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Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Sly Sweetener: High-Fructose Corn Syrup -

The Sly Sweetener: High-Fructose Corn Syrup

Date updated: May 17, 2007
Content provided by Revolution Health Group

High-fructose corn syrup. If you've looked at a nutrition label at some point in the past 20 years, you've surely seen those words. And the sugar-sweet, processed mix of glucose and fructose is in more places than you think. Because of that, our consumption of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is alarming: Thirty years ago, it barely registered in our diet; today, the average American consumes 42 pounds of it annually.

Why should that matter? Check out the average American waistline. While HFCS may not be the root cause of obesity, it certainly isn't helping — everything from gigantic soft-drink sizes to the proliferation of sugary snack foods can be traced to the growing use of HFCS.

Below, you'll find everything you need to know about HFCS: where it is, why it's so popular &mbdash; and why you need to be aware of it.

Where It's Used

HFCS is highly concentrated in fast food, soda and sugary processed snacks. But check the labels in your pantry, because you may be surprised to learn it's also in...

  • Breads, including Wonder and some Pepperidge Farm brands
  • Yogurt and ice cream, including Dannon and Ben & Jerry's
  • Cereals, including Kellogg's Raisin Bran
  • Crackers, including Wheat Thins and Cheese Nips
  • Ketchup and Miracle Whip, as well as many salad dressings

Why It's Used

That's simple: cost and convenience. HFCS is cheaper than sugar, by 20 percent or more. It's easier for food makers to transport and blend. It also stays fresh longer, helps cooked foods brown better and retains moisture longer. Today, HFCS makes up 55 percent, or about $4.5 billion, of the U.S. sweetener market.

Reasons to Beware

Some experts say that HFCS doesn't trigger "fullness" signals as much as other sugars and foods. Yet it could be that HFCS won't hurt you any more than refined sugar or any other non-nutritive source of calories.

Regardless, the sweetener is at least partly responsible for manufacturers' ability to produce inexpensive, larger sizes of sweetened drinks and processed foods, a trend that coincides with the ballooning of America. "The size of those drinks and those kinds of food seem to preclude the consumption of better foods," says Cathy Nonas, R.D., a registered dietitian in New York City. "Our portions are off in general, and we've come to like sweet, convenient food and drink. But too much of those foods makes for a bad diet."

Making Better Choices

The USDA recommends no more than 40 grams, or about 10 teaspoons, of added sugars for a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet. That can be tough to stick with unless you're careful, because the average American consumes 20.5 teaspoons of added sugars each day. Some advice:

  • Seek out fresh fruits, 100-percent juices and natural snacks.
  • Read labels, and be aware of how many foods include HFCS &mbdash; and how much. Example: A tablespoon of ketchup has a teaspoon of HFCS.
  • Watch your portion sizes. A 20-ounce bottle of Pepsi contains about 17 teaspoons of added sugar. Limit yourself to 8 ounces of soda, sports drink or juice drinks per day.
  • Limit your children's intake. "Kids get used to that really sweet taste, and that's what they want," Nonas says. "And they're less likely to like fresh fruits and other things they should eat."
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