How to navigate high fructose corn syrup and sugar substitutes to avoid harmful artificial sweeteners in favor of plant based alternatives.
What if products that contain high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners, which are marketed to assist in living a healthier lifestyle, are actually the ones making us sick?
With all of the different companies and chemicals carrying different names and ingredients, we thought we’d break it down for you (with the help of the girls from the New York Times Bestselling book, Skinny Bitch).
This sucker, found in both NutraSweet and Equal, is probably the worst, and as such the most talked about.
The FDA lists 92 side effects in conjunction with this chemical bad guy, some of the more notable ones including Alzheimer’s, mental lesions, and interestingly enough, weight gain. If those aren’t enough to turn you off from your morning Diet Coke, then maybe this gross little factoid will be: one of the aspartame components is methyl alcohol, which, when entering the body in this form, converts into formaldehyde. This artificial sweetener is made of saccharin, an ingredient that has been controversial for decades due to the fact that it is a coal-tar compound. As if all of this weren’t convincing enough, Skinny Bitch packs the final punch for its readers with a friendly reminder that artificial sweeteners are highly acid forming, and it is accepted commonly that cancers thrive in acidic environments. This herb from South America is a relatively new addition to the list of sugar alternatives. For more information about artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes please visit the Mayo Clinic’s website. There is fierce debate about the role of added sugar in contributing to the obesity crisis. Current advice says no more than 11% of a person's daily food calories should come from added sugars, or 10% once alcohol is taken into account. The latest NDNS report found that all age groups were eating more added sugar (technically known as non-milk extrinsic sugars) than the 11% level but that children were exceeding it to the greatest degree. Sweets, chocolate and jams made up another 19-22% of children's sugar intake and younger children also get a large proportion of their sugar from cereals - including cakes and biscuits - and drinks including fruit juice. Among young children, the proportion who are obese has fallen but campaigners say more still needs to be done to reduce the amount of sugar children eat.
More on this story Call to halve target for added sugar 26 June 2014 How can I cut down on sugar?
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First let's talk about HFCS specifically, and then I'll share a few blurbs from Michele Simon's wonderful book Appetite for Profit with you because she speaks directly to this exact kind of slime.
HFCS has the "same natural sweeteners as table sugar and honey" and is therefore no better or worse.
I have read some accounts that our bodies metabolize fructose differently than they metabolize glucose. To me, HFCS on a label is indicative that the food inside is probably cheap, processed junk.
That said, in your average grocery store (not Whole Foods) most of the processed junk has HFCS. If you look at where Americans get their empty calories from, HFCS (particularly in our beverages) is high up on the list.

Michele Simon makes an incredibly pertinent point about portion size inflation over the last half century. The company merely eliminated its "supersize," 7-ounce french fries while maintaining the "large" 6-ounce portion, whihc is still significantly bigger than the original 2.4-ounce portion that McDonald's began serving in the 1950s.
One of the brilliant marketing moves by McDonald's was the realization that a person who would not buy two 2.4-ounce fries would often gladly buy a 5-ounce fries. I want to share a few more sections from Appetite for Profit that are semi-related but may seem like a bit of a non-sequitur here.
The fact tha most people simply do not have access to healthy food options is of course of no concern to CCF. When CCF sounds alarm bells about government on the march to do away with the American way of life and your freedom to enjoy your favorite foods, it conveniently glosses over the fact that government is already intimately involved in our food choices. So now you know why HFCS is healthy and delicious have a taste of Michele Simon's excellent work, and I know you'll want to visit her website, buy her book, and come see her speak at this year's food panel (Friday, July 18, 10:30am). As of 2007, American consumers were spending 21 billion dollars 21 billion dollars annually on diet, or low calorie, drinks.
There are even multiple support groups that have been founded for those who have suffered at the hands of this chemical.
Some of you neuroscience buffs might be saying, “but phenylalanine is an organic compound which occurs in the brain!” And you would be correct, however, in high doses phenylalanine can increase a risk of seizures and lead to depression and schizophrenia. Once a dietary supplement for weight loss, refined parts of the leaf have now been FDA approved as sugar substitutes, and because the body does not metabolize the glycerides in it’s refined state, it has zero caloric intake. Grown in Guangxi Province in the People’s Republic of China, it was once used as traditional medicine, however, it’s sweet sugar-like juices are now being mainstreamed as sugar alternatives. UK government scientists today halved the recommended level of added sugar people should eat each day.And the World Health Organization has also said people should aim to get just 5% of their daily calories from the sweet stuff. That works out at about 50g of sugars for a woman and 70g for a man, depending on how active they are.And it's this level which has just been halved in a draft report by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition. Reference intakes are not the same as dietary reference values (DRVs), which are what health professionals use when calculating added sugars - taking us back to the 10-11%. Young people aged 11-18 get the most of their daily energy from sweet stuff at more than 15%.
And of course, who can forget previous ad campaigns public service announcements letting us know that obesity is no problem, it's just hype, and that CO2 is natural because we breathe it out and plants breathe it in. The reality is that one of the big, slimy front groups for Big Food (the Center for Consumer Freedom) is headed up by a tobacco lobbyist, Rick Berman, who has received millions for his various front groups from Phillip Morris.
The problems (and I’m not convinced they are very serious) of fructose depend on what you compare it to. Sure they have calcium-rich milk and often fruit too - but so would a less-sweetened or unsweetened yogurt that has less empty calories.
If we opted to get our calories from other foods - fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, fish, lean meats, and low fat dairy - we would get nutrients along with our calories. The McDonald's near my office has a sign on its roof advertising 42-ounce sodas (410 calories if it's Coke) for $.69. I know I'm shifting the topic a bit, but I want to put Michele's ideas out there since they are instrumental in correctly framing these corporate front group slime campaigns. Various federal agencies set standards for food safety, provide nutrition advice, subsidize agriculture, and otherwise oversee the types of foods we eat and the information we receive about them. Michele will be signing books at the convention, but I recommend picking up a copy ahead of time because last year our panelist (Marion Nestle) sold out of books very quickly.
From the outsider perspective, this still seems like progress compared to the alternative statistic, with 64% of Americans qualifying as overweight or obese. Health professionals take a dim view of sugars added to processed food but say that naturally occurring sweetness in milk and fruit is largely fine, with the exception of juice.

So says the Corn Refiners' Association, which is launching an 18-mo $20-$30 million national ad campaign starting tomorrow.
Sucrose, the white stuff in sugar bowls, is a double sugar made of glucose and fructose, 50% each. But regardless, I believe arguing that it is the same as sugar or honey is virtually irrelevant. Then you've got candies, where you get calories from HFCS plus some fat and calories from other sources like nuts or cocoa butter, or even trans fats. Over 20% of a 2000 calorie diet, consisting entirely of HFCS with zero fiber, vitamins, or minerals. Even "permissive policies," such as opening public school doors to soda companies, represent forms of government oversight.
But what if you found out that the sugar alternatives that many diet products promote are not only ineffective as weight loss methods, but are also dangerous to your health? Some of its side effects include: damage to the immune and reproductive systems, and swelling of the liver and kidneys. And don't think for one second that "wholesome" products containing "natural" ingredients are necessarily all healthy either.
And the aisles of various baked goods where the calories come primarily from HFCS and refined grains. The healthiest and tastiest salad dressings are the ones you make yourself with simple ingredients like healthy oils, fruit juice, herbs, and vinegar. The assumption here is that the current range of food options is ideal and that any attempt by advocates or government to alter or limit these choices is tyrannical. In fact, somewhere along the line, every food and beverage sold in the United States is already subject to some sort of government rule making. While there is no UK government health guideline for total sugars, the figure of 90g per day is used as a rule of thumb on labelling in Britain and across the EU. Health effectsScientists are still investigating whether there are direct causal links between high sugar intake and weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses. As a former Whole Foods bakery employee, I can tell you that I have 20 lbs on my body that entirely came from junk foods made from natural things like heavy cream, butter, eggs, sugar, and cocoa. The truth is quite the opposite; in allowing corporations to unilaterally and undemocratically determine our food choices for us, we wholly abdicate our freedom to choose. Food choices do not take place in a vacuum, but rather in the context of a domestic and global political economy driven by policies aimed at keeping the engine of capital operating smoothly. What is known is that eating too many calories without enough exercise can lead to obesity - and obesity is a risk factor for other conditions. Indeed, what we really have in our food environment is a grand illusion: freedom from choice masquerading as freedom of choice.
Many nutrition advocates are simply opposed to fueling that engine at the expense of public health; our objective, rather, is to work for government policies that are health-promoting and environmentally sustainable.
If you compare the metabolism of fructose to glucose, there are differences, but I think the problems are with quantity, not quality. The choice between Quarter Pounders, Oreos, Diet Mountain Dew, and Whole Grain Cocoa Puffs is really no choice at all. From the standpoint of calories, fruit juice has just as many as soft drinks so a little goes a long way even though it is a healthier alternative.

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