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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” (http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1841910,00.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.

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