Archive for Monday, March 31, 2008

Corn’s role insidious in diets

March 31, 2008


I believe corn will be our undoing. Don't get me wrong, I love corn. No summer picnic would be complete without corn on the cob. A movie is not as satisfying without popcorn. And cornbread? Nobody makes a better cornbread from scratch than I do.

Corn is all-American, about as American as you can get. But corn may ultimately be our undoing. Or to be more precise, using corn for purposes for which it was not intended may be our undoing.

First, corn is force-fed to cattle in order to fatten them quickly. A cow's digestive system is designed exclusively for grass. Corn causes them to bloat and be prone to infection. Hence, they must be given antibiotics to keep them disease-free until they are slaughtered and hormones to speed the fattening process. Skipping past the troubling issues of unnecessary hormones and antibiotics, corn-fed beef is super-high in fat content and is clogging our arteries.

The other way corn is killing us is far more insidious: high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). This artificially produced super-goo, which exploded into our food supply in the 1980s, has become the sweetener of choice for the food industry, and it's everywhere. Go to your pantry and check out the labels. Soft drinks, fruit juice, breakfast cereal, peanut butter, jelly, mayonnaise, salad dressings, ketchup, pasta sauce, mustard, hot dogs, cookies, candy, potato chips, canned soup, crackers, cake, yogurt, pudding, pancake syrup, bacon, beer, macaroni and cheese, even some bread.

Furthermore, it exists in huge amounts in many of the products we consume daily. That "healthy" fruit-flavored yogurt you get your child to eat has loads of HFSC - the equivalent of 15 teaspoons of sugar - in one little container. And that "healthy" whole-grain cereal is coated with it. As for the 16 oz. can of cola, you are ingesting the equivalent of 45 teaspoons of sugar in the form of HFCS. Coincidentally, obesity rates begin to skyrocket shortly after this substance was introduced into our food supply.

What's more, you'd be better off if that stuff in your soft drinks and peanut butter was genuine sugar. Sugar, bad as it is, is less harmful than HFSC, which some scientists say fails to truly satiate and therefore creates cravings as well as metabolizing more like fat than sugar. Some evidence suggests it is linked to type 2 diabetes.

The children of America are consuming huge amounts of high-fructose corn syrup. Nearly every "food" product advertised on children's TV shows contains it.

I'm making a prediction. Ten years from now, HFSC will no longer be in our food supply. It will have either been voluntarily withdrawn by the food industry, or the government - cities, states and perhaps even federal - will have banned it. The city of San Francisco recently proposed a tax on beverages containing it. Jason's Deli, a national chain with a deli at 33rd and Iowa streets, has pledged to take HFCS out of their offerings. They acknowledge it will be quite a challenge. They're already serving Dublin Dr. Pepper, sweetened with cane sugar. And Juicy Juice fruit juice is HFCS-free. Their ads on children's TV get the message across with a cartoon character doused in a disgusting sticky mess of goo.

Just as trans-fats - another substance created for the convenience and benefit of the food industry - are being phased out thanks to some gutsy cities, so, too, will be high-fructose corn syrup. It was created to find a way to use up a vast surplus of corn produced by agribusiness, and because it was cheap (due to government subsidies for corn growers and high tariffs on imported sugar) as well as convenient - it's easy to transport in tanker trucks and prolongs shelf life in food products. It found its way into many products during the fat-free craze when to compensate in taste and texture manufacturers replaced fats with HFCS. Remember how everyone got fatter eating "fat-free" food? And now HFCS is firmly entrenched in the food supply, supported by a corn lobby that comes down hard on anyone who brings up the topic. I assure you I will hear from corn lobby representatives as soon as this column hits the search engines.

I don't want it to take 10 years for high-fructose corn syrup to disappear from our food supply. We don't have that time. Obesity and type 2 diabetes are becoming epidemic in our precious young, the only generation who will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents' generation. High-fructose corn syrup is not the only thing making us fat. But it is a significant factor, and one that we can do something about.

And then there's corn ethanol : don't get me started.

- Elizabeth Black is a writer living in Lawrence. A southwest Kansas native who attended Kansas University, she recently returned to Lawrence after living in Chicago and then on the East Coast for more than 30 years.


bearded_gnome 7 years, 8 months ago

another very good reason to avoid "low fat" products like the plague.

agree on ethanol, makes no sense to put corn into cars instead of into people: eth does not burn so clean; it has already dramaticly increased meat and milk prices in the u.s.
another example of wacky liberals and their unintended consequences.

corn for people! looking forward to the local corn in june! it is always fabulous.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 8 months ago

"another example of wacky liberals and their unintended consequences."

The expansion of the use of ethanol is a result of "greenwashing" and lobbying by agribusiness and the corn growers associations, not "liberals."

salad 7 years, 8 months ago

True about high fructose corn syrup: it's in EVERYTHING!!! It's in stuff that it has no business being in, like sandwich bread and even soup. Why does bread and soup need sweetness?!?! When calories are cheap, americans are fat.

avoice 7 years, 8 months ago

"...even some bread."

Just try to find a loaf of bread (or package of buns) on a store shelf that DOESN'T contain HFCS. After reading tens of labels, I finally found one bread: Grant's Farm Stone Ground Wheat without HFCS. Until about a year ago, when even that bread started having the nasty stuff in it. Bake your bread at home in the bread machine: fast, fresh, no HFCS.

mr_economy 7 years, 8 months ago

There are only about three brands of bread I've been able to find at the 6th Street Hy-Vee that don't contain HFCS. One is the Mrs. Baird's Sugar Free (the other Mrs. Baird's products, however, do contain it), another is a brand found in the bakery section although the name escapes me, and the third is Ezekiel Bread, found in the Health Market freezer.

HFCS is a poison that has no place in our food. Thanks for raising awareness of it.

salad 7 years, 8 months ago

"HFCS is a poison that has no place in our food. Thanks for raising awareness of it."


jayhaitch 7 years, 8 months ago

The corn glut is the direct result of USDA policies initiated by Earl Butz, Nixon's Ag Head. We're eating so much of it because it's in the interest of the owners of the companies that process it, and, hence, the USDA. BTW, this is not the kind of corn that humans typically consume; it's mostly good only for processing into other products.

Read all about it in 'The Omnivore's Dilemma' by Michael Pollan.

Sorry about the capitalization errors; they're introduced by the website.

Confrontation 7 years, 8 months ago

For anyone who might be interested in checking out the ingredients in your favorite foods, here's a good website:

ralphralph 7 years, 8 months ago

High-Fructose Corn Syrup is the worst. The rise in childhood obesity, and obesity of the poor in America, are aligned with the ascent of supposedly low-fat foods that are packed with sugar in some form or another, such as HFCS, which, of course, turns directly into fat as soon as you eat it and return to the sofa. You never hear about this atrocity, I suppose because Cargill and friends own the people who are supposed to be our leaders. The grocery store shelves are basically stocked with HFCS constituted into different shapes and sizes, sometimes with a little real food thrown in for appearance's sake.

Adrienne Sanders 7 years, 8 months ago

As much as I do think HFCS is terrible, the prospect of the government having to ban it is terrible too. People need to be responsible for what they put in their own bodies. If people start looking for products w/o HFCS and being vocal about it, the people who make the bread will start giving us more options.

Really, the issue of what's in our food goes way beyond corn. Look at the ingredients in almost any loaf of bread in the grocery store. There'll be six lines of tiny print worth of ingredients. The only things that need to be in bread are flour (any kind), yeast, water, and maybe a bit of sugar or honey for flavor.

aginglady 7 years, 8 months ago

Me? I think max has made me want to cook a pot of stew, with corn and lima beans, the thin kind that you need a good hard roll, probably containing HFCS, and something like butter, probably with some trans fatty no nos.

bearded_gnome 7 years, 8 months ago

maxy is down to his usual level again.1. george bush isn't much conservative. 2. this ain't the only thing I disagree w/Bush on. 3. seriously, do we really want to use food to run cars? there's a basic market effect you don't want. cost of mexican tortillas rises steeply, for example. yes, many of the greeniewheenies push ethanol, claiming it is "a renewal resource" and that it burns cleaner [false]. ***yes, the HFCS stuff is all over the market. I was surprised Black in this article said it is even in beer and bacon. bacon, WTH?

aginglady 7 years, 8 months ago

To add to my suffering, a tv show on the south was showing boiled raw peanuts, fried green tomatoes, shrimp 'n' grits..then, sniff..banana pudding with a beautiful light brown 3 inch high meringue.

aginglady 7 years, 8 months ago

"Why do we need to fatten cows up so quickly? What's the rush?"_____so they don't look so pitiful when we ZAP 'EM!Another line of thinking, could be comparsions.1 cow fattened soon, slaughtered by what, age 2? =2 years of methane producing manure, land use, water,man hours, etc.1 cow, grass fed, takes 2 extra years to fatten? =4 yrs of manure...etc.You asked for ideas :)

Mkh 7 years, 8 months ago

Associated PressTuesday, April 1, 2008NEW YORK - "A BB&T Capital Markets analyst said Monday corn rationing may be necessary this year, following a U.S. Department of Agriculture report predicting farmers would plant far fewer acres of corn in 2008.According to the March Prospective Plantings Report, farmers intend to plant about 86 million acres of corn this year, down 8 percent from 2007, when the amount of corn planted was the highest since World War II.Analyst Heather L. Jones said in a note to investors if the USDA estimate proves accurate, the year may produce just 200 million bushels of corn. That, she said, wouldn't be enough to meet demand, given current export and feed demand trends and higher ethanol demand. Both ethanol and animal feed are made with corn."That is an untenable inventory demand, in our opinion," she said. "Consequently, we believe demand must be rationed or there needs to be a big supply response from other growing regions of the world."The plantings report caused nervousness among meat producers and food makers who spent last year struggling to offset higher corn costs. Even though acreage was high, demand for ethanol and need overseas pushed prices to record levels."

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