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High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)


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I hate the taste of straight corn syrup, so if my local diner substituted cane syrup as their standby, that would be great. And if Steve hadn't made the point that corn syrup is cheap only because of subsidies, I would have made it. (That IS true, isn't it?)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Back in July of last year the NYTimes had an interesting article about high fructose corn syrup. It seemed to be a fact based article, and although there are more than a few PR quotes along the lines of "its perfectly fine, nothing to see here", I think it is a balanced article.

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The article points out that the fructose:glucose concentration of sugar is 50:50, whereas HFCS in beverages is 55:45, and in other products 42:58. The "high-fructose" bit is compared to normal corn syrup, which I think was 100% glucose. The article concludes that the syrup itself isn't convincingly less healthy than cane sugar, but that perhaps the increased consumption of calories in general may be responsible for the observed weight increases. The article does point out that soda consumption increased when the syrup was used.

As for me, I do wish most foods I buy in the grocery store didn't have so much sugars of any kind in them. I still don't think bread needs that much sugar (or HFCS.)

Additionally, I have often thought Coke outside the US tastes better, and think it might be due to cane sugar vs. corn syrup, but I haven't done a blind taste test to know for sure.

Also, I remember reading at one point that cane sugar would be cheaper if it weren't for tariffs on imported sugar to protect US sugar growers.

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Andrew, I believe there's a difference between corn syrup (like Karo) that you buy in the supermarket for use as an ingredient or topping, and the high fructose corn syrup industrial product that enjoys widespread use as a sweetener. That being said, there are plenty of non-corn syrup products that should make for lovely pecan pies, for example molasses and cane syrup.

I don't think high fructose corn syrup is so much cheaper than sugar. Whatever the cost differential, it can't be more than the equivalent of a few cents on a can of soda. Let's say every can of soda went up by 5 cents. I can't imagine that would affect soda consumption at all.

Though high fructose corn syrup is a little cheaper than sugar, I think there are non-price reasons why manufacturers prefer it to sugar, namely that it blends better and has a longer shelf life.

At the same time, pretty much everybody agrees that sugar tastes better. So if we made a widespread shift to sugar, that would make every piece of sweetened junk food cost a few cents more but also taste better. Perhaps the outcome there would be increased consumption.

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There are LOTS of recipes for pecan pie minus the corn syrup. They usually utilize cane sugars. Oh, I DO miss junky ice cream, and some candies, even! I think that hfcs and regular corn syrup are just fine ingredients, but for some reason I get a terrible stomach ache when I eat them. ESPECIALLY HFCS. I'm not allergic to corn, so I can not figure out what the problem is, but I know when I've eaten more than a smudge of the stuff.

My doctors just say that I should try to avoid the corn syrups, so I do. :sad:

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I dont think its the corn syrup itself...its, as mentioned, the wacky places its turning up. Does it belong in soup or cajun rice mix or salsa?

Pecan pie, yes.

Liquid products that should be sweetened, fine.

But they are sweetening then salting foods that need neither when made with quality ingrediants.

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Good points about alternative sweeteners for pecan pie. But my great-grandmother made hers with corn syrup, so that's what I ought to be using, right?

This is an interesting question:

At the same time, pretty much everybody agrees that sugar tastes better. So if we made a widespread shift to sugar, that would make every piece of sweetened junk food cost a few cents more but also taste better. Perhaps the outcome there would be increased consumption.

I drink a lot of Diet Coke (I'll drink a lot of whatever happens to be on hand), and just about the only time I drink the non-diet stuff is when I'm at a Mexican restaurant, because the Mexican Coke is so much better. I wonder, if a switch was made from syrup to cane sugar, whether I'd end up drinking more sugared soda.

But even so, as rooftop1000 mentions, I don't particularly need corn syrup in my canned beans or soup or all of the other products into which it has crept. To the extent that HFCS is an insidious product, it's because of its presence in foods which we don't think of as sweet.

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I was just composing a long reply on this topic and I think I posted it mid-composition. If so - now everyone can see how much I edit my posts! So if that post appears well here's everything put more succinctly:

Corn syrup is not inherantly bad for you. But it's not good because:

It's hidden in processed foods that from a nutritional and taste viewpoint don't require it.

It's un-fairly cheap because of federal subsidies to mostly large corporate farmers who farm un-sustainably. Federal farm subsidies are a perfect example of a good idea gone awry for all sorts of crops - not just corn.

It affects a good portion of American public's palate so they don't appreciate good tasting food made with purer ingredients.

It affects the health of lower income people negatively - in many lower neighborhoods only cheap processed foods are what is affordable - so you have a segment of the population eating food with lots of hidden sugar (corn syrup) and this leads to a host of health issues related to eating high levels of sugar.

I could go on about farm subsidies, American eating habits, and the like but that's about it for what I don't like about corn syrup.

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I don't think high fructose corn syrup is so much cheaper than sugar. Whatever the cost differential, it can't be more than the equivalent of a few cents on a can of soda. Let's say every can of soda went up by 5 cents. I can't imagine that would affect soda consumption at all.

HFCS is liquid which means it's much easier to deal with logistically. You can store it in tanks, pump it with pumps and mix it quickly. It never clumps or clogs. Even if the subsidies were removed, retooling so many industrial processes to deal with a solid sugar rather than a liquid one would be a daunting task.

PS: I am a guy.

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HFCS is NOT the same as regular Karo. Although, Karo does contain some HFCS. HFCS is also known as Modified corn starch. So, when you're reading labels, you'll often see that listed. Sometimes even both are listed.

Check out this list of products that contain HFCS. Kinda scary.

I dont understand why Thomas's English muffins contain HFCS

Edited by CaliPoutine (log)
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I dont understand why Thomas's English muffins contain HFCS

CaliPoutine: Unless your regular grocery store has an organic selection, it's literally impossible to find any bread product that doesn't either have partially hydrogenated oils or high fructose corn syrup. I attempted to find a single loaf of commercial bread the other week and gave up after 30 minutes of reading labels.

Fortunately, Triscuits are still pretty healthy.

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I think the real point is the amount of any type of sugar we use. HFCS is in the crosshairs now because white refined sugar has already been vanquished. We here in the USAuse more sugar (all types) than anyone on the planet.

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I dont understand why Thomas's English muffins contain HFCS

You need less of it than other forms of sugar. ADM and Cargill sell it cheaply and it blends easily in processing. Here in the USA we consume upwards of 20 pounds of cane sugar or its equivalent products including modified alcohols and sucrose per person each year.

If it can be tied to pathology, even loosely, it will be vilified!

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HFCS is liquid which means it's much easier to deal with logistically. You can store it in tanks, pump it with pumps and mix it quickly. It never clumps or clogs. Even if the subsidies were removed, retooling so many industrial processes to deal with a solid sugar rather than a liquid one would be a daunting task.

I don't get your point. They would be dealing with cane syrup, not with solid sugar, wouldn't they?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I dont understand why Thomas's English muffins contain HFCS

CaliPoutine: Unless your regular grocery store has an organic selection, it's literally impossible to find any bread product that doesn't either have partially hydrogenated oils or high fructose corn syrup. I attempted to find a single loaf of commercial bread the other week and gave up after 30 minutes of reading labels.

Fortunately, Triscuits are still pretty healthy.

I went to MI yesterday and I did find one bread. Aunt Millie's 100% whole wheat Organic bread. I bought it and I'm sorry to say, it absolutely sucks.

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I dont understand why Thomas's English muffins contain HFCS

CaliPoutine: Unless your regular grocery store has an organic selection, it's literally impossible to find any bread product that doesn't either have partially hydrogenated oils or high fructose corn syrup. I attempted to find a single loaf of commercial bread the other week and gave up after 30 minutes of reading labels.

Fortunately, Triscuits are still pretty healthy.

Whoa! Is that really true where you live?

I understand your point about the factory breads, but here in Jersey the groceries are hooked in with bakeries that offer a line of breads with no oils or sugars. Not organic breads, just simply made loaves.

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I have done a amount of digging into HFCS, and have yet to find any study that says the HFCS is worse for you than cane sugar. But there are two important points to be made in regard to this -

1) This doesn't mean that, health wise, HFCS is the same as cane sugar. It means that no one has yet to prove that HFCS is better, worse or the same as cane sugar.

2) There are damn few studies concerning HFCS, let alone comparing it to cane sugar.

My own take is similar to Marion Nestle's. Sugar is sugar, whether it comes from sugar cane, beets or corn. There will be taste variations, and perhaps health effects resulting from production techniques, but at the very core of the health issue is that HFCS is a sugar and it's put into a great majority of our products. Someone mentioned Thomas's English Muffins. It's also in Ketchup, tomato paste, cottage cheese, yogurts, even children's cough syrup.

In a different post, I listed statistics on our sugar consumption prior to and after the development of HFCS and it's implementation into the processed food industry-

Total caloric sweeteners

1980 - 120 lbs.

2004 - 142 lbs.

refined sugar

1980 - 84 lbs.

2004 - 61 lbs.

HFCS

1980 - 35 lbs.

2004 - 78 lbs.

others

1980 - 1

2004 - 1.4

So while we've reduced refined sugar intake over the past 24 years, we've replaced it with HFCS and then added another 22 lbs of HFCS to our annual diet. This, in my opinion, is where the obesity battle has to start.

And when you consider that the government does in fact subsidize corn production and restricts cane sugar importation, it doesn't take too much a of leap of logic to deduce that the government is helping subsidize our nation's weight gain, albeit unintentionally.

There are likely some side health issues with HFCS, mostly regarding people's reaction to corn products or the enzymes used in HFCS production, but again, there has been no studies to prove this hypothesis of mine. But the first and foremost health issue surrounding HFCS comes from any health issues surrounding obesity.

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Whoa!  Is that really true where you  live?

I understand your point about the factory breads, but here in Jersey the groceries are hooked in with bakeries that offer a line of breads with no oils or sugars.  Not organic breads, just simply made loaves.

Honestly, this is the reason I stopped buying bread and making my own over a year and a half ago. I'd love to live near an artisan bakery, but alas, I don't. On the odd occasion where I don't feel like baking (or have the time), I'll concede to buying a loaf of bread from the grocery store, but it is a real PITA trying to find something that is both edible and not pumped full of ingredients that I try and avoid.

And a lot of these grocery stores also have bakeries on-premises. You would think they could make these without HFCS or shortening, but apparently the allure of cheap and shelf-life extending ingredients is too much to pass up.

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Yes hfcs is at least as bad as sugar. It blows your blood chemistry. It's bad for the body. And while our bodies can adapt themselves to cruel extremes, it will take its toll with time. Especially since it is included in a billion products that it doesn't need to be in.

Umm, Kashi Go Lean Crunch breakfast cereal has evaporated cane juice. It has a very sweet taste. That's just syntax there doncha think?

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K8memphis, I have to disagree. Not trying to defend Kashi specifically (I don't care for their cereals etc.), but I do use evaporated cane juice (sucanat) on my oatmeal. Aside from the flavor, I appreciate the fact that it is less processed. I'm not saying it's GOOD for me (you're right that sugar is sugar, and we shouldn't eat too much of it), but I'm not sure it is just semantics, either. I find I can use less of it because the flavor is stronger/more satisfying than white or even brown sugar.

ETA: that doesn't mean I support adding sweeteners to things that don't need it, or the huge amount of sugar, refined or unrefined, that seems to be in so many products...

Edited by Knicke (log)

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A 2003 Washington Post story about how the body may treat fructose more like a fat than other sugars:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A...anguage=printer

And I also read a study within the past year, I think, (maybe also in the Post? I'm looking for it ...) that suggested the body doesn't register consumption of HFCS as caloric intake. The test subjects would eat meals and be served either sugar-sweetened beverages or the HFCS variety, and those who drank the corn syrup ate more than those who drank the table-sugar type.

The gist was that people who drink HFCS sodas all day long don't automatically regulate their caloric intake accordingly. Something... I'll find it, I swear. Surprised it wasn't brought up already.

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K8memphis, I have to disagree. Not trying to defend Kashi specifically (I don't care for their cereals etc.), but I do use evaporated cane juice (sucanat) on my oatmeal. Aside from the flavor, I appreciate the fact that it is less processed. I'm not saying it's GOOD for me (you're right that sugar is sugar, and we shouldn't eat too much of it), but I'm not sure it is just semantics, either. I find I can use less of it because the flavor is stronger/more satisfying than white or even brown sugar.

ETA: that doesn't mean I support adding sweeteners to things that don't need it, or the huge amount of sugar, refined or unrefined, that seems to be in so many products...

That's cool. I was half asking and half assuming. I've tried to look it up and couldn't find anything understandable on evaporated cane syrup. Umm so sucanat is that the name brand? Get it at the health food store? Do you use it in tea or coffee, or do you bake with it?

Thanks for the information.

I like Kashi, I can't handle sweet oatmeal though. :laugh:

Edited by K8memphis (log)
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The gist was that people who drink HFCS sodas all day long don't automatically regulate their caloric intake accordingly

Studies have show that people in general dont regulate calories to compensate for beverages be they alcoholic, soda, milk or fruit juice.

Someone mentioned Thomas's English Muffins. It's also in Ketchup, tomato paste, cottage cheese, yogurts, even children's cough syrup

Sugar of some kind is a critical component of ketchup. Not one we think of often but the sweetness is one of the key flavors.

Cough syrup - I'm GLAD there's something that makes my kid willing to take cough syrup. Would you rather it were saccharine? Is it any worse than Mary Poppin's spoonful of sugar? (Me, I like the taste of the morphine-derivative itself. Im hoping not to pass that on!)

Could it be that the HFCS found in so many breads is because its used to feed the yeast? Most bread recipes with which I am familiar use a little sugar to get the beasties awake and growing before they are added to the flour.

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...Could it be that the HFCS found in so many breads is because its used to feed the yeast? Most bread recipes with which I am familiar use a little sugar to get the beasties awake and growing before they are added to the flour.

No I really don't because in most cases it's up too high in the ingredient list. In this bag of bagels, it's honey, sugar & hfcs all three right after the flour.

I mean I use sugar as a seasoning like a pinch in spaghetti sauce, but there's a lot more salt, garlic & oregano for example.

And honestly, the breads, the whole wheat and multi grain breads can taste like poo without sugar. That's another question, why does that taste stuff so bad? Does the flour go rancid or something?

Edited by K8memphis (log)
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...Could it be that the HFCS found in so many breads is because its used to feed the yeast? Most bread recipes with which I am familiar use a little sugar to get the beasties awake and growing before they are added to the flour.

No I really don't because in most cases it's up too high in the ingredient list. In this bag of bagels, it's honey, sugar & hfcs all three right after the flour.

I mean I use sugar as a seasoning like a pinch in spaghetti sauce, but there's a lot more salt, garlic & oregano for example.

And honestly, the breads, the whole wheat and multi grain breads can taste like poo without sugar. That's another question, why does that taste stuff so bad? Does the flour go rancid or something?

Being a bread baker (by love, not by trade) and a curious mad scientist, I have been studying all things bread-related for the last couple of years and I think I can add a bit to the conversation. Depending on the type of yeast used, proofing is not necessarily required. Compressed cake yeast and instant yeast require no proofing, thus no need for sugar. It can be argued that active dry may or may not need it. The handful of times I've used active dry, I always make sure it isn't expired and then I add it directly to the flour. I've never had any problems.

Which leads us to the purpose of sugar in the dough. People (in particular Americans) like sweet things. Especially when you are talking about whole wheat bread -- which can have a slightly bitter quality to it. In a way, it is the "spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down". The whole wheat recipe that I do also has sugar in it -- honey to be exact -- one tablespoon for a one pound loaf of bread. Ironically, the bread doesn't taste sweet, and there is still a lot of that "wheatiness" in there, but without it, it is too overpowering. Commercial breadmakers though, I think, want to hook you into thinking you are eating something "healthy", but load it with sugar(s) so that the flavor isn't objectionable.

Which leads me to my last point: finding a loaf of good tasting whole wheat bread. I have yet to have a commercial loaf of whole wheat bread that I liked (I'm thinking grocery store, not artisan bakery). They usually aren't stale when I buy them (thanks to fats, sugars, and other preservatives), but they just never taste fresh to me. That said, when I make my own whole wheat bread, for the first 24 hours after coming out of the oven, the smell and taste are divine. The next 24 hours and it's still better than what you get at the grocery store. After that ... it's time to make toast or croutons. It could be the wheat germ that has had sufficient time to oxidize that causes that loss of flavor. But I'm sure it's the same thing with commercial whole wheat breads. Unless you are getting a loaf that is baked on-premises, by the time it's hit the store shelf, it's probably at least two days old. All the fats, sugar, and preservatives in the world aren't going to save the flavor.

Whew! Not that I have an opinion or anything. :biggrin:

Just my $0.02.

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