Thursday, June 11, 2009

Pour some HFCS on me!

Being a man of slightly large girth (that's code for 'fat guy'), I'm well aware of what high calorie diets do to a person.  And in making a sincere attempt at losing weight, as I'm prone to try and do about every 3 months, I know that cutting back on certain foods and reducing a certain amount of sugar in my diet will help me achieve weight loss, along with regular exercise.

But, I'm also a skeptic. So every time I start hearing the wails from the masses (or Oprah watchers) that food item X is bad for you, will cause unsightly blemishes or will just plain kill you, or that you should only eat products that are made a certain way (don't even get me started on the "organic foods" over-hype)... well, I raise an eyebrow and usually refrain from being another one of Oprah's mindless lemmings. (Side note:  at this point, with all the crack-pot woo that Oprah promotes anymore, including dreck like "The Secret" and dangerous nutjobs like Jenny McCarthy, I pretty much take the default position that anything she promotes at this point is made of stupid.)

This brings me to the modern kerfuffle over HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup), a common food sweetener found in many, many products.  If one were to listen to the talk lately surrounding HFCS, one would think it was the root of every health problem facing the world today... from obesity to cancer to acne to foot fungus, HFCS is the bane of the food additives world.  Just dastardly, nasty stuff.  Even self-appointed Public Watchdog No. 1, Michael Moore, declared that elimination of HFCS should be President Obama's no. 3 priority (according to his book, "Mike's Election Guide").  Ok, yeah... it's hysterical to see a guy of Moore's... ummm... stature talking about reducing HFCS as such a priority... but leaving that aside, with all the problems facing Obama as he entered the office of the President... HFCS is no. 3 on the agenda?  Really?  That's bat-shit crazy even for Michael Moore.  (Please don't get me wrong... I appreciate Moore's work in opening up eyes on some very sensitive issues, but let's face it... the man has a penchant for being absurdly hyperbolic.)

So, exactly how dangerous is this HFCS scourge? Is it really any worse than any other substance of the same caloric value?  Are the cereal companies in league with Big Pharma to keep people sick using HFCS? (Don't laugh... this has really been proposed.) 

The short answer is "no".  Actually, the much longer answer is also "no", but I won't go into that here.  There's a much more in depth article on the HFCS misconception at skeptoid.  I highly recommend reading it.  In that article you will learn how HFCS is chemically similar to table sugar, how HFCS has been mis-characterized and wrongly attributed to health problems, even by so-called experts like Oprah's regular, Dr. Oz (See?  What did I tell you about Oprah... just being on her show makes otherwise intelligent people salivate under her bountiful financial umbrella and embrace loony fringe theories just to keep the cash cow appeased).  This article also points to peer-reviewed studies that show no substantially different metabolic effects between HFCS and plain old sucrose. 

Does HFCS lead to obesity?  Absolutely.  If you take in too much of it and don't burn off the calories you take in... but it will do so at no higher a rate than other sugars like glucose and sucrose, in whatever form they take.  In general, high calorie intake without burning those calories off is what leads to obesity, regardless of the source of those calories.  So, if you want to lose weight, eat healthier food in general... don't overeat (that's my biggest problem) and exercise regularly. 

But don't buy into the hysteria that HFCS is one of the top health concerns in the country.  That's just irresponsible finger-pointing.  So read the article I linked to if you want to learn more about this.  It's really worth the read.

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