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Weekly Diet News Digest

by John McGran, Columnist

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The whole high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) controversy has taken on a life of its own. As my good friend Kerry McLeod, the chief brand doctor at eBrandAid.com says, "It can be quite maddening!"

The issue has turned into a “He Said/She Said/They Said” whirlwind of misinformation that’s extremely confusing at times.

What is clear is that Kerry and the Brand Doctors are far from sweet on this stuff.

"For years now, food experts have been warning consumers about the dangers of HFCS," Kerry says. "Many feel it plays a major role in the obesity epidemics plaguing America and its youth.

"We at eBrandAid.com are hoping consumers have been listening and opting for the brands that don’t contain this sweetener. In our opinion, consuming less HFCS would be good for the nation’s health."

The Corn Refiners Association’s (CRA) recently launched their $20 million ad campaign aimed at making over the not-so-sweet image of HFCS.

CRA Core Messaging: High fructose corn syrup is natural since it’s made from corn and has no artificial ingredients. It has the same calories as sugar, so it’s okay to eat in moderation.

This approach is simple and to the point. But is it true?

Decoding the Fine Print

For starters, we agree that all sugary foods should be consumed in moderation.

Unfortunately, HFCS has crept into just about EVERYTHING we eat or drink â€" from salad dressings, to yogurts, to breads and cookies, jams, barbecue sauce, and soft drinks.

If you’re not carefully reading food labels, odds are you’re being stalked by HFCS and consuming it all day long without knowing it. So much for moderate consumption!

"Sorry, but no amount of advertising can convince our food sleuths that this stuff is Mother Nature-approved natural," Kerry says.

"HFCS doesn't actually exist anywhere in nature. It’s a manufactured product created by using enzymes to increase the fructose content of corn syrup to about 90%. Two of the three enzymes used in HFCS production are naturally occurring but the third is synthetic â€" and it’s this glucose-isomerase that causes concern."

The CRA claims that the synthetic enzyme is never actually added to the HFCS. Instead, the sugar mixture is simply passed over it and it interacts with glucose to produce fructose.

Reality Check

Kerry notes, "Here’s what we at eBrandAid say: When in doubt, opt for brands that DO NOT contain this suspect sweetener. There are so many other brands that don't contain HFCS, so why risk it?"

Not sure where to turn? eBrandAid can help.

You won’t find any sweet surprises on their latest and greatest updated list of BestBrands. Print out this PDF file for easy access when shopping!

@ 9:30am ET on February 24, 2009
I absolutely despise the CFA commercials where the person knows they aren't supposed to eat HFCS, but doesn't know why. The smug other person then spouts the CFA line about it being natural, etc. I always answer the question. I do know WHY you shouldn't eat HFCS.

My kids are tired of my response, but they live fairly HFCS free lives. I have been avoiding anything that doesn't say that sugar is the sweetener. And I have been ensuring that "sugar" is not in the first 4 ingredients (also a challenge).

I wish there was some response to the CFA's campaign. I would love to have the smug CFA person get told EXACTLY why you shouldn't eat HFCS!


@ 7:23pm ET on February 24, 2009
After reading an article about the tests being done to determine if HFCS effects people with Type 2 Diabetes and PCOS I started a rampage to get it out of my house and my food. I have written letters to dozens of companies asking them to stop using it. I am so happy when I see another company starting to change their policies. Orowheat breads are now HFCS-free as well as Thomas Kempker Root Beers. I am waiting to see when the pickle companies will join the fight. I would really love my garlic dill spears back but not until they change that ingredient!

Thank you for the information. My blood sugar levels have regulated since I banished the majority of the HFCS from my diet.

@ 9:57pm ET on February 24, 2009
I am still convinced that HFCS is one of the most addictive legal substances out there! I do my best to avoid it, but I know that I could do more. It is the reason I am hooked on French Vanilla creamer in my coffee. I can't barely drink the stuff w/o it!

@ 12:28pm ET on February 26, 2009
This was a very imformative article, as I have been confused by the mixed messages from commercials, etc. I will start paying better attention to labels from now on!!

@ 7:32pm ET on February 26, 2009
I just found out today that white bread contains HFCS! OMG! I would have never thought it would have snuck in there...I eat a lot of white bread. Now I will pay better attention to what's in my food.

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