Consider the Source: Corn Syrup Ads

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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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YMWONG22 12/31/2019
Good article. Report
I try to avoid anything with corn or corn syrup in it. GMO people, GMO!!!! I don't know about you but I prefer not to be some unwitting science experiment for a company who didn't even care about the effects Agent Orange had on 1 the soldiers using it and 2 the innocent people who had to live through the Vietnam War, oh and children over in Vietnam are still be born with Agent Orange birth defects. Report
Cane sugar and HFCS are not the same chemically or metabolically. Cane sugar is mainly a disaccharide with one molecule of sucrose and one of fructose. HFCS is a mixture of sucrose and fructose. In cane sugar two monosaccharides are joined to form a disaccharide while in HFCS they are not. Report
HFCS is sugar made from corn. No different from cane sugar or beet sugar, and much safer than sugar substitutes. Report
BEWARE! It is now legal for processed food manufacturers to use "corn syrup" instead of "high fructosecorn syrup" on lists of ingredients that appear on packaged foods!

I don't buy anything that lists either as an ingredient.

Recently, in our local newspaper, I saw an editorial that stated there was nothing harmful in HFCS, and that it was identical to sugar in every way. !!!!!!! I wondered who paid this person to send the letter in ???????? Report
Franz BBQ buns and Hunts Ketchup are two that do NOT have HFCS in them. I have written to them to commend their not using HFCS in their product(s). It is very hard to find food that does not have HFCS (especially if you're on a tight budget). I plan to avoid HFCS whenever I can. Support companies who do NOT use HFCS by buying their product(s) and, also, writing to let them know they have your support. Report
I'm glad I've started making a lot of my own foods now. Until I joined Spark People I had no idea how much unhealthy stuff was in our foods. I must say though I am not surprised. They wonder why there is so much obesity in the United States. Report
For giggles the other day I picked up a bottle of ketchup & read the ingredients list, ir had HFCS AND corn syrup in it! Good grief! I've even had to go to making my own mayo as I couldn't find one without HFCS! I'll pass thank you, and eat more real foods. Report
The Pepsi Throwback tastes sooo different from regular Pepsi. It's got a couple other ingredients missing as well, but it tastes so much better. Even my fiance, who loves Pepsi, prefers the Throwback. Hopefully this'll get people to realize HFCS doesn't have to be in everything and anything. Report
These ads drove me crazy. They seem to have stopped running (or maybe I just haven't seen them recently, and I'm being overly optimistic) ... My kids brace themselves to make me stop grouching at the TV every time I see one. Personally, I've banned the stuff from my pantry shelves entirely. It's been a bit tricky finding groceries without it, but as I go along I'm finding things. Report
When the recent peanut butter recall occurred, many people reacted by throwing out all of their peanut butter-containing products. Now, people are reacting by throwing out all of their HFCS-containing products. We can eat more wisely, but we can also research for ourselves.
The studies which found the mercury in HFCS seem to have been done in 2005, and they concentrated on the "total" amount of mercury found in one sample each of 35 products; 17 of them had mercury. They did not distinguish between "elemental mercury" and "methylmercury", nor did they prove that the mercury found came from the HFCS, though it was one of the common ingredients. They also did not distinguish between the total amount of mercury found and the amount considered "safe" - i.e., you might have to eat 100 lbs of ketchup daily to have a toxic dose.
In the meantime, the American HFCS industry has changed its processing methods, and no longer uses mercury to make caustic soda. It would be interesting to see the results of current comparable testing. More interesting, however, would be knowing the source of the HFCS currently being used. Does it come from American processors? If so, then the product may very well be "safe" to consume (not saying it's "good for you"). However, if the HFCS comes from a foreign source (think China), there is probably very good reason to be concerned (think melamine in baby formula). My guess is we're reacting to the wrong thing. Report
Just google "what's wrong with corn syrup" and you'll read what's wrong with it! Report
Our roommate's dr. told him that HFCS was bad for his liver so we try to avoid it. I guess it is harder for the liver to breakdown. Report
I totally agree with the ads. It's all in moderation. You say it's in "everything". Then guess what? You'll just have to eat "everything" in MODERATION. Report
i have no problem with Corn Syrup. i use it every year in my Fudge for Christmas. I have HUGE problems with corn syrup that has been altered to become HIGH FRUCTOSE Corn Syrup. As a family we avoid it like the plague.

thank you for bringing this up. I knew i couldnt possibly be the only one seeing through the media. Report
I've seen the ads on TV. One person is trying to tell another why HFCS is "bad" and can only stutter incoherently, "uh, well ummmm, uh..." without giving an answer. The the other actor looks pityingly at the moron and explains how HFCS is "nutritionally the same as sugar and fine in moderation".

How about they feature a registered dietitian to tell why HFCS is bad instead of the idiot who can't put two words together?

What BS propaganda! Report
I never realized how bad HFCS was until reading these comments. I just had three mini panic attacks after I dug out my lunch containers from the trash to read their ingredients and saw that they all had HFCS. It's everywhere! Thank you for this. I'll be on the lookout for it now. Report
I work in a grocery store and if I am craving certain foods I just walk around and look at the calories and realize it just isn't worth it but now I also look at the ingredients and you would be amazed at all the things that have high fructose corn syrup in it. It is crazy some of the strangest things have hfcs in it it and I am just amazed. Report
You should always look at the fine print and find the source. Also, ALWAYS keep an eye out for bias. The media has an agenda, that is their job. Report
Note the point about HFCS being the cheapest way to sweeten foods. So if we forced manufacturers to eliminate HFCS, they would start using table sugar instead. I GUARANTEE that if manufacturers made the switch from HFCS to table sugar but didn't change anything else, the obesity problem would still be there, but our food would cost more (maybe people would eat less sugary foods this way?). It's not HFCS itself that is the problem, it is any sugar (cane, beet, honey, corn, or fruit), it's just that HFCS is the most used sugar in our foods today. My homemade bread recipe? Calls for sugar - most American breads do. It's not that the fructose in corn syrup is metabolized any differently than fructose found in fruit, it's just that you'd have to eat a LOT of apples - all at once - to get the fructose equivalent of drinking a soda. Your body might get sugar shocked but at least you wouldn't be hungry anymore. The lesson is just to eat as healthy as possible - ditch the soda, sweet drinks, cookies, candy, and other processed sweets, like SparkPeople says to. If you do, the relatively small amount of HFCS in your yogurt and bread is not going to make you fat. Check out this article

By the way, I do not work for the corn industry - I'm a chemistry tutor for a homeschool group. Report
I love the ad with the kids putting on a school play. One kid is an apple, one kid is a bunch of grapes and then you have a globby, goopy, drippy sticky pile of High Fructose Corn Syrup- yuck! Not natural--definitely processed. Report
I find it ironic that the rise in obesity in America started about the same time that manufacturers started using HFCS. I would bet that a thorough study would indicate a change in the way our bodies metabolize food with HFCS.

Getting funding for such a study though would be nearly impossible, because the logical place to get such funding would be from the very manufacturers who are using this additive. Report
I just looked up CRA and left a message for them.

If you'd like to contact them or ask them any questions here's their url: Report
And we just keep getting lied to!
Corn is good. Chemically altered corn is not. And there are so many side effects to prove it. Moderation? What exactly do they consider moderation? I wouldn't be able to consume one of those stupid popsicles without getting a headache afterwards. I'm so glad we've cancelled our TV service! Report
I couldn't help but laugh when I first saw those commercials promoting the "moderate" use of HFCS. Especially when HFCS is a staple in a majority of processed foods - excluding organics. Report
You know, most things in moderation are ok...but at the same time, when an ad has to tell you it's ok in moderation, isn't that about the same thing as telling you , WATCH OUT!? Report
I read through the comments and thought, "HFCS, that's something I haven't checked for. Sure would be nice to drop 15 pounds," and went to check my foods. There's good and bad news. My lifestyle changes must already be pretty evident in my food. There is only one thing I eat regularly that has HFCS: my yogurt, and I eat it every day. I already tried to switch to unsweetened yogurt, but I just did not like it. I tried a whole bunch of yogurts lately and landed with the Yoplait light. And there I will stay. So, HFCS...fine in moderation. I think I'll accept their motto. ;) Report
We try to stay away from that. Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to completely eliminate it from our diet. If you have children you will know what I mean. I want my children to understand healthy eating but not to deprive them so much that they go crazy once they have a change to get their hands on some junk food. Report
I may be absurd but I don't completely disagree with these ads. I think it's OUR problem that we consume too much quantity of the products with HFCS in it, it's not that it's going to kill us in one swoop. So instead of beating up an industry, people should instead be attacking their own diet. Report
Please. What next? A pro-arsenic campaign? Report
Just wondering.....why is it that most foods have to have HFCS, sugar, Spendar, Equal or Sweet N Low? What's wrong with the natural taste of food? Report
Two and a half years ago my husband and I made a conscious decision not to use products containing high fructose corn syrup. We went through the pantry and refrigerator and threw everything out that contained high fructose corn syrup. I also cut out all the whites from our diet. We won’t be going back – we have never felt better and the kids are doing so much better. I have better ways of spending my money. Report
My brother has eliminated HFCS from his diet and lost about 25 pounds by doing so. He has always told me it's bad but I never really listened to him. This blog entry has really opened my eyes and proved my brother knows what he is talking about. I need to start eliminating HFCS from my son's diet and mine too. Report
It may seem like a pain, but it's worth the effort. I read every label of every food item I buy. if there is HFCS in it, I try to find an alternative in the whole foods section or another brand without it. For years, the cereal in my pantry has been free of HFCS and hydrogenated fats. As it turns out, my 3 and 5yr old boys won't eat the sugary stuff and specifically ask for mommy's cereal, if we are at a family member's home. We don't usually buy soda or sugar drinks, just the 100% juice juices. Once you learn to spot this ingredient and find the foods without it, shopping will become less challenging or time consuming. Report
My best approach is to avoid processed foods as much as possible. Easier when you're retired like me! When you make it yourself you control what you put into your mouth. Still looking for a good granola bar recipe without HFCS. Report
It's everywhere! I'm trying to make my children more aware of it but they're getting older and when I'm not around, I don't know what they're putting into their bodies. Report
DH and I have moved away from products containing HFCS as well. Although, I admit, every so often I've got to have a Sprite. :) I sometimes purchase the Mexican sodas b/c they arent as sweet as other sodas and since I usu drink water, most sodas are too sweet for me. We also carefully watch what our 1 year old eats. My ILs roll their eyes at us, but hey...he's our kid.

Off to do some more research for my own piece of mind b/c those commercials have me doubting what I've been told. Report
I noticed HFCS about 10 years ago when a woman from Brazil came to work with me. She said, "what's that sweet taste in all the food here?" I started buying things without all the added sugar. Now that I know it's metabolized differently, I try to avoid it as much as possible. A natural food store is a good place to start if you're trying to eliminate HFCS from your diet. Report
It is hard to eliminate them but I'm trying. They are in everything. Even stuff you think is good for you like the Fiber One bars my family likes.
I have found a couple of breads, Aunt Milly's and Arnold's Dutch Country, that do not contain HFCS. I especially love the Arnold's Dutch Country Double Fiber because it is 199% whole wheat and has 4 grams of fiber in each slice. Report
When I was a kid we used "KARO SYRUP" all the time and it is HFCS, but "who knew?" LOL Report
These ads are worse than most lies that commercials sell us on. Most are just misleading or enticing, but these seem to outright lie.
However, my first complaint with the ad wasn't what it was pushing, but the first mom being so brazen and rude saying I guess you just let your kids eat anything! HAHA. If I was the second mom I would have said "oh, well I guess you don't want me to mix in the vodka, and I should probably go get the cigarettes out of the goody bags" Report
We actually started ditching the HFCS and all corn fillers because my daughter was diagnosed with a corn allergy. It was amazing how much better we all felt after removing the fillers from our diet and my husband and I each lost about 15 pounds without even trying. It was after that that we started researching HFCS and it's effects because we realized JUST HOW MUCH we had to remove from our cabinets and fridge. Seriously, I have 75% or more of our food to a food bank and shelter.

For those doubting thomases, do your research. HFCS causes the insulin receptors to malfunction because it is not a naturally occuring substance. Because they malfunction, the proper chemicals don't get released and your brain doesn't get the signal that you ate, so you feel hungry even though you just ate.

As for the lobbiests, they are loud but we can be louder. If the public demands better quality food then manufacturers will eventually have to listen. It irritates me that they have scrapped the plans for 3 ethanol plants in our area because the "need" for food corn is too high to compete with the cost. At least that's the excuse. Personally I'd rather put the corn in my car's gas tank than my own. Report
I am constantly amazed at how hard it is to find foods without HFCS! I try to avoid it if I can, but sometimes it's in foods I really love. I figure as long as I'm reducing the intake, that's better than not reducing at all. Report
I am making my own bread to make sure of what is in it. Report
Pepperidge Farm Whole Grain soft honey whole wheat was the only loaf of bread in the entire bread aisle I could find that didn't have hfcs. And it tastes yummy. Report
I was upset to see the ads on TV. I think we are going a step backwards in this country. We are wanting health care reform and this is not getting us anywhere closer to it. If you go to Europe HFCS is not in their food for a reason. America is all about the fattening of the pocket book and not the health and concern of the people. Report
HFCS is not natural since it was processed to become what it is. If I want sweet I think its better to use sugar. Now thats natural! For the most part I read my food labels and stay away from HFCS. Dr. Oz (the "You" series Dr.) says HFCS contributes to heart disease and speed the ageing process. Report
I just concentrate on eating more fresh foods. I don't understand the point in buying more expensive processed foods just because they don't have HFCS in them. If you cut down on processed foods in general and you don't have to be so obsessed about it. Report
I'm really against HFCS. I've read articles and heath news articles about this for several years now. It's been one of the scapegoats for the cause of America's obesity epidemic. Over the past 10-15 years its been added to more and more foods. It's really hard to find foods without out.
I understand why food companies use it. Its cheaper number one, and its sweeter than sugar. I've seen some foods that even have sugar and HFCS both.
This is why I have heard it is so bad for us: I have read that although it comes from a natural source that the way it is made/processed causes it to have an unnatural makeup. When our body consumes this HFCS it has a harder time breaking it down for quick energy so its then stored as fat. It would make sense that if HFCS was more easily stored as fat and that so many foods had it, then we would be a fatter people as a whole.
Of course the people who sell corn syrup would post million dollar ads to say likewise. They have a lot to lose. I find it funny that they say HFCS like sugar is ok in moderation. How can we be moderate in HFCS when its in so many foods? we have little control in that aspect.
I would be curious to hear about future studies and HFCS other than just the way it more easliy turned to fat.
Have a great day people Report