Monday, August 23, 2010

High Fructose Corn Syrup

Dr. Jim Laidler has a blog post over at Science Based Medicine that gives a summary of actual evidence concerning high fructose corn syrup (HFCS.)

As a corn farmer, I am partially responsible for HFCS since I help grow the corn that makes production of this sweetener so inexpensive and therefore omnipresent.  So I care about the scientific evidence that ought to drive whatever debates revolve around the use of HFCS.  I care because this can effect a use for the product I grow and therefore can potentially effect me financially, but even more because I cringe at the accusation of helping to produce something that is inherently harmful to my nation.

Much of the debate about HFCS has struck me a playing off public fears and providing little more than correlative comparisons between Europe and America, that have never struck me as being compelling arguments.  Dr. Laidler's article takes a different approach, comparing the actual content of various "sugars" including HFCS and its alternatives like cane suger.  The whole article is absolutely worth reading and I recommend you do so.  But I'm going to spoil the ending by quoting from it below:

So, what are the take-home messages from all of this? 
  1. HFCS 42 and HFCS 55 have essentially the same amount of fructose, as a fraction of their total sugar, as honey, sucrose (cane or beet sugar) or maple syrup/sugar (to be agonizingly precise, HFCS has slightly less, and HCFS 55 has slightly more).
  2. HFCS 42 and HFCS 55 have an equal or smaller amount of fructose, as a fraction of their total sugar, as many commonly consumed fruits.
  3. Agave syrup has higher fructose content than any type of HFCS except HFCS 90. 
For people who are worried about their health or their children’s health — and who isn’t, these days — the data suggest that the best choice is to reduce intake of all sweeteners containing fructose. That includes not only the evil HFCS, but also natural cane sugar, molasses (which is just impure cane sugar), brown sugar (ditto) and honey. Even “unsweetened” (no addedsugar) fruit juices need to be considered when limiting your family’s fructose intake. 
Finally, the best nutritional advice is to eat everything in moderation — and that includes sweets. While a diet high in fructose may increase your risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease — maybe — a fructose-free diet is not guaranteed to prevent those diseases. Eat a variety of foods, including a small amount of sweets, get enough exercise, watch your (and your children’s) weight and see your doctor for regular health check-ups. 
And stop worrying that HFCS is poisoning you and your children. 


Anne said...

The Corn Refiners Association has been doing serious work on this issue. This is a link to their Myth vs. Fact page:

Billtannica said...

Great link. Thanks, Anne