Do you care if your kids eat high-fructose corn syrup?

There is an epic battle being fought in science labs, Congress, on the TV airwaves and in your kitchen over the use of high-fructose corn syrup in everyday products, such as ketchup.

High-fructose corn syrup has been demonized by many as the reason our children are so obese. But it has also been cleared of any wrong doing by respected scientists.

Regular folks are protesting the ingredient on Facebook. The companies that produce and use corn syrup have defended their product in high-profile TV ad campaigns. (The ad goes something like: You’re not serving high-fructose corn syrup? Well why not? What’s wrong with it? Silence from the other person cause they don’t really know. They’ve just heard it’s bad.)

Some of companies are calling uncle and are removing it from their products.

The theory being that even if it’s not truly bad for you, if the perception is that it’s bad then why not just go ahead and replace it with real sugar. Well the reason is cost. Sugar costs about 40 percent more to use in a product than corn syrup.

Despite that cost increase, products like Hunt’s ketchup, Gatorade, several Kraft salad dressings, Wheat Thins, Ocean Spray and some Pepsi products are examples of companies switching back to sugar. (Some companies are absorbing the extra cost at least for now, just to get the high-fructose corn syrup label off their products.)

From The New York Times story:

“High-fructose corn syrup is singled out because it is still one of the biggest sources of calories in our diet and because it is made from corn — a lavishly subsidized crop that appears, in one way or another, in so much of our food….”

“According to the NPD Group, a market research firm, more than half of all Americans — 53 percent — now say they are concerned that high-fructose corn syrup may pose a health hazard, up from 40 percent in 2004….”

“Leading scientists, however, say that the product, made when various chemicals convert corn starch into syrup, is not any worse than sugar. Both sweeteners are made up of roughly equal amounts of glucose and fructose, they say….”

There are some advocates that still think corn syrup is the cause of obesity – they claim that our bodies don’t know how to metabolize it in such large quantities.

From The New York Times:

“In the recent Princeton study that gave support to his side, one group of rats was given access to high-fructose corn syrup, while another got sugar-sweetened drinks. The study found that rats that gulped lots of drinks with high-fructose corn syrup gained more weight than those that had the sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same.”

So where do you stand on the high-fructose corn syrup battle? Do you care if your kids are eating it? Did you realize it was in so many products – like ketchup and salad dressings? (I didn’t.) Are you confused enough by the argument that you would prefer it just be taken out to avoid any risk? Or do you feel like there’s not enough scientific support that it is bad to make you willing to pay more for sugar-based products?

88 comments Add your comment

Jeff

May 19th, 2010
6:51 am

This stuff doesn’t faze me. Get the kids outside and active, and you can pretty much feed them anything. Then again, the ones who are active tend to eat a little healthier, but I don’t know in which direction there is a cause and effect or if it’s nothing more than a statistical link.

mom2alex&max

May 19th, 2010
6:56 am

I agree with Jeff on this one. Of course healthy eating is important, but to me it is WAY more important that they be active.

motherjanegoose

May 19th, 2010
7:41 am

No comments on this topic…mark it down…lol.

DB

May 19th, 2010
7:49 am

Honestly, I don’t give a tinker’s damn about “high fructose corn syrup”, and I think those ads with the person asking, “What’s wrong with it?” are hilarious. It’s the cause du jour, and I can’t see how the syrup is going to be any worse or better than “real” sugar. There are always people who are going to get bent out of shape over something — and today, it’s HFCS. Tomorrow it will be something else, and the day after that, it will be something else. *Yawn*. No matter what I eat or when I eat it or how I prepare it, something I eat is apparently eventually gonna kill me, according to the news.

Anything will make you fat if you eat too much of it, or if you don’t have enough activity.

Photius

May 19th, 2010
8:16 am

ZZZZZZZZZZZZ…. My kid is skinny and is active in tennis. If your kid is porking out it’s not because of high fructose corn syrup.

Michelle

May 19th, 2010
8:33 am

I tend to agree with some of the others, if the kids are active, I don’t really think it’s going to be a big problem. The problems begin with a sedentary lifestyle!

Also, if the HCFS is eaten in moderation versus huge portions, it will also have less of an impact!

hlb

May 19th, 2010
8:36 am

The real issue with HFCS is the enormous subsidies the US gov’t pays to corn producers and the tariffs on imported sugar. I try to minimize the amount of HFCS my children consume because I don’t agree with the politics or economics of it. There is a pretty good documentary, King Corn, that discusses the topic..

HB

May 19th, 2010
8:43 am

I rarely eat it because I rarely eat processed foods and mostly cook at home. I wonder, though, about that 40% additional cost for sugar. I mean, in terms of the price of ingredients on the shelf, corn syrup may appear that much cheaper, but if you figure in corn subsidies from our tax dollars, we may be paying more than we think.

TechMom

May 19th, 2010
8:53 am

I have a bigger issue with th dyes that are put into food as they seem to have a bigger effect on kids, especially those with ADD/ADHD (not sure if it’s the cause but it definitely has an effect).

Replacing HFCS with sugar doesn’t really seem like something that would help with obesity. A sugar is a sugar when your body breaks it down and if you have too much of it, you’re going to gain weight. My issue is really the amount of all sugars that are in our foods (and quite frankly salt too). I think our taste buds get so accustomed to the extra salt and sugar that we don’t like anything that isn’t full of it.

motherjanegoose

May 19th, 2010
8:56 am

Off topic…

Hi all…corn syrup has been up for 2 hours and we have 8 posts, as I type. Things could certainly speed up later….it’s hard to tell.

The big news ( to me) today is that shaggy sent an apology my way and towards others ( who love the beach) at the end of yesterday’s vacation blog.
Thanks shaggy and also to those who validated that I am not the person that some, on this blog, perceive me to be.

RESUME the fun and enjoy your day!

JATL

May 19th, 2010
8:59 am

My entire family eats it, and I DO wish companies would go back to sugar, but the reason kids and everyone else is fat is because the calories taken in exceed the calories burned. Don’t live on junk and sweets, exercise and get your kids to PLAY OUTSIDE -or inside running around and being active or into sports.

@TechMom -I agree about the dyes. We eat food with dyes, and I tried a dye-free diet for my oldest who definitely exhibits some signs of ADHD (although at 4, I tend to think he’s just a VERY wound up boy with tons of energy), and it didn’t change anything, but I don’t think huge amounts of food dye are really very good for us.

Wayne

May 19th, 2010
9:00 am

@TechMom: Dyes have an effect on kids with ADD/ADHD? I’m curious about that… I know it’s a bit off-topic, but I have two boys with ADHD, so I’m interested in what the story is.

DB

May 19th, 2010
9:01 am

@hlb, the economies of corn crops is interesting, because of such an interdependent chain on corn and feed for the massive amount of meat that Americans consume compared to the rest of the world. America produces the vast majority of the world’s corn crop, with only 15-20% of it being exported. Presumably, the tax subsidies also keep down the cost of other foodstuffs, such as meat and starches that go into other foods. I’m pretty sure that, in this economy, people aren’t going to want to see an across-the-board increase in food.

The Princeton study indicated that, in rats that are fed the same calories of HFCS compared to sugar, the HFCS rats gained more weight, because of the way the rat’s metabolism handled HFCS compared to the carbohydrates in sugar. The study hasn’t been replicated, though.

Lori

May 19th, 2010
9:07 am

Too much of anything is bad for you. I’m not sure there is enough data yet to support the theory that’s it’s bad, but I do wish they didn’t have to put it in everything. It’s a real task to try to buy food without sweeteners in them. Try finding a loaf of bread that doesn’t contain sugar!! Crazy. Why do we need so much sugar and salt for our food to taste good?

fred(with a lowercase f)

May 19th, 2010
9:18 am

I agree with hlb on this one (and King Corn is a great movie) Corn seems to be just taking over alot of arable land in this country because of the subsidies. Apart from that, I am trying to eat and feed my family with products that are processed as minimally as possible, where I have the choice. Now this does not mean that I wont enjoy a snickers bar, but if I have the choice between peanut butter that contains HFCS and one that does not, I am going for the sugary (although I made my own one time and it was tons better than any store bought, it just took a long time to make) The same goes with Organic foods and foods bought straight from the farmer. I will take those any day over store bought.

TailaMarie

May 19th, 2010
9:21 am

Eating in moderation is key. However studies have shown that high fructose corn syrup lacks something very important. When we eat things that contain sugar our stomache will eventually send a signal to our brain that says “Okay, you’ve had enough sugar. Stop”. Corn syrup lacks that chemical signal. So our bodies don’t know when we’ve had “enough”. That’s my main issue with corn syrup. Babies and toddlers are used to depending on their bodies to tell them when enough is enough so they’re more likely to eat more of something containing HFCS then if they ate the same product containing sugar.

Damn the extra cost. I’ll buy something at contains sugar instead of HFCS if I can find it. If I can’t then I monitor how much of it my family eats.

JJ

May 19th, 2010
9:23 am

Don’t get me started on HFCS (which I understand comes naturally in corn)…..but while we’re at it, let’s discuss Hydrongenated (sp) oils (TRANS FATS). Most products now tout No Trans Fats, but they are hidden in hydrogenated oils. Read the label on your butter. If you buy that Country Crock crap, read what the first or second ingredient is. Try REAL BUTTER.

READ THE LABELS. If you are really concerned…..

TailaMarie

May 19th, 2010
9:24 am

Oh, I’ll try to findthe link to that study and post it later!!

motherjanegoose

May 19th, 2010
9:27 am

@ JJ…lol…my brother in law ( from Wisconsin) has called margarine vaseline….

FCM

May 19th, 2010
9:28 am

Watch the HFCS commercials carefully. “In moderation, as part of a balanced diet.” That is true of most things. However since HFCS is tucked away in almost every convience food/packaged food, it is unlikely to be in moderation in the average diet.

V for Vendetta

May 19th, 2010
9:31 am

I think the government should ban it. They should ban anything they think is not appropriate for us because we are incapable of deciding for ourselves.

TechMom

May 19th, 2010
9:44 am

@Wayne, I think the jury is still out on what causes ADD/ADHD but I think as a parent of child with it, you start to notice ‘trends’. I don’t know if it’s all dyes or dyes in combination with something else (like HFCS) or even if it’s just the way the foods that tend to have dyes are processed. There are lots of studies and theories that suggest food may cause the symtpoms of ADD/ADHD to be worse; same with Autism and Asperger’s. Again, I don’t know that the dyes and sugars cause these problems or symptoms but they seem to influence the symptoms at a minimum. I am not a proponent of medicating children, especially at such young ages so we really tried to find alternative solutions to help our son and his diet did seem to have an effect. As a side note, I think we coped with his ADD through elementary school by doing some of these things but in the end, he still has ADD. At the age of 12, we finally decided to try medication; because, as I told my husband, it was either him or me but I couldn’t deal with it anymore.

It’s funny though because I was just sitting here thinking about some of things that we wouldn’t allow our son to eat when he was little (he’s now 15). One thing that would send him over the edge with his behavior and ability to focus was chocolate milk. Every time he ate the cafeteria lunch at school, he would get in trouble after lunch. We finally had to stop him from getting chocolate milk. So I just thought hmm, I wonder what the ingredients are in chocolate syrup… you guessed it- #1 ingredient: HFCS.

JATL

May 19th, 2010
9:46 am

@JJ -no kidding about butter! If people truly understood how horrible most margarines and pseudo-butters are for them, they would pick up the real thing every time.

JJ

May 19th, 2010
9:46 am

Why worry about it, when you dope your kids up with sodas, juice, etc. I see two year old kids with cokes or sweet tea in their sippy cups. I see their parents buying them cokes at the restaurants I go to at lunch. My neighbor’s granddaughter, 2 years old, eats candy, drinks sodas, etc., ALL DAY LONG. Before breakfast the other day she already had 2 popsicles, and a bowl of frozen yogurt. They will give her 6 ice cream sandwiches in one day. And they don’t brush her teeth either. That child comsumes more sugar in one day, than I do in a month. I get a cavity just sitting next to her. LOL…. They never feed her healthy foods, like lunch and dinner. It’s junk food allllllll day long. Whatever she wants, when she wants it. DISGUSTING!!!! She;ll polish off an ice cream sandwich, then go for the bag of chips. And they keep everything in the lower cabinets so she can access it whenever.

I swear……I asked gramma why? She said, I can’t stand the thought of being mean to my granddaughter. So there you go…..she’lll be fat and have no teeth. God forbid you say NO to her once in a while…..

Raul

May 19th, 2010
9:52 am

I don’t like HFCS because of the gluey slimy greasy mouth-feel and taste.
Try a Coke with the yellow cap ( available around passover) right next to one of the corn syrup ones.
you’ll be looking for the yellow caps from then on.

Colleen

May 19th, 2010
10:16 am

Wake up all of you who don’t care. Calories and weight are not the issue. High fructose corn syrup is formed in labratories not nature. i am so amazed that we keep our kitchens so clean and fill them with chemicals. You should care what you are giving your children and what you are eating yourselves. My husband lost a ton of weight after we stopped using these products and made no other changes to our diet. We are now soda free and may I add allergy free and feeling better than ever. The food makers want you not to care because it is cheaper for them.

hlb

May 19th, 2010
10:46 am

@Colleen, so was your family allergy sufferers before eliminating HFCS?

Yes, I care

May 19th, 2010
10:52 am

Of course I care.

Would you care if your child was eating poison? But only a tiny amount several times a day?

CornRefiner

May 19th, 2010
11:07 am

@hlb Sugar & honey are the only caloric sweeteners that benefit directly from government support. High fructose corn syrup is not subsidized http://bit.ly/9Esx2Y

Consumers can see the latest research and learn more about high fructose corn syrup at http://www.SweetSurprise.com.

Audrae Erickson, Corn Refiners Association

CornRefiner

May 19th, 2010
11:08 am

@TailaMarie Researchers agree the body metabolizes HFCS the same as sugar. More info here: http://bit.ly/dkpk6H

Consumers can see the latest research and learn more about high fructose corn syrup at http://www.SweetSurprise.com.

Audrae Erickson, Corn Refiners Association

CornRefiner

May 19th, 2010
11:11 am

As many dietitians agree, all sugars should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced lifestyle.

There has been significant confusion about just how much high fructose corn syrup is contained in everyday foods. It is true that this highly versatile ingredient performs numerous functions besides sweetening that make it useful in many food preparations. But it does so in most cases using very small amounts. How small? Well, taking bran cereal as an example, Americans would need to eat 87 bowls in a single day to reach the recommended daily allowance of added sugars from high fructose corn syrup. For bread, they would need to eat 39 slices. For spaghetti sauce – 20 servings. For salad dressing – 50 servings.

Consumers can see the latest research and learn more about high fructose corn syrup at http://www.SweetSurprise.com.

Audrae Erickson, Corn Refiners Association

CornRefiner

May 19th, 2010
11:22 am

To remove sweeteners entirely from their commonly used applications would drastically alter product flavor, require the use of chemical preservatives to ensure product quality and freshness, result in a reduction in perceived food quality (bran cereal with the caloric sweeteners removed would have the consistency of sawdust), and would likely require the addition of bulking agents to provide the expected texture, mouth feel or volume for most baked goods.

The American Heart Association recently acknowledged the role of sweeteners in a healthy diet noting, “In fact, when sugars are added to otherwise nutrient-rich foods, such as sugar-sweetened dairy products like flavored milk and yogurt and sugar-sweetened cereals, the quality of children’s and adolescents’ diets improves, and in the case of flavored milks, no adverse effects on weight status were found.” (American Heart Association. 2009. Dietary Sugars Intake and Cardiovascular Health. Circulation 120:1011-1020. http://bit.ly/cPNHxc)

Audrae Erickson, Corn Refiners Association

DB

May 19th, 2010
11:30 am

@JATL — I love butter and despise margarine or “spreads” — there’s nothing like it. I was watching “Julie and Julia” the other night, and marveling at all the butter that was being used — but as Julie commented, “Is there anything better than butter? Think it over, any time you taste something that’s delicious beyond imagining and you say ‘what’s in this?’ the answer is always going to be butter. The day there is a meteorite rushing toward Earth and we have thirty days to live, I am going to spend it eating butter. Here is my final word on the subject, you can never have too much butter.” That really resonated with me! :-)

CornRefiner

May 19th, 2010
11:31 am

In regards to the Princeton study, we encourage your readers to see what others have to say: (There is a full list of links to these articles here: http://bit.ly/axQ03b)

“The researchers concluded ‘over-consumption of HFCS could very well be a major factor in the ‘obesity epidemic,’ which correlates with the upsurge in the use of HFCS.’ It might be. But to my mind, these experiments hardly prove it.” Karen Kaplan, Science Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times

“This study is poorly designed and poorly controlled and does not prove or even suggest that HFCS is more likely to lead to obesity than sucrose [table sugar].” Karen Teff, Ph.D., Associate Director, Institute for Diabetes, Obesity & Metabolism, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

“What’s more, a host of studies by and large fail to prove the obesity claim” Robert Davis – Healthy Skeptic

“So, I’m skeptical. I don’t think the study produces convincing evidence of a difference between the effects of HFCS and sucrose on the body weight of rats. I’m afraid I have to agree with the Corn Refiners on this one.” Marion Nestle, Ph.D., Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health, New York University

When talking about the switching of high fructose corn syrup to sugar, Monica Reinagel, M.S., LD/N talks about the implications on public health and obesity – “If people consume cane-sugar-sweetened foods and beverages at the same rate that they currently consume HFCS-sweetened products, it will have no effect whatsoever.”

Audrae Erickson, Corn Refiners Association

HB

May 19th, 2010
11:47 am

Wow, Theresa. You’re getting a lot of attention from K St today (or nearby, anyway). How are things over at Farragut Sq, CornRefiner?

Corn refining isn’t subsidized, but growing corn is and then you need something to do with it, which may be why too much is made into HFCS and too much is fed to cows that should be eating grass. And anyone who has baked cookies and cakes at home with traditional recipes (or picked up a Cakelove cupcake) can tell you taste and mouth feel are wonderful with sugar and butter, rather than corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. People didn’t always eat this way. We adjusted to the flavors of overprocessed foods, and we can adjust right back. And the low sugar (I totally agree a little is needed), high fiber, HFCS-free, whole grain cereals that I buy taste great! I do love corn, though — fresh off the cob in summer!

Jay

May 19th, 2010
12:16 pm

Show me a High Fructose Corn Syrup plant, growing in a field, and I’ll have no problems eating it.

shaggy

May 19th, 2010
12:27 pm

HFCS ruined my guilty pleasure: DR Pepper.
There is still one bottler in Dublin Texas (one of the few reasons to go to Texas) that makes the cane syrup recipe. The last time I craved it enough to buy a case, I think it was about $16.00 a case. It really tastes like the ones I drank as a kid. The other ones (HFCS) absolutey don’t taste like a Dr Pepper should.
This is the same with Coca-Cola, which is one of two reasons old timers talk about the “good” cokes they used to get. The other reason was the original coke recipe had cocaine in it, so those “good cokes” really did pack a punch that caffiene can’t touch.

FCM

May 19th, 2010
12:35 pm

HB don’t take this wrong: I love you.

Well said as usual.

HB

May 19th, 2010
12:41 pm

Right back atchya, FCM.

Fencesitter

May 19th, 2010
1:03 pm

I was on the fence on whether or not this was good or bad until I read the information put out by the representatives of the Corn Refining lobby. I mean, they would have no reason to give half truths or to hide information. If the lobby organization representing the refiners of Corn Syrup say refined Corn Syrup is good for me, then it must be!

TwinMomFromPS

May 19th, 2010
1:20 pm

I think a lot of other posters here have hit the nail on the head – the main issue is not necessarily that HFCS is “bad” for you. The main issue is that we need to read the labels on our food. HFCS is no more bad for you than sugar is, but there is too much of both in processed and convenience foods. It is entirely too easy to injest way too may sugar- or HFCS-laden calories without even thinking about it.

I am insulin-resistant, so I have to be very careful about my sugar intake. You would be SHOCKED at what foods contain sugar that you wouldn’t even realize. Someone earlier pointed out ketchup – it never even occurred to me that ketchup had HFCS in it until I had to start reading food labels a lot more closely due to my medical issue.

As for my kids, I do watch their sugar intake, as I fear they will develop the same disorder I have later in life. We stick to unsweetened or sugar free fruit juices, applesauce, etc. There are some areas where we can’t avoid it (bread even has HFCS or sugar in it, after all), but we try to keep it as under control as possible.

JATL

May 19th, 2010
1:28 pm

@ DB -love that movie! I think so much that we’re finally realizing about our food is that we SHOULD eat the way our grandparents (and for some of us our parents) ate. For years we’ve marveled at how they would eat bacon and eggs and grits loaded with butter in the mornings, casseroles ,roasts, fried chicken and fish and cold salads laden with mayonnaise at lunch and at night, but weren’t obese. Many, MANY of them have also lived and are living quite a long time. Yes, part of that is due to modern medical technology, but given how many of them also chain-smoked and never thought twice about other chemicals, their food obviously wasn’t the devil we thought it was.

The “slow food” and “foodie” movements are all about going back to the land, locally grown, and prepared using minimal additives. If you eat pure food and work hard or walk a lot and get some exercise, then you’re probably going to be fine. I would like to see a study of how a bowl of natural, additive free grits or oatmeal w/ butter and a sprinkling of salt, pepper or sugar with a side of bacon is metabolized compared to a large bowl of kid’s sugary and dye-filled breakfast cereal and non-organic or hormone-laden milk. The first choice has far more fat and a few more calories, but what keeps you full longer? How many fewer empty calories do you consume later on because you’re still full instead of being hungry in an hour? How many fewer chemicals or engineered foods do you take in with the “supposedly” bad breakfast?

Like I said before, I buy and eat things containing HFCS -and so do my kids -but I would greatly prefer natural sugar or cane syrup, and I would pay more for it. The people posting about the soft drinks are SO right! One of the reasons to drink LOTS of Coke in Mexico -other than the tap water! In the end, simple is almost always better.

JATL

May 19th, 2010
1:29 pm

@Theresa -you should post the information with this topic about how they’ve linked pesticide residue and behavior disorders in kids. It was a news story a few days ago. Another reason to buy organic -regular frozen blueberries still contain 25% of the pesticide residue! Cancer, anyone?

but

May 19th, 2010
1:31 pm

corn makes whiskey….

JJ

May 19th, 2010
1:43 pm

@TwinmomatPS – I understand the need for watching sugar, but do you really want artifical sweetners in your diet and your kids too. Sugar free means artifical sweetners.

Unsweetened is the way to go, or just drink water instead of all that artifical crap.

JJ

May 19th, 2010
1:45 pm

I grow my own veggies and I do not use any fertlizer or pestisides or anything at all. I just put them in the potting soil and let them grow. I water them when they need it, but other than that I don’t do a thing to my plants.

My garden is in the back yard, so no deer can get to the crops. I use hair from my brush to keep the rabbits away. I plant Marigolds around the borders of the beds, which is a natural bug repellant.

It can be done.

and..

May 19th, 2010
1:45 pm

whiskey makes my baby a little frisky..

yet...

May 19th, 2010
1:53 pm

all of the beer that some on here talk about drinking on a regular basis isn’t bad for you

TwinMomFromPS

May 19th, 2010
1:55 pm

JJ – I should probably clarify – my kids do not get artificial sweeteners as a general rule (unless they are not with me – I cannot vouch for what the grandparents might give them. Ha!). Unsweetened is our usual MO.

The sugar-free comment was mostly regarding my own eating habits – I am a coffee-holic, and I have to have some sort of sweetener in in my cup. I’ve tried honey and stevia, but have not liked the flavor, so I usually use Splenda. My kids rarely (RARELY) eat anything with artificial sweeteners in them.

More often than not, my kids drink either organic milk, unsweetened tea, or water. Thankfully, they have not taken after their mother and developed a crippling sweet tooth.

irisheyes

May 19th, 2010
2:00 pm

I try to cut back as much as I can, but the PPs are right. It’s in EVERYTHING!! I’m glad that more and more companies are providing an alternative to HFCS. I don’t let my kids eat too much sugary foods, but it’s hard to keep the HFCS away when it’s hidden in things like whole wheat bread.