Test Your HFCS IQ!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010 | 0 comments »

By Joe Wilkes

If you're a regular reader of the Beachbody® newsletter, you probably already know that HFCS stands for high fructose corn syrup. But what else do you know about this sweet additive?
  1. In a recent study, what was discovered in nearly a third of tested foods containing HFCS? Mercury. Two different studies were recently conducted by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. The first study found that nine out of 20 samples of HFCS contained detectable levels of mercury, and the second study found that nearly a third of 55 tested foods contained mercury. The HFCS in question is believed to have become contaminated during the production process, which involves the use of mercury cells. The Corn Refiners' Association released a statement that they do use mercury-free production processes now. However, not all HFCS production plants have conformed to the mercury-free processes.
  2. How much HFCS does the average American consume every day? Americans consume 12 teaspoons of HFCS per day, and teenagers can consume as much as 20 teaspoons. According to the USDA, Americans ate about 56.3 pounds of HFCS per capita in 2007 and 62.1 pounds of sugar. In total, Americans eat about 20 more pounds of sugar and HFCS combined than we did 25 years ago. And from 1980 to 2000, sweetened soda consumption rose by 40 percent—with the average American drinking 440 cans a year.
  3. Which has more calories, HFCS or traditional table sugar? They are equally caloric—with about 64 calories per tablespoon. Many have noted the correlation in the past 30 years of the rise in HFCS use and obesity rates. If true, it is unlikely that it is because HFCS is more caloric; rather, it's likely because of its lower production costs. Manufacturers can add HFCS to products more cheaply than they can add cane sugar. Chemically, HFCS is very similar to sugar, consisting of 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose (a similar ratio to honey), whereas sugar's fructose-glucose ratio is 50-50.
  4. Are foods labeled as "natural" or "organic" allowed to contain HFCS? Yes. The term "natural" is unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). HFCS comes from a natural source—corn (although often genetically modified), the starch of which is broken down with enzymes to turn some of the glucose into sweeter-tasting fructose. "Organic" products that have the USDA seal of approval can contain organic HFCS. If the product is labeled "100% organic," then it contains no HFCS.
  5. What does a bottle of Coca-Cola with a yellow cap signify? If you check the kosher section of your grocery store (especially during Passover), Coca-Cola makes a version of their soft drink without corn syrup—it contains sugar instead. During Passover, Jews are restricted from eating corn products, so the kosher aisle is a good place to look for non-HFCS products. Also, if you live close to Canada or Mexico, many favorite soft drinks formulated with sugar instead of HFCS are available, as those countries do not have the prohibitive sugar tariffs that the U.S. does.