Saturday, February 28, 2009

Green Your Diet Now: Twenty-four fresh ways to reduce your foodprint

Already get your tomatoes in season from the farmers’ market or — even better — grow your own organic produce? If you compost like a pro, sew your own reusable napkins from pre-loved fabric, and never, ever forget your organic cotton shopping tote, you might be feeling smugly self-satisfied about your eco-eating ways or (in true treehugger style) fully focused on how to shrink your food footprint even further.

After all, a whopping 20 percent of the fossil fuel used in the United States goes toward growing, moving, processing, packaging, selling and storing food, according to Food & Water Watch. And that’s even before we’ve prepared and cooked our food — or dealt with any food scraps, leftovers or packaging.

Luckily, even diehard 100-mile-dieters can pick up some new easy and effective eco-ideas in this list of 24 green eating tips. Make them part of your daily routine to save fossil fuels — and a few bucks! — without completely revamping your already-pretty-green lifestyle.

Read More at Whole Life Times

Friday, February 27, 2009

Syrup's rising cost spurs Vermont gold rush

There is a difference from here to the moon between "100% pure maple syrup" and the 98% corn syrup with 2% fenugreek-flavored wonderment poured on naked pancakes in diners and IHOPs across America. Genuine maple syrup will say on the bottle: "100% pure maple syrup". It's so good you'll want to drink it right out of the bottle.

For years, Errol Tabacco was a maple sugar hobbyist. Each February, he'd tap about 100 trees on his property, haul buckets of sap to his garage and boil it into syrup for his family and friends.

This year's different: There's gold in these here hills.

Spurred by retail prices of $60 or more per gallon, maple sugar producers like Tabacco are going all out to harvest it, tapping more trees, investing in new sap lines and building new sugarhouses in hopes of cashing in.

Tabacco is racing to get up to 12,000 trees tapped by the time the sap starts running during the next few weeks.

"This year, we're going big-time," he said.

For backyard hobbyists and larger commercial producers alike, New England's "sugarin' season" could be a real moneymaker this year. The University of Vermont's Proctor Research Center estimates 300,000 taps will be added this year.

Global demand for the sticky-sweet syrup outstripped supply last year, in part because lingering winter cold and heavy snow combined to slow sap flow and hinder get-out-the-sap efforts in Quebec, Maine and parts of Vermont. That, combined with the exhaustion of Canadian reserves, has helped drive up prices, experts said.

In 2007, the average retail price of a gallon of maple syrup was $33.20, up $1.90 from the previous year, according to federal data. Now, it fetches $59.95 or more in Vermont, and more elsewhere.

And demand shows no sings of slowing.

"Maple syrup is the perfect product for our culinary times," said Barry Estabrook, a contributing editor for Gourmet magazine. "It's a natural product, so it appeals on that level. I also think it comes at a time when kitchen chefs are interested in exploring alternate sweeteners. It could be an alternate to refined white sugar and high-fructose corn syrup for reasons of flavor."

U.S. demand for maple syrup - and maple-flavored syrups - has remained constant with regular use by about 30 percent of the population for decades, according to market research firm The NPD Group.

For the home cook, the price per gallon isn't so daunting, Estabrook said.

"If you think about the quantities most homemakers buy in, they're not buying $50 gallons. They're buying 16-ounce containers, so it's not an outrageous outlay," Estabrook said.

Gina Bordeaux, 49, of Duxbury, uses it at breakfast, on oatmeal and in baking pies. She says the price hike isn't enough to get her to stop using it or switch to a cheaper maple-flavored syrup.

"It's a Vermont tradition. You gotta have syrup. You're not a Vermonter if you don't," said Bordeaux.

The four- to six-week sugaring season begins when winter loses its bite. As daytime temperatures rise into the 40s, then plunge below freezing at night, the sap - a clear liquid that looks like water - starts running.

It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make a gallon of maple syrup, and Vermont produces a leading 500,000 gallons a year.

As sugar makers go, Tabacco is a new breed. A lawyer by training, the 35-year-old father of two - who works for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security by day - decided to become a bigger operator in part because he saw the price of syrup rising.

He's investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in his new operation, and believes that barring an unexpected plunge in retail prices, he'll make money.

"It was a combination of the right time for me, personally, and the fact that sugar is getting such a high price now. It made it economically viable," Tabacco said.

Check Out Facebook's Just Say No to Fake Maple Syrup

Via the Associated Press

High triglycerides? It may be the high fructose corn syrup

According to the dLife website, the average American consumes about 60 pounds of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) each year. That number has steadily increased since this sinister sweetener debuted in 1970. Natural fructose is one thing, but HFCS is another; they are not the same.

Although its name sounds innocent, HFCS does not come from fruit; it is a highly purified blend of sugars (typically 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose) derived from corn.There is no nutritional benefit here. HFCS may also be labeled "no artificial ingredients" depending on how it is processed, a loop hole in the manufacturing law that manufacturers take advantage of.

Some have linked the rise in obesity to the increasing consumption of HFCS. The correlation is positive, but I don't believe that HFCS has furthered obesity alone. HFCS has also been linked to diabetes.

The danger of HFCS consumption goes beyond its possible role in obesity. HFCS causes a rapid increase of triglycerides which contribute to heart disease.

In contrast to ordinary sugar, HFCS can not be broken down by the muscles; it can not be used as fuel for exercise. Instead, it goes directly to the liver and causes an increase in the production of triglycerides.


Cornography a video you need to see. Why do Americans consume more corn than any other country in the world?

The United States is the number one per capita consumer of corn in the world. As expounded in books such as The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, high-fructose corn syrup and other derivatives work their way into nearly every kind of processed food. Add to that corn grown for ethanol production, and you're looking at one corn-obsessed culture.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

If a country could be defined by a food, for the United States it would definitely be corn. Contrary to common belief, corn is a grain, not a vegetable, and this grain has infiltrated its way into countless foods that Americans subsist on.

If you believe that corn is going to improve your health, you need to do some more reading and reconsider your position. Over 75% of people would be better off avoiding corn because it contains high amounts of sugar.

When early Native Americans changed their diet to one based mostly on corn, researchers noted that they had increased rates of:


Dental cavities


Bone infections and other bone problems

And that was from eating relatively unprocessed, organic, non-GMO corn. Nowadays corn is not only heavily processed into ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup and corn oil, but it’s rarely organic, and most importantly nearly always GMO.

And one of the breaking news items on high-fructose corn syrup is that it is frequently contaminated with mercury.

Fast Food is Largely Made From Corn!

A recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looked into the feed sources of animals used for meat at fast food chains including McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s. After chemically analyzing the food, they found that corn was the nearly exclusive food source for the beef and chicken served at these fast food restaurants.

In case you aren’t aware, cattle are not designed to eat corn, and doing so disrupts their digestive systems. Therefore they’re fed antibiotics to keep them from getting sick. The corn crops are also genetically modified, and sprayed heavily with pesticides that get transferred to you when you eat the meat.

Corn is not only in meat, it’s in one-third of the products at an average supermarket, along with fuel and countless consumer products like paint, cosmetics and plastics.

Why So Much Corn?

In the U.S. corn is a heavily subsidized crop, so US farmers have every reason to plant more of it. In 2007, over 90 million acres of corn were planted in the United States, which was the most ever grown since 1944, when production was up to ease wartime food shortages.

Since there’s so much corn around, and it’s a very cheap food additive, it gets added to most processed foods, Since corn is a grain, it breaks down to sugar very rapidly and increases your insulin output, and increased insulin levels are linked to everything from obesity and diabetes to the premature aging.

As Michael Pollan said in this interview in The Christian Science Monitor:

“We're subsidizing obesity.

We're subsidizing the food-safety problems associated with feedlot beef. It's an absolutely irrational system. The people who worry about public health don't have any control over agricultural subsidies.

The USDA is not thinking about public health. The USDA is thinking about getting rid of corn. And, helping [businesses] to be able to make their products more cheaply – whether it's beef or high-fructose corn syrup.”

High-Fructose Corn Syrup is One of the Worst Offenders

Since the 1970s, the consumption of HFCS in the United States has skyrocketed, and it is the sweetener of choice used in most soda and countless other processed foods. In 2007, Americans consumed an average of 56 pounds of HFCS each, according to CBS!

There are over 35 years of hard empirical evidence that refined man-made fructose like HFCS metabolizes to triglycerides and adipose tissue, not blood glucose. The downside of this is that fructose does not stimulate your insulin secretion, nor enhance leptin production. (Leptin is a hormone thought to be involved in appetite regulation.)

Because insulin and leptin act as key signals in regulating how much food you eat, as well as your body weight, this suggests that dietary fructose may contribute to increased food intake and weight gain. Further:

• HFCS is metabolized to fat in your body far more rapidly than any other sugar, and, because most fructose is consumed in liquid form (soda), its negative metabolic effects are significantly magnified.

• Recent research, reported at the 2007 national meeting of the American Chemical Society, found new evidence that soft drinks sweetened with HFCS may contribute to the development of diabetes because it contains high levels of reactive compounds that have been shown to trigger cell and tissue damage that cause diabetes.

• HFCS is almost always made from genetically modified corn, which is fraught with its own well documented side effects and health concerns, such as increasing your risk of developing a food allergy to corn.

Good News: You Don’t Have to Eat All This Corn!

Just because the U.S. government is heavily subsidizing this food crop, and food manufacturers are more than willing to make corn a primary ingredient in their products, doesn’t mean you have to take part.

Simply by following a sensible diet designed for your Nutritional Type, you’ll be able to cut the corn in your diet down to virtually zero. And you’ll likely experience a surge in your health as a result.

Via Break The Matrix

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The sweetening of American children turns sour

Does anyone really care about the welfare of our children? Take a glimpse of a few recent highlights: unsafe lead levels in children's toys, clothes, and bibs, salmonella in peanut butter, and an E. coli outbreak that has sickened 19 children in Colorado. What's next? Mercury in corn syrup! If you think this story line is part of a horror movie, you're dead wrong. This is reality in America. What are we doing to our children?

If you haven't removed corn syrup from your diet, there is no better time than the present. The sweetening of American children with corn syrup has turned dangerously sour. Corn syrup is a huge factor in the childhood obesity crisis that is associated with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. Then there is dental disease associated with too many sweets and corn syrup is a big ingredient in soda, candies and cookies. Now, we have many foods that have tested positive for low levels of mercury including Hershey's Chocolate Syrup, Nutri-Grain Strawberry Cereal Bars, Hunt's Tomato Ketchup, Kraft Original Barbecue Sauce, Yoplait Strawberry Yogurt, and many more. Kids get a daily dose of mercury, a well-known poison that leads to brain damage,learning disabilities, and many other problems. I guarantee that this is not good news for CSAPs.

While researchers and food industry leaders argue over what is a safe level of mercury for kids, I have to ask, "Why would you want kids to eat any mercury at all?" How can anyone ethically design a study that has kids ingest mercury and wait years to see what damages occur? Some researchers are saying there is cause for concern, others request more tests, and of course the food industry carries a familiar mantra, "our food is safe." Let me see, where have I heard this before, could it be from the company in Georgia who knew their peanut butter was contaminated with salmonella and released it anyway, or how about the tobacco industry who insisted smoking was safe while thousands were dying? Unfortunately, it is our children who suffer most if they are exposed to long-term mercury levels.

What does mercury do to a child? All forms of mercury are harmful and very young children are at greater risk than adults. Some health problems caused by mercury include:

Damage to the development of the brain and nervous system;

Negative impact on cognitive thinking, memory, attention, language, fine motor, and visual spatial skills;

Mercury in pregnant women is passed to the developing baby;

Prolonged exposure to high levels of mercury can permanently damage the brain, kidneys, and developing infant;

Pregnant women may have no symptoms, but developing infant may still have severe disabilities;

Short-term exposure to high levels of metallic mercury vapors may cause lung damage, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rise in blood pressure or pulse, skin rashes, and eye irritation; and

The US Environmental Protection Agency warns that mercuric chloride and methyl mercury may cause cancer.

Why is there mercury in corn syrup? Better living through chemistry seems to be the answer. A "mercury-cell" is used to make lye (caustic soda), one of the ingredients used to separate cornstarch from the corn kernel according to Dr. David Wallinga, director of the Minneapolis-based nonprofit Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) and co-author of two studies finding mercury in foods with corn syrup. (Link)

Here's a quick chemistry lesson. Chlor-alkali plants used the century old process of a "mercury cell" to electrolyze saltwater to form sodium hypochlorite (NaOCL) and sodium hydroxide (NaOH, also called caustic soda). This reaction occurs in an electrolytic cell, where liquid mercury acts as a cathode (positive electrical charge) and attracts sodium (Na) cations (positively charged) to form an amalgam (mixture of mercury with another element). This reaction collects a sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl) gas at a graphite anode (negative electrical charge). The next step is the amalgam combines with water and the sodium (Na) reacts to form sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and hydrogen (H). The mercury is a by-product that is reused. However, mercury vaporizes easily, so the end results are both the product and the wastewater have mercury contamination.

Luckily most chlor-alkali plants in the US no longer use this antiquated process as safer techniques have been around since the 70's. However, according to the 2007 Oceana Report, there are some US plants that are resistant to change. This group is known as the "Filthy 5" and includes: (1) ASHTA Chemicals in Ashtabula, Ohio, (2) Olin Corporation in Charleston, Tennessee, (3) Olin Corporation in Augusta, Georgia, (4) PPG Industries in Natrium, West Virginia, and (5) ERCO Worldwide in Port Edwards, Wisconsin. The Filthy 5 accounted for nearly 4400 pounds of mercury released in the US annually at the time of the Oceana's July, 2007 Report (Link).

Recently, Audrae Erikson, President of the Corn Refiners Association, argues, "To imply that there is a safety concern based on this incomplete and flawed report is irresponsible." It is important to note that mercury was not found in all food samples, just in 17 of the 55 samples randomly tested. As usual, there are more details to the mercury problem than realized and regulation of toxins in our environment remains one of our greatest challenges to protect the health of our children. We have long recognized that mercury in industrial wastewater contaminates certain fish in our food supply, so the corn syrup issue is just one more reason to increase pressure on the Filthy 5 to update to safer and cleaner technology that does not use spew mercury into our food or our environment.

So what do we do while we are waiting for the experts to figure this out? There are plenty of foods without corn syrup and corn syrup adds no healthy nutritional benefits. Simply look at the ingredients and choose the foods that do not have corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup. While we're at it, let's have our kids do some ingredients reading, so they learn how to make healthy choices too!


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Salmonella in Peanut Butter, Melamine in Milk, Mercury in Corn Syrup -- How Do We Know What's Safe to Eat?

One of our best hopes for safe food is to protect the farmers that give us a way to opt out of the industrial food system.

As the news headlines appear, one by one, about salmonella in peanut butter, antibiotics found in vegetables, melamine in milk, mercury in high fructose corn syrup and the potential of clones in the U.S. food supply, consumers have more and more reasons to be wary of our industrial food system.

One can go vegetarian, buy organic, or avoid processed foods, but it is hard to truly avoid all of the dangers that lurk in our food. For these reasons and others, many choose to buy their food from local, sustainable farmers. But with economic trouble hitting seemingly every sector, how long will these farmers be able to hold on?

In many ways, the family farmer is an endangered species in America, made even more precious by the daily influx of bad news about food produced by the alternative -- industrialized agriculture.


Popular Soft Drinks Removing High Fructose Corn Syrup

Snapple, Pepsi, Mountain Dew Among Heavy Hitters That Will Say Goodbye To Controversial Ingredient

In a competitive marketplace drink makers are trying to keep customers happy and are now ditching high fructose corn syrup.

Snapple is doing it and so is Pepsi and Mountain Dew, too.

High fructose corn syrup is getting tossed by beverage makers, who instead are opting for plain sugar. It's a reversal of a trend that goes back to the 1980s and not a moment too soon for some customers.

"I just avoid it, I try to avoid it at all costs," said Jason Brown of Chelsea.

"It's just adding empty calories to everything you eat," another resident said.

High fructose corn syrup, which is found in everything from bread, cereal, and soda to processed and packaged foods, is being removed after years of taking a beating for links to obesity and disease.

"We find it almost everywhere. It's omnipresent in the food supply," Dr. Carla Wolper said.

Wolper, an obesity expert, said the real problem is that food manufacturers across the board have been tucking high fructose corn syrup into their products for decades because it is a cheaper sweetener than sugar, making it harder for Americans to consume it in moderation.

"It's also in breads and sauces and other products that would have had a small amount of sugar added," Wolper said.

Snapple, which has long touted itself as "made from the best stuff on earth," is going to plain sugar for sweetness. It'll cut about 40 calories from some drinks and give it what they call a "fuller bodied taste."

And Pepsi and Mountain Dew sodas are going 1970s style with sugar as well for a limited time starting in April. PepsiCo said it wants consumers to have a taste of the original formula.

Health experts agree: to keep tabs on the amount of sugar and high fructose corn syrup you consume, read the labels.

The price of these new products will remain the same.


Have a taste of the real thing – sugar, that is

Is Mexican Coca-Cola the “real thing”?

That’s been a persistent question since the Coca-Cola Co. changed its original formula in 1985, replacing it with New Coke. A few months later, after petitions and boycotts, the company acknowledged its blunder and re-marketed Coke made with the old formula.

They failed to mention, however, that Coca-Cola Classic, as it has been known since then, wasn’t exactly the old formula, because it no longer contained cane sugar. Instead it was sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Regardless, sales skyrocketed and order was restored to the universe.

Now, decades later, iconic glass bottles of Coca-Cola sweetened with cane sugar have been appearing on store shelves around the U.S. Ironically, this arguably more real version of the real thing happens to be made in Mexico, where soft-drink bottlers still use cane sugar.

The surge of popularity of Mexican Coca-Cola in the U.S. doesn’t make the corporation happy, partly because of territorial rights, but more important, because cane sugar is a more expensive ingredient in this country than HFCS, thanks to tariffs and farm subsidies.

HFCS is cheaper because it comes from corn. The sweetener is made in a complex process that uses enzymes to partially convert nearly pure glucose corn syrup into fructose; the fructose is then recombined with glucose to create a high-fructose mixture of varying percentages, depending on the intended use. The soft drink ingredient, for example, contains 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose.

Cane sugar, on the other hand, is sucrose, a disaccharide of glucose and fructose obtained from sugar cane, which is not widely grown in the U.S.

Manufacturers of cane sugar contend that it is a “natural” sweetener and HFCS is not. The FDA hasn’t yet determined what “natural” is. However, the Center for Science in the Public Interest threatened a lawsuit against Cadbury Schweppes for claiming that 7Up, which contains HFCS, was “all natural” — and the soft-drink manufacturer changed its label.

Some scientists claim to have identified compounds in HFCS that lead to obesity and diabetes, and they are concerned by the genetically modified components in corn and in the enzymes used in the conversion process.

Other scientists counter that HFCS has exactly the same calories, component sugars and taste as cane sugar, and that there is no conclusive evidence that it is more harmful than any other sweetener.

“The problem with high fructose corn syrup is that it doesn’t taste as sweet as sucrose. The tendency is to add more and more,” says chef Rudolph Spiess, Baking and Pastry professor at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. “A little bit of HFCS is OK in the diet, but we just use too much of it. It is in everything.”

In fairness, it should be noted that excess consumption of cane sugar isn’t recommended by dietitians, doctors or dentists, either. It may be the total of all the sugars we consumethat is causing the increase in diabetes and obesity in this country.

Health issues aside, what about the taste? Mart Martin, a spokesman for Coca-Cola’s North American division in Atlanta, says there is “not a perceivable taste difference” between U.S. and Mexican Coca-Cola, according to the San Diego Union Tribune. To find out, we conducted a blind tasting of Mexican and U.S. Coca-Cola with the help of the Culinary Institute of America in San Antonio. Unmarked samples, both taken from glass bottles, were served to the students and faculty, who rated their relative sweetness and overall flavor.

Interestingly, people who had been raised in or near Mexico often instantly identified the Mexican Coca-Cola and universally preferred it, while those raised in the States preferred the U.S.-made Coca-Cola. In other words, we tend to like what we’re used to.

One thing that wasn’t tested is how much influence the shape of the Mexican Coca-Cola bottle and the label might have on taste perception. After all, nostalgia is a thirst for something sweet from the past.

Mexican Coca-Cola is available at Central Market and some Mexican restaurants and markets.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Guess what’s lurking in your food

Strolling down the chaotic aisles of her local grocery store in Sana’a, Nabila is busy removing items that her three children have discreetly sneaked in to her shopping cart. “We’re not buying junk food,” she tells them, returning them one by one to the shelves.

But little does she know that many of the items she chooses to keep in the cart are actually “junk food” too. With some brands not writing all ingredients of their food labels and limited consumer awareness, her choices are limited to her motherly intuition.

High fructose corn syrup, also called isoglucose, is a thick liquid that lurks in all sorts of items at your local grocery store’s shelves and many fast food menus. You can find it in yoghurts, ketchup, cereals, pancake syrup, ice-cream, soft drinks, cookies, canned soup and fruit juices, among many other items.

How high fructose corn syrup is made

High fructose corn syrup is made from corn kernels. But that’s just the beginning of the process. Actual syrup production necessitates a whole string of industrial processes including high-velocity spinning and the introduction of three different enzymes to incite molecular rearrangements.

The enzymes turn most of the glucose molecules in corn into fructose, which makes the substance sweeter. This 90 percent fructose syrup mixture is then combined with regular 100 percent glucose corn syrup, to get the desired balance of glucose and fructose, somewhere between equal quantities of both to a ratio of 80 to 20 percent. The final product is a clear thick liquid that is sweeter than sugar.

Why high fructose corn syrup is good

It’s good because it makes everything taste good, but all this may come at the price of your health. Not only is high fructose corn syrup sweeter and easier to blend into beverages than table sugar, but it’s also a great preservative so it can be used in processed foods to extend their shelf life.

High fructose corn syrup is easier to transport and more economical in countries where the price of sugar are twice the global price, such as the United States and Canada. The syrup can be 20 to 70 percent cheaper than sugar.

In 1983, a beverage analyst estimated that by switching to high-fructose corn syrup, Coca-Cola gained a cost advantage of USD 70 million a year over Pepsi and its bottlers. A year later, Pepsi followed in Coke’s footsteps and also began using the artificial sweetener.

Why high fructose corn syrup is bad

First of all, high fructose corn syrup does not exist in nature. A product of the complex process described above, it is genetically modified.

In 1982, when the artificial sweetener was introduced into the American food supply, children for the first time began getting type II diabetes and obesity rates soared. In at least one study, the syrup has been linked to both.

The syrup also has been shown to interfere with people’s metabolism so that a person feels hungrier than they really are. This is because high fructose corn syrup also limits the secretion of leptin into the body’s system. Leptin is a hormone that signals to the brain when you are full and, without it, the amount of food you consume is not controlled. In parallel to this, the manufactured sweetener also encourages the production of ghrelin, a hormone responsible for controlling appetite, sending your appetite into over-drive.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2004 published a study noting that the rise in high fructose corn syrup consumption paralleled the rise in obesity rates in the U.S. and hypothesized that the way fructose is metabolized could be uniquely fattening. The authors later said that their study was meant to inspire further study, not to be a definitive declaration.

Because there are no enzymes to digest high fructose corn syrup, it is metabolized by the liver. The pancreas to release insulin the way it normally does for sugar, so fructose converts to fat more readily than any other sugar. An overworked liver produces significantly more uric acid, multiplying the risk for heart disease.

Although a number of associations have claimed that high fructose corn syrup isn’t unhealthy when consumed in moderation, it is hard to gauge just how much one consumes because, just like sugar, it is contained in so many foods one doesn’t know about.

High fructose corn syrup: genetically modified

According to a food technology expert, two of the enzymes used to make the syrup -alpha-amylase and glucose-isomerase- are genetically modified to make them more stable.

Enzymes are very large proteins made up of a chain of amino-acids. Through genetic modification, specific amino-acids are changed or replaced so the enzyme’s “backbone” won’t break down or unfold. This allows the industry to use the enzymes at higher temperatures without them becoming unstable.

Consumers trying to avoid genetically modified foods should therefore avoid HFCS. It is almost certainly made from genetically modified corn and processed with genetically modified enzymes.

But there’s another reason to avoid high fructose corn syrup. Consumers may think that fructose is healthier than sugar because they associate it with fruit, but a team of investigators at the United States Department of Agriculture discovered this to be untrue. A study they conducted proved a fructose diet to lead to many more health problems than a glucose diet.

Mercury in high fructose corn syrup

Researchers have discovered low levels of the toxic element mercury in high fructose corn syrup, according to the Environmental Health journal. The research was based on a limited test of only 20 samples of corn syrup, but mercury was found in nine of them.

How did the metal get in there? In making high fructose corn syrup, caustic soda is one of the ingredients used to separate corn starch from the corn kernel. According to one theory, caustic soda produced in industrial chlorine plants can be contaminated with mercury, then passed on to the high fructose corn syrup and those who eat it.

Mercury is toxic in all its forms. Given how much high-fructose corn syrup is consumed by children on ice cream and pancakes, it could be a significant source of mercury never before considered.

Back to basics

Until further research can prove or disprove that high fructose corn syrup is the devil’s candy, going back to basics and embracing all natural organic foods is a must. Consumers should read food labels as if they were health warnings.

Artificial sweeteners are not used in locally manufactured products, but high fructose corn syrup is present in imported goods sold in the local markets.

“Artificial sweeteners are not healthy for the human diet as they cause cancerous build-ups,” said Saleh Al-Ghaylan, nutritionist at the Consumers Protection Association of Yemen.


High-Fructose Corn Syrup vs. Sugar

You've probably seen those commercials [1] boasting that high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) isn't as bad for you as you think, since it's made from all-natural corn. It's misleading though because just like refined white sugar [2], HFCS is a highly processed sweetener. Both sugar and HFCS provide zero nutrition and loads of empty calories.

HFCS is more processed and it's cheaper than sugar so it's added to more foods. The campaign that's in favor of HFCS says it's OK to eat in moderation, but since it's found in so many foods, it's tough to avoid. HFCS also affects the hunger hormone in your body known as leptin, which creates an increase in your appetite and causes people who eat foods with HFCS to overeat. So the concept of self-control is thrown out the window.

The bottom line is that your body processes both sugar and HFCS in the same way, and eating either can lead to obesity [3] and diabetes. That means neither is healthier than the other. That's not to say you should ban all foods from your diet that contain sugar or HFCS, but try to eat less than 40 to 45 grams of added sugar a day. Read labels and look for the names sugar, HFCS, as well as this list of sugars


Corn syrup's bitter sweet debate

The Corn Refiners Association is out to flip on its ear high fructose corn syrup's bad reputation.

The association is in the midst of a national 18-month television, print and online ad campaign that touts the sweetener as "natural," "made from corn" and "fine in moderation."

But local consumers and dietitians aren't buying it.

"My concern is that when people hear 'natural' they assume that it's good for them and they consume anything called natural in excess quantities," says Keri Gans, a registered dietitian with the American Dietetic Association. "I think certain words, when people hear them, a light bulb goes off, and it's not necessarily the light bulb we want."

High fructose corn syrup is in thousands of foods -- from soft drinks and ketchup to juices and even bread. It helps foods maintain moisture and flavor, according to the Corn Refiners Association. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has classified the sweetener as natural.

But high fructose corn syrup has been accused of contributing to the rise of diabetes and obesity in the United States.

Some studies, such as one in 2007 by a Rutgers University food sciences professor published by the American Chemical Society, claim to have found a connection. The Rutgers study found that sodas sweetened with high fructose corn syrup contained compounds linked to triggering cell and tissue damage that can lead to diabetes.

But the American Medical Association recently concluded that high fructose corn syrup isn't worse than other caloric sweeteners like sugar, citing a lack of evidence proving otherwise.

"It's empty calories, and too much of those can lead to weight gain," says Gunilla Nordhammar, a dietitian with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "But there is no up-to-date research that shows it being more evil than anything else."

The corn refiners' ad campaign began shortly after the AMA's announcement last summer.

"We needed to set the record straight, because consumers need to know what they are buying and not be misled by a confusion of terms in the marketplace," says Audrae Erickson, president of the Corn Refiners Association. "It is not high in fructose."

Still, Susan Hawk says she's not about to sweeten up to high fructose corn syrup because of a few TV ads.

"Not at all," says Hawk, 40, of Baldwin. "I think they are trying to combat negative publicity. I don't believe the commercials."

Ruth Wolfe, a dietitian at Allegheny General Hospital, says the sweetener should be consumed in moderation.

But more and more people are ingesting the sweetener.

High fructose corn syrup consumption in 2006 was eight times higher per person than in 1976, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Sugar consumption decreased 33 percent in the same period, USDA data showed.

Pat Waters of Baldwin says perhaps the corn refiners' ads would convince people to look at the labels of the products they're buying.

"It's sugar," she says, "no matter what you call it."


Most Common Source of Calories in U.S. is LOADED With Mercury!

Almost half of tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) contained mercury, according to a new study. Mercury was also found in nearly a third of 55 popular brand-name food and beverage products where HFCS is the first- or second-highest labeled ingredient.

HFCS has replaced sugar as the sweetener in many beverages and foods. A high consumer can take in about 20 teaspoons of HFCS per day. The chemical was found most commonly in HFCS-containing dairy products, dressings and condiments.

The use of mercury-contaminated caustic soda in the production of HFCS is common.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

In case you weren’t aware, the number one source of calories in the United States is high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). The average American consumes about 12 teaspoons of it every day, though as the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) pointed out, teens and other “high consumers” may consume 80 percent more than that.

Now it turns out that this widespread sweetener is contaminated with the toxic heavy metal mercury!

The samples were found to contain levels of mercury ranging from below a detection limit of 0.005 to 0.570 micrograms mercury per gram of HFCS. And this was from samples of popular name-brand foods and beverages, including some made by Quaker, Hershey’s, Kraft and Smucker’s.

How Does Mercury Get Into Corn Syrup?

Although the makers of HFCS like to claim that it’s natural, it’s actually a highly refined product that would never exist in nature. Its manufacture involves an extensive process, one step of which is to separate corn starch from the corn kernel.

Caustic soda is used, among other things, to do this, and for decades mercury-grade caustic soda produced in industrial chlorine (chlor-alkali) plants has been used for this purpose.

Because mercury cells are used to produce some caustic soda, the caustic soda may become contaminated, and ultimately transfer that mercury contamination to the HFCS in your soda, salad dressing, soup, cereal, and so on.

Said IATP’s David Wallinga, M.D., a co-author of both studies:

“Mercury is toxic in all its forms. Given how much high fructose corn syrup is consumed by children, it could be a significant additional source of mercury never before considered. We are calling for immediate changes by industry and the FDA to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply.”

Isn’t it ironic that the Corn Refiners Association just recently spent around $30 million on an ad campaign designed to rehabilitate HFCS’s reputation as an unhealthy sweetener?

It’s going to take a lot more than a few TV commercials to explain away this latest revelation.

Why Consuming Mercury is a Bad Idea

Mercury acts as a poison to your brain and nervous system. This is especially dangerous for pregnant women and small children, whose brains are still developing. If infants or fetuses are exposed to mercury, it can cause:

• Mental retardation
• Cerebral palsy
• Deafness
• Blindness

Even in low doses mercury can interfere with a child’s development, leading to shortened attention span and learning disabilities.

In adults, mercury poisoning can be a serious risk as well, and has been linked to fertility problems, memory and vision loss, and trouble with blood pressure regulation. It can also cause extreme fatigue and neuro-muscular dysfunction, as experienced recently by Chicago actor Jeremy Piven.

Further, studies show that mercury in your central nervous system (CNS) causes psychological, neurological, and immunological problems including:

• Arrhythmias and cardiomyopathies
• Tremors
• Insomnia
• Personality changes and irritability
• Headaches

• Weakness
• Blurred vision
• Slowed mental response
• Unsteady gait

To make matters worse, mercury bonds very firmly to structures in your CNS. Unless actively removed, it has an extremely long half-life of somewhere between 15 and 30 years in the CNS! What this means is that consuming mercury-contaminated HFCS is probably cumulative, with the damage adding up over time.

Mercury is Not the Only Reason to Avoid HFCS

The fact that HFCS-sweetened food and drinks may contain mercury is enough to make me avoid them like the plague. But then again, I avoided them entirely even BEFORE this news came out and I strongly encourage you to take a similar stance.

Part of what makes HFCS such an unhealthy product is that it is metabolized to fat in your body far more rapidly than any other sugar, and, because most fructose is consumed in liquid form (soda), its negative metabolic effects are significantly magnified.

Among them are:

• Diabetes
• Obesity
• Metabolic Syndrome
• An increase in triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels
• Liver disease

Fructose also contains no enzymes, vitamins or minerals, and it leeches micronutrients from your body. Unbound fructose, which is found in large quantities in HFCS, can interfere with your heart's use of minerals such as magnesium, copper and chromium.

Last but not least, HFCS is almost always made from genetically modified corn, which is fraught with its own well documented side effects and health concerns, such as increasing your risk of developing a food allergy to corn.

Want to Ditch HFCS?

If you’re healthy, occasional use of small amounts of corn syrup isn’t going to cause any health catastrophes. However, most people are not eating corn syrup in moderation. In 2007, Americans consumed an average of 56 pounds of HFCS each!

A large part of this was undoubtedly from soda, which, again, is the number one source of calories in the United States. So if you’re looking to cut back on HFCS, right off the bat one of the best things to do is to limit or eliminate soda and sugary drinks from your diet, and my turbo tapping technique can help you to do that.

This dangerous sweetener is also in many processed foods and fruit juices, so to avoid it completely you need to focus your diet on whole foods. If you do purchase any processed foods, make sure you read the label … and put it back on the shelf if it lists high-fructose corn syrup as an ingredient -- especially if it’s the first- or second-highest labeled ingredient.


Reading the Tea Leaves, Snapple Refreshes Itself

Snapple, once the “official beverage of New York City,” is being redesigned — inside and out — this year.

The popular iced teas are losing the high-fructose corn syrup and the dated font. The bottles are becoming more svelte (to better fit into cup holders, which became a force after Snapple iced teas were originally introduced). The labels will also emphasize the green and black tea leaves used to make the drink. The changes are rolling out over the first few months of the year, and they are expected to hit New York in early March, according to Dr Pepper Snapple Group, which is now the owner of the brand.

Snapple, which once defined the genre of specialty tea, now finds itself fading in an increasingly crowded field of competitors. The brand, which passed through many hands before landing as part of Dr Pepper Snapple, went through a round of focus group testing over the last two years.

“Through that work we really found that Snapple had lost of its luster and had been replaced in the minds of consumers by other beverages out there,” said Jim Trebilcock, an executive vice president with Dr Pepper Snapple.

(For example, President Obama prefers (the more lightly sweetened) Honest Tea, and the White House is now stocked with his favorite flavors, Black Forest Berry and Green Dragon.)

Real sugar is replacing the corn syrup. (Sugar vs. corn syrup, by the way, is the difference between Mexican and American Coca-Cola.) In some cases, that has actually resulted in a decrease in calories.

The old ingredient list for Lemon Snapple Iced Tea: “water, high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, tea, natural flavors.” Calories: 200. The new ingredient list: “filtered water, sugar, citric acid, tea, natural flavors.” Calories: 160.

The label is also being refreshed. Gone is the print-block style sun, the handwritten fonts, and the red highlights. Instead, they are putting more emphasis on “All Natural” and “Made From Green & Black Tea Leaves.” The “Snapple” itself is going from a heavy-set typeface to a more elegant serifed typeface. (Logo redesign seems to be in these days.)

Of course, Snapple’s origins are rooted in selling juices to health food stores. Originally, in 1972, it was a partnership of three men that was named Unadulterated Food Products.

The five-year, $166 million “official beverage” agreement with New York is scheduled to expire this year, because it failed to live up to its potential, but the drink and the city are still tightly bound. Not only was the original company founded in Brooklyn Queens in 1972, but also, about 40 percent of Snapple sales today are concentrated in New York City — arguably the highest concentration of any nationally distributed beverage in the United States.

Mr. Trebilcock said that Dr Pepper had 30 percent of its sales concentrated in five southwestern states, but still that was 30 percent, and across five states. “The New York consumer has made Snapple what it is,” he said.

While on the phone with the Snapple executives, this reporter took the opportunity to lodge a protest about the inability to find Mint Snapple Iced Tea, which apparently was discontinued despite protests and petitions. (Others are trying to take steps to remedy the absence, too.) Mint Snapple Iced Tea lovers, your voices have been heard.


Sweetness and Blight: Why is the FDA unwilling to study evidence of mercury in high-fructose corn syrup?

High-fructose corn syrup doesn't just deliver a jolt of sweetness to thousands of processed food items consumed by tens of millions of Americans each day. It also may add a touch of mercury, a powerful neurotoxin that may not be safe to consume at any level.

That's the message of two separate studies published last month. The first, led by a former FDA researcher named Renee Dufault and published in the peer-reviewed Environmental Health Journal, found mercury in nearly half of high-fructose corn syrup samples collected in 2005. Dufault had alerted her superiors about the finding in 2005 and got no response, she told me in a recent interview. She began the process of publishing her research after retiring from the FDA last year.

The other study, conducted by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy [PDF], found traces of the toxic heavy metal in one-third of HFCS-containing products its researchers pulled off of supermarket shelves last year.

I wrote about the studies when the first media reports came out. Since then, I've been shocked at the official silence. While the researchers haven't proven conclusively (nor have they claimed to) that the vast array of products containing HFCS are imparting damaging levels of mercury to the people who consume them, their findings raise serious and troubling questions -- ones that aren't, from what I can tell, being looked into by any public-health agency.

The FDA's response to Dufault's study hasn't changed since she first presented it to her superiors in 2005: The agency refuses to investigate the HFCS-mercury link. FDA press officer Michael L. Herndon told me via email this week that "there will be no testing based on" the research. Meanwhile, mainstream news organizations have largely ignored the story.

Meanwhile, tens of millions of Americans continue to consume products containing high-fructose corn syrup. The USDA reckons that the average American consumes 40 pounds of HFCS every year.

Paging Erin Brockovich

The Environmental Health and IATP studies speculated that the mercury is seeping into HFCS through an industrial substance called caustic soda, used by HFCS producers to break down corn. Until a decade or so ago, most caustic soda was manufactured in chlorine plants that relied on mercury. This "mercury-grade" caustic soda is being phased out in favor of a new kind made without the toxic heavy metal. For this reason, the FDA press officer I corresponded with called it an "outdated process." But it remains in use -- and there are no regulations preventing it from being used to make food products like HFCS.

Today, just 10 percent of U.S. caustic soda comes from four remaining mercury-using plants, according to the IATP study. But in Europe, 60 percent of caustic soda production relies on mercury -- and there are no restrictions on importing it into the United States. "The HFCS companies use what's cheapest," Dufault told me in a phone interview. "They have no obligation to report whether they're using it [mercury-grade caustic soda] or not." Dufault emailed data compiled from the U.S. International Trade Commission suggesting a trend of rising imports of mercury-grade caustic soda, particularly from Great Britain.

The corn industry reacted swiftly to the research linking HFCS and mercury. On Jan. 26 -- the same day the Dufault and IATP studies were released -- the Corn Refiners Association issued a curt press release casting doubt on the "relevance and accuracy" of the test results. The CRA called the mercury-based caustic soda process "outdated," but never mentioned that it's still being used to make ingredients used in a wide range of consumer food products. A few days later, the CRA released a harsh assessment of the test results prepared by Dennis J. Paustenbach of ChemRisk, a self-described "leading scientific consulting firm."

"To imply that there is a safety concern to consumers based on the findings presented, both incorrect and irresponsible," concluded Paustenbach.

Yet in Paustenbach, critics say the corn industry has settled on a particularly dubious defender. The researcher has a storied history as a hired gun for industries seeking to avoid responsibility for the messes they create. The Environmental Working Group has described him like this: "Dr. Paustenbach has spent virtually his entire career as a paid expert for polluting corporations arguing for weaker health protections for workers and the public from some of the most notorious toxic substances ever known."

Paustenbach's most notorious foray into public debates around toxins involves chromium-6, a once-widely used industrial chemical now known to be carcinogenic. In an excellent 2005 exposé, The Wall Street Journal detailed Paustenbach's dodgy dealings on behalf of PG&E, the California utility accused of leaking toxic levels of chromium-6 into one town's groundwater (a case made famous by the 2000 Julia Roberts film Erin Brockovich).

Paustenbach's critique of the two studies ultimately hinges on the type and amount of mercury detected by Dufault in HFCS samples and by IATP in supermarket products. "Even if it were assumed that the mercury content found in the extremely limited sampling of foods and beverages was representative," he wrote, "the amounts are far lower than levels of concern set by government agencies." He adds: "The authors ignore important distinctions between organic and other forms of mercury and their implications for assessing human health risk."

The FDA official I corresponded with echoed Paustenbach's assertion. "It is very probable that the total mercury level represents mostly inorganic mercury, this represents no health hazard since it is so poorly absorbed when ingested," the official wrote.

Dufault agrees that organic mercury, also known as methylmercury, is the most bio-available and therefore dangerous kind. It's the mercury that's found in fish -- and extremely toxic. Her tests measured total mercury -- both organic and inorganic. But she disputed the Paustenbach and FDA assertions that inorganic mercury poses no threat, even when it's consumed daily.

"There have been no long-term studies of the long-term effects of inorganic mercury exposure -- none," she told me. "Does that mean it's not harmful? No." She said that even in small doses, inorganic mercury accumulates in the body -- and can be particularly harmful to very young and very old people. Dufault pointed to a 2001 technical report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics calling for the minimization of exposure to all forms of mercury. "Mercury in all of its forms is toxic to the fetus and children, and efforts should be made to reduce exposure to the extent possible to pregnant women and children as well as the general population," the paper concludes.

Don't Test, Don't Find

While researchers like Dufault and her colleagues at the IATP draw attention to the potential risks posed by low levels of mercury in HFCS, the FDA and the industry resort to a "don't test, don't find" mentality and obfuscations about an "outdated process."

As the IATP put it in a recent report, "Americans get 10 percent of their calories from HFCS, on average." Children ages 6 to 11 -- key years for neurological development -- are among the highest HFCS-consuming age groups, topped only by the 12-to-18 and 19-to-30 groups (the latter being people in their prime childbearing years).

The solution seems simple enough: If the mercury-based process for producing caustic soda is "outdated," why doesn't the United States ban it? And given the wide availability of non-mercury-grade caustic soda, the FDA should ban the mercury-grade stuff from the food supply -- even when it's imported from Europe.

Maddeningly, the agency now refuses even to test for mercury in high-fructose corn syrup -- much less act decisively to banish it.


Pepsi to release pure sugar soft drinks

Pepsi Bottling Ventures will begin distributing "Pepsi Throwback" and "Mountain Dew Throwback" in April, both of which contain sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, according to Beverage Industry magazine. 

Currently the pure sugar versions of popular soda drinks like Pepsi and Coke can only be found in foreign countries or around the time of Passover stateside. Coke makes a special version with a yellow cap just for the Jewish holiday since consuming corn is not allowed. 

Many argue that soft drinks with sugar taste better. "It has a crisper flavor, not as cloying. I think it is a better-flavored drink," consumer Charlie Howell told the Los Angeles Times . 

Others add high fructose corn syrup has led to higher obesity and diabetes rates. The jury is still out, though -- the Mayo Clinic says research is still inconclusive . But the concern of a backlash against high fructose corn syrup is enough that the Corn Refiners Assn. launched a Web site called . The message: High fructose corn syrup is just as natural as sugar or honey.