Thursday, March 25, 2010

Big Problem

Health-care reform will help mitigate America's obesity problem, but there are more contentious issues that will need to be resolved to fully address it.

Take one highly publicized ingredient, high-fructose corn syrup, which is derived from corn and has made its way into a multitude of the foods and drinks we consume—ketchup, sodas, and even the presumably good stuff like salad dressing and yogurt. A formidable contingent of nutritionists believe that agricultural subsidies for corn and other crops have contributed to the obesity crisis by making fattening foods cheap and ubiquitous. They want the subsidies expunged.

For more than a year, the crisis of uninsured Americans has dominated the talk of the town in Washington. As it should. But now attention is turning to one of the most vexing and costly public health care challenges in the country—the problem of obesity. More than two thirds of adults and one third of children in the U.S. are overweight or obese, and the medical effects will continue to unfold in the decades to come. Will health-care reform help tackle obesity? And what else might happen now that first lady Michelle Obama has adopted it as her bailiwick?

Obesity is, in policy speak, "multifactorial," meaning there are many causes, from how much we move to what we eat and drink. Last year legislators considered a federal tax on sweetened beverages as a way to pay for health-care reform. Public-health advocates, including CDC director Tom Frieden, love this idea. If sodas and sugary sports drinks cost more, the theory goes, people will stop buying them, lose some weight, and get healthier. The beverage industry, unsurprisingly, lobbied the idea out the back door of the Capitol, but it is gaining momentum on the local level.

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Local beekeeper wants state to set standards for honey

Rice said manufacturers heat honey to 150 degrees to mix in the corn syrup, which kills live enzymes in honey that he said can help people with allergies.

A Frederick County honey producer wants the state to enact standards for the sweet substance.

Byron Rice, owner of Lord Byron's Honey near Thurmont , said much of the honey sold in stores is mixed with high-fructose corn syrup or cane sugar but labeled as honey.

"What that does is deceive the public into thinking they are buying real honey, but they're not," Rice said. "Us beekeepers who produce honey, we cannot compete with the pricing of honey mixed with high-fructose corn syrup or cane sugar."

Rice is advocating for the state to follow Florida and California in enacting its own standards, rather than wait for the federal Food and Drug Administration to act.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

7 Surprising Sources of High Fructose Corn Syrup

When you decided to take the Special K challenge, you had no idea you were upping your dose of high fructose corn syrup in an attempt to shed a couple extra pounds.Remember those commercials aired by the Corn Refiners Association that tried to convince us that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) isn’t bad for you? It turns out, they may be wrong. It’s all over the blogosphere this week: in the national fight against obesity, high fructose corn syrup is one food ingredient we should possibly be avoiding altogether. The nutrition controversy has raged for years, with one side claiming HFCS contributes to obesity in a way that plain old sugar does not, and the HFCS camp countering that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie. But several recent studies have indicated that this may not be true.

And while you know to pass on the candy bars, even meals like sandwiches and salads may be hiding a serving of high fructose corn syrup behind their healthy image. Check the labels of these typically nutritious foods to play it safe.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

A sweet problem: Princeton researchers find that high-fructose corn syrup prompts considerably more weight gain

A Princeton University research team has demonstrated that all sweeteners are not equal when it comes to weight gain: Rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same.

In addition to causing significant weight gain in lab animals, long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup also led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen, and a rise in circulating blood fats called triglycerides. The researchers say the work sheds light on the factors contributing to obesity trends in the United States.

"Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn't true, at least under the conditions of our tests," said psychology professor Bart Hoebel, who specializes in the neuroscience of appetite, weight and sugar addiction. "When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they're becoming obese -- every single one, across the board. Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don't see this; they don't all gain extra weight."

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Read the Paper Here

Study: Anything but real maple syrup is for saps

"If you're choosing syrup as a sweetener, pure maple syrup has a number of phenolics and high fructose corn syrup does not"

URI scientist finds health benefits outweigh those of products made from corn syrup

For maple syrup producers and lovers, this could be the best of times and the worst of times.

March is typically the peak time for tapping sugar maple trees for the sap that gets distilled into the sweet, amber elixir aficionados consider far superior to the cheap, fake stuff made from high fructose corn syrup. To get maximum sap flow, producers need a run of daytime temperatures in the 40s and nights in the 20s, but this season, the weather's been too warm.

"This is a very poor season so far," said Jill Walker, who runs Rick's Sugar Shack in East Haddam with her husband, Rick. "Last year we made 135 gallons, but this year we'll be lucky to get 60."

But while 2010 is looking like a lean year for syrup - at least for the pints from southern New England - demand could surge, thanks to a University of Rhode Island scientist's findings.

Navindra Seeram, assistant professor of biomedical and pharmaceutical sciences who specializes in medical plant research, has determined that maple syrup contains 20 compounds beneficial to human health. Among them are anti-oxidants known as phenolics that help prevent cancer and diabetes. Already known was that maple syrup contains the minerals zinc, thiamine and calcium.

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Study: High fructose corn syrup can hurt the liver

Fatty livers pushed to the brink:

Friday, March 19, 2010

Weighing the sweeteners

Sugar or high fructose corn syrup? For some it's a matter of health, for others, it's flavorSarah Higgins stocks up on kosher-for- Passover Coke this time of year, and even though she's not Jewish, her shopping habits are a matter of faith.

She believes in sugar.

And the high-fructose corn syrup that sweetens regular soda?

"It is the devil," said Higgins, 30, of Owings Mills. "It's in everything. If you were to go to your fridge right now, it has corn syrup in everything. It's in A-1. It's in salad dressing. I spend so much time in the supermarket - flip it over, if it has high-fructose corn syrup in it, it's not going in the basket."

Books, movies and news articles linking America's obesity epidemic to high-fructose corn syrup have made consumers increasingly wary of the sweetener. Some food manufacturers are responding by switching back to sugar in some products, including Heinz ketchup and Wheat Thins.

The change is most visible in the realm of highly sweetened, highly advertised beverages. From Pepsi Throwback and Heritage Dr Pepper to Gatorade and Snapple, sugar is making a comeback - if only in hype-seeking "limited edition" batches.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Duke study links high fructose corn syrup with liver damage

The corn industry is facing a new challenge over the health risks posed by high fructose corn syrup. A new study out of the Duke University Medical Center indicates that high consumption of the controversial sugar substitute is associated with liver scarring or fibrosis, similar to the damage caused by heavy consumption of alcohol.

Dr. Manal Abdelmalek, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology/Hepatology, says a study of 427 adults who suffer from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD, indicated that those who consumed more high-fructose corn syrup were more likely to have increased liver scarring or fibrosis.

NAFLD, which is present in about 30 percent of all adults, is a condition in which fat accumulates in the cells of the liver, which could lead to inflammation or scarring, also known as fibrosis. The damage is similar to that caused by heavy consumption of alcohol, but NAFLD occurs in people who are not alcoholics.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Food Companies Start Listening To Customers, Ditch High Fructose Corn Syrup

Do Americans feel strongly enough about high fructose corn syrup to seek out food without it? Will anyone go out of their way and pay extra to find soda or ketchup without the controversial corn-based sweetener? AdAge reports that some companies are removing it from their products, but have discovered that marketing the change without alienating consumers who weren't aware of or simply don't care about the presence of HFCS poses unique problems.

Big-name brands such as Wheat Thins, Gatorade, and Pepsi are experimenting with corn-free products.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

McDonald's USA Ingredients Listing for Popular Menu Items

Take a gander at mouth-watering ingredients like sodium aluminum phosphate, where even buns contain High Fructose Corn Syrup:

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How U.S. agriculture policies contribute to childhood obesity

In inflation-adjusted terms, the calories in soda pop and in French fries fried in soy oil and in chicken nuggets made with corn meal and corn starch … have all decreased in price in real terms over the past 35 years. What’s gone up dramatically in real terms is the price of fruits and vegetables, especially fresh fruits and vegetables — exactly the kinds of foods that kids don’t eat enough of.

Talk about throwing down a gauntlet.

In the March issue of Health Affairs, editor Susan Dentzer charges that “America is guilty of child abuse” for allowing almost one in three of its children to become either overweight or obese.

One of the causes of this obesity epidemic, she notes, is a U.S. agricultural policy “that has spurred production of cheap sugars and refined grains while doing little to encourage production of fruit and vegetables.”

The connection between our “cheap food” policy and our children’s alarming weight gain is explained in the current issue of Health Affairs by David Wallinga, MD, director of the Food and Health Program at the Minneapolis-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. I spoke with him on the topic last week.

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Over 130,000 cases of diabetes now linked to soda consumption, HFCS

Due to the extremely high acidity of the HFCS sweetener combined with the phosphoric acid used in sodas, people who drink sodas often lose bone minerals and end up being diagnosed with osteoporosis (even at a relatively young age).

For years, advocates of natural health have been hammering away at the message that soda causes diabetes and obesity. The soda industry, meanwhile, has remained in denial mode, mirroring the ridiculous position of the tobacco industry that "nicotine is not addictive." Soda doesn't cause diabetes, the industry claims, and it's perfectly safe to consume in essentially unlimited quantities.

The Corn Refiners Association has joined the denial with its own spin campaign that seeks to convince people High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is totally natural and completely harmless. HFCS is, of course, the primary sweetener used in sodas and soft drinks.

Now comes new research presented at the American Heart Association's Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention annual conference in San Francisco. This new research reveals that over the last decade, soda consumption has conservatively caused:

• 130,000 new cases of diabetes
• 14,000 new cases of heart disease
• 50,000 more "life years" with heart disease over the last decade

"The finding suggests that any kind of policy that reduces consumption might have a dramatic health benefit," said senior study author Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo (associate professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco).

The American Beverage Association, meanwhile, says this study hasn't been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal yet and therefore it doesn't count.

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Major Brands No Longer Sweet on High-Fructose Corn Syrup

Gatorade, Wheat Thins Among Products Ditching HFCS for Sugar

Bowing to consumer demands, major brands are removing high-fructose corn syrup from some of their products in favor of sugar. Few, however, are shouting it from the rooftops as it would cast a shadow on those products that still contain HFCS.

Hunt's ketchup, Gatorade and Wheat Thins are all permanently ditching corn syrup for sugar. Heinz has created a sugar-sweetened version of its iconic ketchup, while Pepsi and Mtn Dew launched limited-time, sugar-sweetened versions of their colas. But with all of these reformulations, only Pepsi and Mtn Dew have made any noise to date.

"We know moms don't like it, and they don't want to feed it to their kids," said supermarket expert Phil Lempert, who has pushed for HFCS removal for a decade. "As a result, the brands that lead the pack to get rid of it, they're going to see an uptick in sales." He added that the sugar shift is an easier one for consumers than say fat-free cheese. Most consumers either don't notice a taste difference or prefer the sugar version.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

High Fructose Corn Syrup: A Sticky Fat Trap

The use of HFCS has risen dramatically over the last 35 years. It is now used in all kinds of products, from most soft drinks and many name brand candies to products one would not associate with syrup: salad dressing, Yoplait yogurt and even healthier cereals like Special K.

When I was an undergraduate, one of my classmates said that university life can be quite insulating. It insulates us from many problems including the huge number of people who are now obese, referring to individuals with a Body Mass Index (BMI) – the ratio of weight to height – of 30 or higher.

50 years ago, obesity in the U.S. was an issue; that has changed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 1992 there were only six states with 15 percent or more of the population was obese, and none with a rate over 20 percent. By 2008, only one state – Colorado – had fewer than a 20 percent obesity rate. According to the National Health Examination Survey, 13.4 percent of people 20-74 years of age in 1962 were classified as obese compared with 35.1 percent by 2006. While there is evidence that obesity rates appear to be leveling off, the numbers are still staggering.

There are several negative consequences of widespread obesity. According to an article in Health Affairs, each obese American incurs health care costs about 42 percent greater than someone with normal weight. It also shortens life expectancy and decreases productivity, due to increased illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. There is also the money spent on weight loss. With 25 percent of American men and 43 percent of American women attempting to lose weight each year, the weight loss industry is making billions, worth $55.4 billion in 2006. The resources and money used for this industry could clearly be used elsewhere.

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Monday, March 8, 2010

Sugar Gains Favor on Labels

Despite Costs, More Packaged-Food Producers Replace High Fructose Corn Syrup

High fructose corn syrup, the sugar alternative used to sweeten sodas, cookies, condiments and cereals, is beginning to lose some ground in the packaged-food industry.

More big-name food and beverage products—including Kraft Foods Inc.'s Wheat Thins —have begun dropping the ingredient in favor of sugar, despite a big difference in cost, saying they are responding to consumer preferences for ingredients perceived as more natural.

ConAgra Foods Inc. in May will start replacing the sweetener with sugar in its Hunt's tomato ketchup. "That's what consumers are looking for—simpler ingredient listings and ingredients they are familiar with," ConAgra spokeswoman Teresa Paulsen said.

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

New Cause of Autism?

"Dr. Sean Kenniff believes there may be a link between the rise in Autism and the rise in obesity. Dr. Kenniff thinks the mercury in high fructose corn syrup may be to

Autism is quickly becoming one of the most diagnosed disorders in children, and scientists aren't any closer to figuring out what causes it.

Unlike other disorders, most who suffer from autism don't share common traits, and that may be one of the most frustrating parts about the disorder.

30 years ago, it was a relatively obscure diagnosis. Today, 1 in every 150 kids has some form of autism.

"Autism, Asperger's Syndrome, all of it is a spectrum," explained Susan Walton, a Kearney mother of an 8-year-old boy who was diagnosed with Asperger's, "you have low functioning, very high functioning, and everything in between."

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