We all expect to find bills in the mail box at the beginning of a new year. And, at this time of year, we all expect to be surrounded with information about how to improve our health. But would you expect to find both in the same envelope on the 4th day of the new year?
When the bill from my friendly chiropractor arrived in the mail last week, I certainly did not expect to find a two-page, slighted article on the safety of consuming high-fructose corn syrup neatly folded behind my invoice. Stuffing invoices with misleading information about what I should be eating was something new from them. This liability surged my irritability.
There is an abundance of information about our food supply available these days. And it seems everyone, from the chiropractor all the way up to the First Lady, has an opinion on what exactly we should be eating. However, knowing that 97% of us no longer have a direct connection to the production of that food supply, it can be difficult to discern the truth from the buffet of information.
As daughter, daughter-in-law, and sister to three of my favorite Kansas corn farmers, I wanted my fellow chiropractic patients to know the truth about this very interesting and useful ingredient derived from corn, affectionately called high-fructose corn syrup, or HFCS.
HFCS was developed in the late 1950s and gained popularity as an ingredient in food production in the 1970s as US trade policy drove up the price of sugar. It has sustained that popularity not because of price, but because of the beneficial properties of HFCS as an ingredient. HFCS gives breads and cakes a soft-moist texture, protects the texture of canned and frozen fruits, enhances fruit and spice flavor in products such as ketchup and spaghetti sauce, and extends the shelf-life of carbonated beverages, just to name a few.
High-fructose corn syrup was specifically developed to provide an equal sweetness to sugar. This way, food and beverage producers could substitute sugar with HFCS, and consumers would not be able to discern a difference in taste or sweetness. Table sugar is 50% fructose, 50% glucose. HFCS is either 42% or 55% fructose; the remaining balance is glucose and higher sugars. Both sucrose and HFCS have the same number of calories, four per gram.
This particular article sought to slander high-fructose corn syrup by calling it “chemically altered,” and “not a natural food item.” When in fact, the processing methods for converting beet or cane into table sugar, or corn into high-fructose corn syrup, are surprisingly similar. Both are extracted from plant material and then both undergo processing steps including hydrolosis, flocculation/filtration, enzyme treatment, color/aroma removal, and concentration. Additionally, HFCS meets Food & Drug Administration guidelines to be labeled a “natural” food ingredient.”
The article goes on to say that HFCS is not metabolized in our bodies the same way as sugar and other sweeteners. This corn farmer’s daughter further research, however, says this isn’t so. High-fructose corn syrup does not reduce the body’s ability to produce insulin, is metabolized in the same way sugar is in the body, and has the same effect on feelings of fullness as beverages sweetened with sugar or a glass of 1% milk.
My favorite line from the article was this: “…food items that include HFCS are sugary cereals, toaster pastries, soft drinks, juice pouches and boxes, jams and jellies, salad dressings, sauces, ketchup, canned fruit, cookies and crackers.” Thank goodness the chiropractor pointed this out for me.
Mostly, the article tries to pin the source of rising adult and childhood obesity rates squarely in the lap of corn producers and corn processors. And in a rural, agricultural based county in Kansas where corn production has quadrupled in the past eight years, I hardly see the dissemination of this article as a way to boost traffic through the doors of the chiropractor.
Seriously, folks, listen to your Midwest common sense. You and I know the reason folks need bigger and bigger pants sizes: too many calories in, too little energy expended. If toaster pastries and soft drinks keep appearing on your grocery list, you’re probably not dropping any pounds.
Am I boycotting my friendly chiropractor? Certainly not. But I refuse to accept information on the food I choose to feed my family from a source who fails to consider the farmer, the food processor, and every step involved in getting my food from farm to table. And you should too.
For more information, visit http://www.sweetsurprise.com
Sarah Goss is a native Kansan, full-time mommy of three, community volunteer and blog author. Her children are her top client, but her devotion to agriculture and rural community development run a close second.