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Is that right? HFCS is simply 'corn sugar'?

Just when we'd got used to getting our mouths around the highly syllabic term "high fructose corn syrup," the people who make the sweet stuff want to make life simpler for all of us by renaming HFCS "corn sugar."

In light of a constant barrage of criticism of HFCS, a sweetener (that also performs other functions in processed foods) found in everything from baked goods to popsicles, crackers and even some yogurts, the Corn Refiners Association has petitioned the FDA to change the ingredient's name.

You'd think the nutrition world would be in an uproar, accusing the CRA of trying to pull a fast one.

But in fact the response has been positive, with nutrition experts, including the outspoken Marion Nestle, agreeing that calling HFCS what it is -- a sugar, just like the cane and beet sugars we more readily accept on ingredient labels -- is a good idea.

Calling HFCS "corn sugar" makes it easier for us muddle-headed consumers to lump the ingredient in with all the others that constitute "added sugars," which are what we really should be keeping track of. HFCS, which most experts concur is handled by the body just as any other sugar is, had turned into a distracting bugaboo in recent years.

But we muddle-headed consumers aren't off the hook. It is our job to check labels and watch how much added sugar we put in our mouths. And it is our job to make sure it's not too much. Here's a little mantra of mine: If a food tastes sweet, and it's not a fruit, then it should be regarded as a treat and enjoyed in moderation (if at all).

Lest you think I'm a finger-wagger, let me confess that until recently, mine was the sweetest tooth in the land. I could tell you horror stories involving entire bags of candy corn, inhaled in a sitting. I have even been known to eat marshmallows straight from the bag, so dire was my craving for sugar. But now I eat hardly any sweets at all -- and I don't miss them. Better yet, I've finally discovered that there's nothing more satisfyingly sweet than, say, a mango. Or a banana. Or a really terrific apple.

I can say with authority that it's possible to wean yourself from sweets. So, sure, we can give the CRA a win by allowing "corn sugar." That doesn't mean we have to eat so much of the stuff.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  | September 17, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Childhood obesity, Health News, Is That Right?, Nutrition and Fitness, Obesity  
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I heard it refered to as liquid satan - I prefer no name - just skull and cross bones will do.

Posted by: t11231 | September 17, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

To me, the word "Sugar" has always meant a disaccharide. HFCS is a monosaccharide. This is very important to me as I suffer from liver disease. To much sugar from any source sends me into a tailspin, but monosaccharides especially so as they can only be metabolized in the liver. With disaccharides like cane sugar the liver only does half as much work. However the FDA choses to label food, it is critically important to my health and that of others with impared liver function that the differance is made clear on the label!

Posted by: jhalldc | September 17, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

The facts are that this decision to rename HFCS will be a political decision funded by the likes of Monsanto. In other words, it's a done deal.

We can expect that corporations will keep trying to hide how bad their "food" is for us. It's up to us to keep an eye on what we eat because "our" government will always take the corporations' side.

Of course, the simplest thing is to stop eating corporate "food." But that takes effort and a commitment that most people can't manage.

Posted by: bigbrother1 | September 17, 2010 10:37 AM | Report abuse

You didn't know that high fructose corn syrup was a sugar?

Let's see, you've got "fructose;" just about anything ending in "ose" is a sugar. Then you've got the "high" part, which means a lot of it. Corn is self-explanatory, and syrup is a generic term indicating goopy stuff. You shouldn't have to name it "corn sugar" to figure out that it's corn sugar.

I don't like to think of myself as an "elitist" when it comes to simple, fundamental stuff like this. If you don't know what fructose is, or what a calorie is, then you really should have been paying more attention in school.

"Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son." - Dean Wermer

Posted by: Buddydog | September 17, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

no matter what they call it, it all spells "death" in the end

Posted by: cbmuzik | September 17, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Does corporate American think we are that stupid? (Don't answer) People are choosing not to use HFCS do they think changing the name will trick us into using it?
It comes from genetically modified corn and is then highly processed. It is very hard not to use it since it is is everything but I am doing my best to not buy foods with HFCS.
A name change will not change my mind.

Posted by: mmad2 | September 17, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Buddydog, you're oversimplifying things.

Table sugar, also known as sucrose, is roughly 50% fructose, 50% glucose.

HFCS is about 55% fructose, 45% glucose.

Agave nectar can be anywhere from 52% fructose/20% glucose (plus other ingredients) up to 92% fructose/8% glucose.

Honey is about 38% fructose/31.3% glucose.

The problem is with how the body metabolizes fructose, which is different from glucose. Fructose is metabolized by the liver and can cause issues with people who have or at risk from liver disease. Some people cannot digest fructose properly and can have gastrointestinal problems related to its consumption. Due to its relationship with the liver, fructose can lead to increases in LDL (bad) cholesterol. It can also in excess lead to metabolic syndrome, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. If you are diabetic, fructose is more prone to cause damage than glucose is.

You need to limit all sugars. But consuming "sugars" that are higher in fructose, given all the issues that can arise from it, is even worse.

Posted by: Duodenum | September 17, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

2009... in the rest of the world, sugar cost $18/ton. But here in the USA, thanks to sweetheart protectionist tariffs, "corn sugar" went for $32/ton.

Small wonder that firms like Kraft, Hershey and others have been quietly moving sweetener intensive factories to Mexico and Canada.

Americans don't need those jobs anyway.

Let's just call it "HCCS" High Cost Corn Syrup.

Posted by: RSweeney1 | September 17, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

The anti-corporation health nuts commenting here are hilarious. I don't doubt that they are correct in stating that high fructose corn syrup is unhealthy or at least worse than cane sugar, but comparing it to poison is a bit much.

The underlying problem is the taxes Congress imposes on sugar at the behest of American sugar producers. If the sugar lobby wasn't making us pay extra for sugar, there would be no need to use corn syrup as a substitute.

Posted by: bokamba | September 17, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

I don't care what name they call it HFCS is not good for us. (Same goes for Splenda too.) With the national rate of obesity what it is you would think we could get it banned but instead we get a name change. I work very hard to keep it out of my family's diet. If a product has HFCS as an ingredient we don't buy it. Yes it limits the menu selection at the grocery store but I consider that a good thing because it reduces the processed "junk food" we put into our bodies. We are buying less processed prepared meals and snack foods because food manufacturers keep sliding this crap in. We cook more totally from scratch, add more fresh fruits and vegetables as snacks (like popcorn instead of chips and crackers) and eliminate it altogether. My grocery bill is going down because I shop more farmer's markets. Doesn't mean my grocery bill is down just my grocery store bill.

Some day food manufacturers will figure out that the games they play with us hiding this crap into food means we buy less of it.

Posted by: Desertdiva1 | September 17, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Corn Syrup = corporate welfar poison.

U.S. ag policy encourages an overproduction of grain which hurts farmers but helps major businesses like ADM.

ADM takes this subsidized grain and turns it into subsidized ethanol and corn syrup. That corn syrup would be way too expensive--BUT sugar prices in the U.S. are kept artifically high at taxpayer expense.

Why? Because that's the only way that corn syrup can be economically competitive.

ADM and other take subsidized grain and turn it into subsizied corn sryup--and we pay for it at each level. We pay for the farm program, the sugar price supports AND higher prices for anything that uses sweeteners.

HFCS is also unhealthy. I know many people with medical conditions who simply can't handle the stuff--no it is NOT the same as regular sugar.


Posted by: Mikeystyle | September 17, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

stop eating so damn many calories and you wont be obese, is what needs to be said to America's overweight. Yes, cane sugar is preferably to HFCS...but all this talk of HFCS as pure poison is really absurd.

Look at ingredients, read labels, make the right choices. All the needed info is available, the trick is educating people as to what it all means for their health.

Posted by: divi3 | September 17, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

and seriously, i bet there isnt a single person in this entire country who was reading labels and thinking "Well, this high fructose corn SYRUP stuff must be healthier than sugar!"

It's called SYRUP for heaven's sake!

Posted by: divi3 | September 17, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

I refuse to buy any product that has HFCS, and now "corn sugar". It tastes absolutely disgusting. Like drinking a gummy bear.

Posted by: biffgrifftheoneandonly | September 17, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

HFCS = government funded poison via farm subsidies - for growing the corn and making the HFCS.
HFCS = obesity and diabetes.
HFCS has been substituted for sugar in Coke and Pepsi for almost 40 years - making the USA the fattest nation on earth. West Virginia has the highest obesity rate in America with the highest consumption of HFCS.

HFCS is added to Coke and Pepsi in Mexico - making it the second fattest nation on earth with the second highest rate of diabetes. America is number one!

Posted by: alance | September 17, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

When I was in school, we would ask what sugars were good for us and we were told that sucrose was bad, but fructose was actually good for us.

Now it is the other way around. The more we change things, the more they seem to stay the same.

We have to pick something to blame. Or someone.

Or both.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | September 17, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Gary, Sucrose is table sugar -- 50% fructose, 50% glucose.

fructose isn't being demonized arbitrarily. we know how fructose is metabolized (which is different from glucose), we know its effects on things like cholesterol, we know that some people are unable to digest fructose properly, we know that cancer cells absolutely thrive on fructose, etc.

Science marches on. As we learn more & more about how our bodies work, we find that conventional wisdom may not be correct after all.

Posted by: Duodenum | September 17, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

There is indeed a difference in the way the body reacts to HFCS and other sugars, specifically in relation to pancreatic cancer, which (for those of you who don't know) has a 2% survival rate after five years. See Reuters article from August 2, 2010, copied in part below:

Cancer cells slurp up fructose, US study finds
Mon, Aug 2 2010
* Study shows fructose used differently from glucose

* Findings challenge common wisdom about sugars

WASHINGTON, Aug 2 (Reuters) - Pancreatic tumor cells use fructose to divide and proliferate, U.S. researchers said on Monday in a study that challenges the common wisdom that all sugars are the same.

Tumor cells fed both glucose and fructose used the two sugars in two different ways, the team at the University of California Los Angeles found.

They said their finding, published in the journal Cancer Research, may help explain other studies that have linked fructose intake with pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest cancer types.

"These findings show that cancer cells can readily metabolize fructose to increase proliferation," Dr. Anthony Heaney of UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center and colleagues wrote.

"They have major significance for cancer patients given dietary refined fructose consumption, and indicate that efforts to reduce refined fructose intake or inhibit fructose-mediated actions may disrupt cancer growth."

Americans take in large amounts of fructose, mainly in high fructose corn syrup, a mix of fructose and glucose that is used in soft drinks, bread and a range of other foods....

The American Beverage Association, whose members include Coca-Cola...and Kraft Foods...have strongly, and successfully, opposed efforts to tax soda.

The industry has also argued that sugar is sugar.

Heaney said his team found otherwise. They grew pancreatic cancer cells in lab dishes and fed them both glucose and fructose.

Tumor cells thrive on sugar but they used the fructose to proliferate. "Importantly, fructose and glucose metabolism are quite different," Heaney's team wrote.

Now the team hopes to develop a drug that might stop tumor cells from making use of fructose.

Posted by: Catherine9 | September 17, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

HFCS high fructose corn syrup is responsible for a dangerous epidemic of obesity and diabetes. People under the age of 50 are “children of the corn.” Like Stephen King's thriller, they are reaping the consequences ...of the food industry’s high fructose corn syrup. They were children or young adults in the late 70s, 80s and 90s when high fructose corn syrup was introduced to the American food supply as a cheap replacement for sugar. Now many of them are struggling with an epidemic of obesity and diabetes, also being referred to as diabesity.

In a recent chemical analysis of eleven carbonated soft drinks sweetened with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), researchers from Rutgers University found very high levels of reactive carbonyls.

Reactive carbonyls, which have been linked to tissue damage and complications of diabetes, are elevated in the blood of people with diabetes. A single can of soda, however, has five times that concentration of reactive carbonyls. Old-fashioned table sugar, on the other hand, has no reactive carbonyls.

When people from Iceland visit the United States, the first thing they notice is the number of fat people they see. The average weight of American women (164 pounds) and men (191 pounds) has increased 25 pounds since 1960. We are the fattest people on earth, thanks to Coke, Pepsi and ADM - Archer Daniels Midland - the largest producer of HFCS.

Due to federal agribusiness subsidies, every dollar of profits earned by ADM's corn sweetener operation costs consumers $10. Of the $113.6 billion in taxpayer commodity subsidy payments distributed by the USDA between 1995 and 2004, corn drew $41.8 billion -- more than cotton, soy, and rice combined. What's wrong with this picture? Maybe it's the Iowa presidential primary. Where do the presidential candidates and your congress people stand on corn subsidies? Who sucks up to ADM?

According to Dr. William Dietz of the CDC (Center for Disease Control), in the February 2006 issue of the Journal of Pediatrics, "Consumption of excess calories can produce weight gain. The high fructose content of sugar-sweetened beverages may promote hepatic lipogenesis, and the reduced insulinogenic response may decrease the inhibitory effects of these sugar-sweetened beverages on food intake. In addition, significant weight gain may occur when carbohydrates are consumed as liquids rather than as solids."

Posted by: alance | September 17, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

yeah that is true, major brands do give out free samples of their popular health products best place to check is send it to your friends

Posted by: quincyhow18 | September 18, 2010 5:13 AM | Report abuse

Wow, what a cool idea. I never thought about the fact that we are likely separating out other sugars like that in our minds. By singling out high fructose corn syrup, we do a disservice to consumers who need to think clearly about eating (and enjoying) sweet things in moderation. Corn sugar is what it is, and calling it that would help us wrap our heads around the fact it’s got the same number of calories and is handled the same by the body as refined sugar.

Posted by: ConsumerFreedom | September 24, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

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