Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What Parents Need to know About High Fructose Corn Syrup

We have all seen the commercials. The question “what is wrong with high fructose corn syrup?” is one that has gotten many of us moms, including myself, thinking. Since I could not intelligently answer the question either I looked to some objective “experts” for help. What I found is that the truth essentially lies somewhere in between the worst public opinion and those pesky commercials.

As stated by Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, “high-fructose corn syrup just doesn't exist in nature" making their claims for being “natural” untrue but aside from that there is not a lot else actually wrong with the substance according to sources. “The American Medical Association recently announced at its annual policy-making meeting in Chicago that high-fructose corn syrup does not contribute more to obesity than sugar or other caloric sweeteners” (,8599,1841910,00.html). These statements are very different from the very negative public opinion that currently exists about the sweetening substance.

So where did all the bad publicity start in the first place? Well, it appears to have originated with an article written by Barry Popkin, a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina, and Dr. George Bray of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge who suggested that a rise in obesity may be somehow related to an increase in the consumption of high fructose corn syrup which could be because the substance may be metabolized differently than sugar. That was all they said and these were not facts but a theory. A theory that led to much bad publicity and resulted in parents like you and me avoiding foods with this sweetening substance. I found in the same article that “Nutritionist, author and food-policy doyenne Marion Nestle has blogged and written extensively about the issue and says in response to the commercials, "Lots of people think high-fructose corn syrup is the new trans fat. It isn't. ... Biochemically, it is about the same as table sugar (both have about the same amount of fructose and calories) but it is in everything and Americans eat a lot of it — nearly 60 lbs. per capita in 2006, just a bit less than pounds of table sugar. High-fructose corn syrup is not a poison, but eating less of any kind of sugar is a good idea these days and anything that promotes eating more is not."’

So the takeaway? Realize that high fructose corn syrup is like sugar. And like sugar it should be consumed in moderation by our children. Read the label of everything you buy for your children because high fructose corn syrup resides in places that you may not expect…like your children’s vitamins. Count this consumption as though it was sugar consumed by your child. Personally, I would rather buy something with plain, wholesome sugar instead of the chemically altered corn starch but there is no evidence that this is better for my kids.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

5 Point Harness vs Booster Seat

My oldest girl is now 4 and is still sitting in a full on car seat (convertible car seat with a 5 point harness) in my car. Recently many parents have asked me why I have not transitioned into a booster seat given that it is so much easier to operate and transfer from vehicle to vehicle. I thought I would write about this in the interest of reaching as many parents as possible and to answer the questions about why Andira does not sit in a booster seat in my car. You can only do the best you can for your child but I will be keeping mine in their 5 point harness seats for as long as possible!

The benefits of a 5 point harness are irrefutable. “Child Passenger Safety experts agree that the Five-Point Harness is the safest, because it provides the snuggest fit and is suitable for the widest range of children” found on the CPSafety web site. The definition alone tells the story. A 5 point harness attaches at the shoulders, hips and between the legs of the child keeping them as securely strapped in as possible which reduces the risk of injury and even death in a car crash.

Many parents transition into booster seats much too early. The information I found on states that “Booster seats are for older children who have outgrown their forward-facing car safety seats. Children should stay in a booster seat until adult belts fit correctly (usually when a child reaches about 4' 9" in height and is between 8 and 12 years of age).” If the child does not fit properly into an adult seat belt then the booster seat will not protect the child in the unfortunate event of a crash. The most common recommendation for appropriate weight necessary for a booster seat is 40 pounds. While it may not be possible for your child to fit into their car seat until they are 8 years old the longer they can stay in one the safer they will be. I also found out that there is actually a seat that you can use after you child has outgrown their convertible seat but is not ready for a booster seat yet. It is a “combination seat.” “A combination seat is normally for use after the child has grown too tall for a forward-facing convertible, but is not yet heavy enough (40 lbs) to move into a booster. The harnessed mode is used until the child weighs 40 lbs (or 50 lbs for the Car Seat Specialty Airway), then the seat is converted to booster mode.”

Lastly, I would like to draw your attention to this very sad video so that you can see a real life testimonial about using a 5 point harness seat . There are numerous such videos out there expressing the same sentiment. My heart goes out to this family and the video they share sure does drive the point home.