first in an ongoing series called "Consider the Source," in which the dailySpark examines nutrition information and its sources.

HFCS, or high fructose corn syrup, has taken quite a hit by the media in recent years, and some new ads are fighting back.
You might have seen these videos:


The ads are part of a $20 million to $30 million campaign by the Corn Refiners Association to boost the rep of HFCS.

According to the videos, high fructose corn syrup is:

"…made from corn, has the same calories as sugar or honey and is fine in moderation."

"…made from corn, doesn't have artificial ingredients and like sugar is fine in moderation."

What else do we know about it?

What is high fructose corn syrup?

It is corn syrup that has undergone an enzymatic process to increase its level of fructose. The sweetener is widely used in processed foods in the U.S. because of its affordability (Corn farmers receive government subsidies, but sugar farmers face tariffs.) and its convenience (because it's a liquid, it's easier to transport).The FDA recently reversed its ruling and declared that HFCS is natural.

The ads say that HFCS is "fine in moderation." The trouble is that it's in almost every food in your grocery store. Check the labels of even "basic" minimally processed foods. Yogurt, spaghetti sauce, granola bars, even bread contains corn syrup.

Manufacturers say there is little distinguishable difference between products sweetened with corn syrup and those made with sugar. To find out for yourself, visit the Mexican section of your grocery store and pick up a bottle of Coke from Mexico then buy one from the regular soda section. Taste them both and see for yourself. (Outside of the U.S., soda is mostly sweetened with sugar.)

Read more about why people try to avoid corn sweeteners.

Ignore the argument specifically for or against corn sweeteners for a moment and look at the bigger picture. What kinds of foods are traditionally sweetened with corn? The ingredient is ubiquitous in American grocery stores, but it's mostly found in processed foods and beverages, particularly sodas.

While the ads are right—all foods are fine in moderation—trying to eliminate or cut back on HFCS and all sweeteners isn't a bad idea. Chances are, you'll swap processed foods for healthier, whole foods.

Have you tried to cut back on HFCS and other corn sweeteners? Which side do you fall on? Is corn syrup natural?


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Comments

  • 89
    I wrote about one of these ads with the man and woman and the popsicle on one of my teams. To me it reminded me of Adam & Eve and Eve trying to make Adam to eat the apple. I'm not religious, but look what they tell us happened there hahaha! - 9/18/2008   3:01:37 PM
  • S.IRBY
    88
    They can say whatever they want, but I had some serious heath issues that finally resolved when I took HFCS out of my diet (at least mostly, it really is almost every where). The more I read about it, the more I'm sure it shouldn't be used in our food supply. - 9/18/2008   2:59:48 PM
  • 87
    Corn (feed corn) is becoming increasingly easy to produce -- to the point that economically it makes more sense for farmers to grow feed corn than any other crop. Check out this story:
    http://www.agbios.com/main.php?acti
    on=ShowNewsItem&id=10018


    I'm not against GMOs, but we're going to have to find a use for all this corn, and you can bet the industry is going to try and sell us on it.

    And for those who believe that ethanol is causing a corn shortage -- check out a farm in the heartland. We dump thousands of pounds of excess corn into piles, where it just rots. There is NO corn shortage. (And yes, we're not talking about sweet corn that you eat -- this is feed corn, or what makes the bulk of animal feed.) - 9/18/2008   2:18:52 PM
  • 86
    Hmm...I always wondered why there are some product duplicates in the Mexican section and the regular aisles of the store. Wonder if the Nesquick in the Mexican section is free from HFCS too? I've also seen a lot of international "American" products in Big Lots...i.e. Pop Secret with the box entirely in French or Spanish, various big name cereals written entirely in Spanish...I even bought some Mexican Tide once for only $2 for a HUGE bottle. I'll have to check that out the next time I spot one. - 9/18/2008   1:25:36 PM
  • 85
    I decided to cut out as much of HFCS as I could long before the media started its campaign. I still think it awful and still endeavor to cut it out of as many places as I can. It has been the hardes to avoid, lots of things I should not be eating anyway, so that was easy, but it has been hard to find bread and other foods that do not contain the stuff. Little by little I have now a nice go to list for products when shopping that I know do not contain the stuff, but I recheck the labels just in case. I wish I could get rid of it 100%, I have seen the commercials and I also think the FDA has done more damage to the American waistline by reversing its stand, I don't want to be cynical, but I wonder who paid who to do this awful thing. - 9/18/2008   12:30:26 PM
  • 84
    It bothers me that HFCS is so high on the ingredient list on so many breads. BOTHERS ME!! It's hard to find a good bread without it! - 9/18/2008   12:26:11 PM
  • 83
    When I gave up soda and fruit juice last Febuary to lose weight there was one side effect I didn't expect to experience.
    My severe depression dropped WAY down! The difference in me is amazing.
    Now, I can actually tell the difference between a chemically activated depression and one that is based on a real issue in my life.
    I went through my cubboards and was shocked at how much of this stuff I was consuming. It's in almost everything!
    We really try to avoid HFCS. We read all our labels now.
    Oh, I admit there is still the occassional teaspoon of Heinz ketchup or Welch's strawberry jam.
    I don't suffer the same side effects if I use a little granulated sugar once in a while.
    - 9/18/2008   12:13:51 PM
  • 82
    i love the typical lemming behavior of some of the actors in the ad.... that HFCS is bad for you - but they don't know why - All they know is someone, somewhere told them it was bad and they believe it... They've never bothered to research why it might be bad.

    The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a fairly reputable organization, came out early this year and said that HFCS was no worse than sugar -but moderation (in sugar to) was strongly suggested...

    People like to have something to demonize, a villian, something to blame -yesterday it was "I Think Therefore I'm Fat" - every day it's something new... it's been HFCS for a while and only a small majority of people have actually researched what it is (in my two years on this site, i have gotten 100s of messages asking what exactly it is.. and why I avoid it)

    I won't buy anything with HFCS in it because I prefer to stay away from anything processed... has it made a difference in my weight loss? I have no earthly clue... and don't really care all that much...

    the corn producers have had a website for years that goes on about HFCS not being bad - I guess the television ads are aimed at a different audience.. - 9/18/2008   12:12:28 PM
  • 81
    I honestly don't pay that much attention. i think i've naturally started eliminating it though. I usually do not drink soda anymore...when I do, I get this soda at Whole Foods that is made with cane sugar, and that's only because I think it tastes better. I've also moved towards eating more all-natural and organic foods, because they end up being more filling and taste a little better. - 9/18/2008   11:57:02 AM
  • 80
    Oh I do not like these commercials at all. They are completely misleading. - 9/18/2008   11:54:01 AM
  • 79
    hfcs is in most of our foods because it increases your appetite so you eat more therefore you buy more, and to think they fined the tobacco companies for the same thing - 9/18/2008   11:44:18 AM
  • 78
    I don't want to sound stupid but no where does it say it is BAD for you ... just high in calories. It isn't like trans fat that have negative effects on the body. I don't see where HFCS is any worse for you than sugar. what do I care then. and if it is more natural then Sweet & Low or the like then I will take them over fake sugar! - 9/18/2008   11:27:00 AM
  • 77
    A few weeks ago, I was ecstatic to find whole grain wheat hamburger buns at my local grocery store, then very disappointed to discover that HFCS was among the ingredients. Then I read the ingredient labels for several other whole grain breads and was shocked to see HFCS in most of them (Mrs. Baird's whole grain honey wheat does not). It's easy to be cynical about "healthy food choices" (whatever that means) when manufacturers aren't dedicated to giving us many truly healthy choices. - 9/18/2008   11:10:02 AM
  • 76
    So happy that this is being discussed here. I feel like the impression of the intelligence of American people are being trounced upon on all sides these days. In moderation? How is that possible without spending a ton? HFCS along with some dyes very prevalent in the US arent even allowed in other countries. Why do we have to be the garbage bowl of the world?
    - 9/18/2008   10:58:23 AM
  • BLONDE_SHEL
    75
    HFCS isn't natural. As the article states, it's undergone an "enzymatic process".

    What cracks me up is what people are willing to call "natural". Tobacco, arsenic and cyanide are all natural too, but I don't see anyone advising we consume those! - 9/18/2008   10:56:32 AM
  • 74
    PIPPINMCTAGGART, I don't think that HFCS is used as widely in Canada as it is in the States. I have read that sugar is less expensive in Canada, but I haven't done enough research on the subject to know everything about it. - 9/18/2008   10:56:18 AM
  • 73
    There is a spark team on SparkPeople called Eliminating HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) . There is a thread with a list of items that are HFCS free. - 9/18/2008   10:49:01 AM
  • 72
    These commercial bug the heck out of me. If you were a fly on the wall, you'd see me yelling at my TV every time. Gee, paid for by the people who make the stuff. Yes, totally unbiased. *rolleyes*

    This article nails it... all foods are fine in moderation, but how can the average person moderate when it's hidden in SO many foods?! It's ridiculous.

    My husband and I have made a concerted effort to cut it out, and I think we do pretty well. Like the article says, it's mostly found in processed foods and soda. I don't drink soda at all (this past weekend's ginger ale consumption excepted, due to a stomach bug ;) ), and we read labels like MAD. :) - 9/18/2008   10:25:33 AM
  • 71
    It's because of HFCS and other additives that I began making most things from scratch about a year ago, which means there are some foods I just don't eat anymore. I feel so much better! Recently on a hot day, I didn't have time to make lemonade for my gardeners, so I ran to the store to buy some. Every single brand, even the frozen cans had HFCS in them! I was shocked and so disappointed. I ended up buying some tropical punch which was the only juice I could find in the refrigerated section that didn't have HFCS in it. It's everywhere! I don't trust 'Corn Syrup,' either. Even though it might not have been modified, I'm not sure which manufacturers might now leave out the 'high fructose' part of the label, since it has such a bad rap now. Anyway, perhaps we need to lobby to stop the corn subsidies, but I don't think I've got the energy. That's one of the strongest lobbies in the U.S., I think. - 9/18/2008   10:23:27 AM
  • 70
    It annoys me that this stuff is in everything. - 9/18/2008   10:04:00 AM
  • LRIGEIKOH
    69
    i would be willing to bet that the corn fed to KAGENEKO's father-in-law's cows or the corn her husband ate off the stalk is not genetically modified, mass produced corn. there's a major difference. - 9/18/2008   10:02:55 AM
  • 68
    HFCS is the devil. I am thoroughly convinced that it is directly related to diabetes and obesity. - 9/18/2008   9:48:42 AM
  • 67
    Lobbists strike again. Any special interest group can work over the FDA if they have enough influence. The people in charge of these Federal Agencies are mostly political appointees. Corn is big time in the mid-west. I was starting to have a sugar problem which I figured out years ago;HFCS is every where. I do not eat anything except organic now. Corn is not even part of my diet at all. Some one told me long time ago watch TV, but turn down the sound during commercials. We would be all healthier and slimmer. - 9/18/2008   9:48:32 AM
  • 66
    I was SOOO impressed with my community. When those ads started running, and people from the industry started writing letters to the editor of our papers about how "natural" HFCS was, my local paper published DOZENS of letters from local citizens criticizing HFCS and its "naturalness." So I don't think these ads are really going to have THAT much effectiveness. (I'm just so pleased that people in my little burg took the time to write letters to the editor!) - 9/18/2008   9:43:21 AM
  • 65
    Is it called something else in Canada? Because I've checked our labels, and I don't see it anywhere. - 9/18/2008   9:33:45 AM
  • 64
    Thanks for all the information that I am learning.... - 9/18/2008   9:10:26 AM
  • 63
    Those commercials make me realize people are making a change and trying to get healthy why else would they be trying so hard to convince people it's good and natural. I try and avoid it as much as I can - 9/18/2008   9:09:26 AM
  • 62
    Another study to indicate HFCS may be unhealthy:

    HFCS linked to Diabetes article from Science Daily
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/release
    s/2007/08/070823094819.htm


    - 9/18/2008   9:08:32 AM
  • 61
    i avoid HFCS...of course a manufacturer of a product is going to say their products are safe!..we are smarter then that - 9/18/2008   8:56:00 AM
  • 60
    An added negative for HFCS for those of us trying to lose weight: HFCS inhibits the secretion of leptin - the hormone that your fat cells secrete that tells your brain that you're full! AND, HFCS never shuts off ghrelin, the hormone that the stomach secretes that tells your brain that you're hungry.

    Ooops - so, basically, ingesting HFCS means, your tummy will always be telling your brain you're hungry, and the fat cells won't be kicking in to say, "Wait a minute, no more food, PLEASE!".

    Anyone see a problem with that? I thought you would. I try very hard not to eat processed foods ... trans-fats, HFCS, all kinds of other chemical "enhancements" - it's hard enough getting non-toxic veggies! :)

    Cheers,
    Maya
    - 9/18/2008   8:53:58 AM
  • JAZGOLD
    59
    Is corn syrup 'better', not as bad as High Fructose corn syrup? What about other sources of sweetness, sugar in the raw, rice sugar?, can't remember all the various things I have seen listed as sweeteners. - 9/18/2008   8:50:03 AM
  • 58
    Snake venom! I love that comment! - 9/18/2008   8:47:23 AM
  • ALISPARKS
    57
    Snake venom is natural too, but I wouldn't eat that! I have always avoided HFCS. The shorter the list of ingredients the better. Just give your body what it needs. Although we are a low to middle income family, I still buy healthy foods. I can cut back in other areas. - 9/18/2008   8:41:30 AM
  • 56
    I eliminated soda from my diet last November. In Janurary I tried to eliminate HFCS but it is in EVERYTHING! I bought things without it when I could find them and loaded up on fruits and veggies. It's hard to find stuff without it. If it doesn't have HFCS it has some other sweetener. Now I make most things from scratch, with a few exceptions. - 9/18/2008   8:10:21 AM
  • DANCNGRL
    55
    I started minimizing HFSC from my diet about 4 months ago. I feel better and have fewer munchies. On days when I have HFSC, I am more lethargic, less motivated, and hungrier. Coke in other countries tastes so much better than it does in the US (unless it is Passover time). It never ceases to amaze me how much stuff has corn syrup in it! - 9/18/2008   7:51:31 AM
  • 54
    I think it's interesting what they can call "natural". How is it natural if they add frutcose to regular corn syrup? I don't know about you but that fits the definition of man-made if you ask me. I try to stay away from processed foods so I don't run into much HFCS but I still try to be aware of the things that I eat and whether they contain whole foods or not. - 9/18/2008   7:45:29 AM
  • 53
    They say it is fine in moderation, define moderation, HFCS is in so many things int he store, even things that you should be able to assume are healthy, like low-fat yogurt and whole grain bread. I say read the label and avoid it as much as possible, because you know that it will be in lots of places you don't even think about. I read somewhere that when consumed HFCS forces the liver to create 3 different enzymes just to process it, with all your liver has to do to keep you healthy I don't want to put that extra work on mine. I was upset by these new commercials, I agree, consider the source... the corn industry, let them sell their corn to ethanol plants so that we can lower our dependence on imported oil!!! - 9/18/2008   7:43:30 AM
  • 52
    I do my best to avoid processed foods, I have started a new rule for myself if I have a hard time pronouncing it I don't want to eat it:) Between HFCS and sodium. Just say NO! - 9/18/2008   7:32:59 AM
  • 51
    I gotta be honest, all that "it's natural!" stuff makes it sound like marijuana justifications. - 9/18/2008   7:31:29 AM
  • 50
    I avoid as much proccessed food as possible and that includes HFCS, by it's very name you know it has been highly processed. Yes it takes reading lables but again I don't buy much processed food at all so it is really not a big deal. I rather eat my calories, savor thier flavors and textures, than drink them or have them sneaked into something else.
    - 9/18/2008   6:36:02 AM
  • 49
    I'm glad to see this article since i was quite appalled when I saw the commercials. I had given up all items wth HFCS, including my favorite yogurt, Yoplait. I now by the Yoplait imported from Korea because it does not have HFCS in it.
    HFCS is mainly used in the US and not in other countries, and I've lived in other countries most of my life, and in some countries like Mexico, the sugar comsumption was quite excessive, yet the rate of obesity is much higher in the US. I don't have anything against corn itself if it is eaten in its natural state, what upset me about the commercials is that they say it is made from natural ingredients but the corn is highly processed. I googled and discovered the highly chemical processing it goes through. The ingredients may be natural but the processing cannnot be good for you. - 9/18/2008   6:00:50 AM
  • 48
    It's a hard call- I don't think anything is /evil/ like that. but it's a huge impact that this stuff is in practically everything we eat. I'd like to have some foods without sugar, you know? I resent that they think I will only buy bread if it has corn sweetener in it. I resent that they tax the heck out of the Cane sugar I prefer, and pay the corn growers to make this stuff from corn that I would MUCH prefer to eat right off the cob! I don't think this is about HFCS being evil. It's about us wanting control over what we eat... and if we want to restrict something, and we find out it's 'hiding' in everything... why shouldn't we be outraged? We're consumers. We want to pay for what we want to buy- we don't want someone else telling us what we want. Right now, we want alternatives. :) That's fair. - 9/18/2008   5:21:35 AM
  • 47
    Well, there are times when I thank god I am allergic to the stuff. It is in everything however, which makes it difficult to find food that I can eat without being in pain afterwards (think lactose reaction, but with fructose). Bread has it, yogurt, cereal. Ice cream and pudding even.

    Go to trader joes, at least I can buy normal yogurt there, at the grocery store I can't find a single one w/o fructose now. - 9/18/2008   2:23:00 AM
  • 46
    This is my last thing and I'm done.

    My husband's father owns a steer farm and those steer are just as healthy as the next one. The actual standard steer feed is made from only 20% corn the rest is other grains. His dad also grows corn, and it's wonderful. We've all eaten it and we're all alright, not to mention Native Americans eat it like the Japanese eat rice, and they live long, healthy lives. When my husband was a kid, he used to eat it straight from the stalk (take it off and peel it then eat it). I actually did that myself at a different farm. Both of us have never had any health issues, and we still don't to this day. - 9/18/2008   1:15:07 AM
  • 45
    I try to avoid HFCS. I'm not 100% corn-syrup-free, but I do pay attention to the ingredients on the products that I buy and will choose a product without corn syrup over one that has it. - 9/18/2008   12:51:41 AM
  • 44
    I had been thinking about HFCS a lot after seeing the movie KING CORN, it is a documentary that takes a look at the corn production and use in America, some pretty disturbing stuff... - 9/18/2008   12:50:57 AM
  • 43
    Do you think it is possible for us to start a "grocery list" of items that do NOT contain HFCS or corn by-products. I have found this very difficult. Even the beef is loaded with corn because all of the cows are fed corn before they are butchered. Which by the way is horrible for them and winds up killing them if they are fed corn more than 120 days. The only thing I have found is Plain yogart and triscutts. And to be quite honest I have a really hard time reading the labels and knowing for sure if it contains any corn. You have HFCS, Corn syrup, Corn starch, Corn meal....those are the obvious ones. All of which are mostly made from what is called Field Corn. And from my understanding the farmers who grow it wouldn't feed that stuff to their dogs much less there families. Speaking of dogs their food is also LOADED with corn. How do we get away from this. The more studying I do the more frustrated I get.......and the government regulates it all. - 9/18/2008   12:04:29 AM
  • 42
    SSJ2GOHA, the book I recommended, ''Omnivore's Dilemma'' contains plenty of references to published studies. The writer is a journalist.

    Googling ''studies on HFCS'' I found these:
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/release
    s/2007/08/070823094819.htm

    http://www.foodnavigator.com/Scienc
    e-Nutrition/HFCS-not-to-blame-for-o
    besity-crisis-claims-study


    From the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition:
    http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/ful
    l/79/4/537


    From the Washington Post:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dy
    n/content/article/2008/03/06/AR2008
    030603294.html


    Nestled among many others, of course. There's a lot of information out there. - 9/17/2008   11:52:34 PM
  • SKINNYMINNYIN09
    41
    This is exactly what I thought when I saw this. I was looking up information on stevia about 3 weeks ago and ran across a site boasting about the natural goodness of HFCS. I was thinking, "Is this a joke?" Then I noticed who was sponsoring the site.
    Thanks for bringing this to the attention of us all. - 9/17/2008   11:51:05 PM
  • 40
    I have a food intolerance to corn and all corn products. I don't buy anything made with HFCS and I only buy products with organic corn for my family. I have found a lot of alternate foods for those I like that have HFCS. I have done a lot of reading and research.

    http://www.westonaprice.org/modernf
    ood/highfructose.html

    http://www.womentowomen.com/nutriti
    onandweightloss/highfructosecornsyr
    up.aspx

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hfcs
    http://babyandkidallergies.com/high
    _fructose_corn_syrup.php


    These websites have a bunch of information .. check them out. - 9/17/2008   11:37:32 PM

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