food politics, media

High-Fructose Corn Syrup is Bad Because….

I was watching tv the other day and saw this ad:

It’s the Corn Refiners Association latest attempt to defend their product high-fructose corn syrup. The ad shows a couple having a picnic in the park. A girl offers her boyfriend a bite of a popsicle. He says, “Don’t you love me?”
She says, “Of course I do. Take two bites.”
And he says, “But there’s high-fructose corn syrup in that and you know what they say…”
“What?” she says.
Then he just sits there with his mouth open… “um…”
She calls him silly; it’s just corn. It’s just like sugar. Same calories. Perfectly safe, in moderation.

Not silly. If that boyfriend could have spit out the words there are plenty of arguments to be made. Like…

1. High-fructose corn syrup is not the same as sugar. It may be sweet like sugar, but to the body the two are not the same at all. Unlike sugar which is glucose that is easily burned up and used, fructose gets metabolized as fat. It all goes through the liver and the body stores what it can’t use. So when you consume 120 calories of fructose, 40 end up stored as fat.

2. We’re consuming way too much of it. HFCS is cheap – a lot cheaper than sugar. So food manufacturers use it and it winds up in just about everything on the grocery shelf. Take a look next time you’re shopping. Check the bread, salad dressings, crackers. I bet it’s in there.

As for it being safe in moderation, OK, but the numbers are anything but moderate. On average we’re consuming 65 grams of HFCS per day. Before it came on the market in 1975, 20 grams per day of fructose was average.

So we’re consuming more, the body’s storing it as fat, and wait it gets better….

3. HFCS disrupts the release of hormones that regulate appetite. Now studies are showing that fructose doesn’t trigger leptin – a hormone that’s released to tell them brain the stomach is full. So HFCS leads to major overeating. There’s another connection between HFCS and fat.

That’s right. What do you have to say to that girlfriend?


What Do You Eat In A Week?

My work BFF, Jennifer sent me this link. Check out the photos of families from all over the world (The U.S., Mexico, Japan, Ecuador, Mali…) surrounded by the foods they eat in a week. You can imagine how this looks already, I’m sure: Americans with pizza and potato chips and people in Mali with, well, rice.

If you took a picture of all the food you ate in a given week, what would it look like?

There’s also a table that compares average income, life expectancy, food consumption and amount spent on healthcare among other things in each country. No big surprise here. America has the highest income and spends the most on healthcare (nearly double what Japan, France and the U.K. shell out). Funny thing is people live longer in Japan (#1), France (#2) and The U.K. (#3) than in the U.S. (#4). One thing we do have going for us is we smoke less. The U.S. came in #7 in tobacco consumption. The English take that one.

Interesting stuff.

media, news

New Ad Shows Human Fat Poured from Soft Drink

Last week the New York Health Department started putting up these billboard ads on city subways.

Are you pouring on the pounds? adIt’s the latest move in the city’s fight against obesity and diabetes. The ads show sodas and other sugary drinks like bottled tea and sport drinks being poured out as globs of human fat, blood vessels and all, over ice. They ask, “Are you pouring on the pounds?” and say, “Drinking one can of soda a day can make you 10 pounds fatter a year.”

Shocking? That’s what they’re going for. Now the question is will it work…

What do you think?

media, news

TIME Magazine: Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food

Americans now spend less on food than ever before. According to the USDA, less than 10 percent of our income is spent at the grocery store. We’ve come to expect cheap meals. But, we’re paying the difference in other places, like with health-care bills and damage to the environment. This week’s cover story in Time Magazine sums it up….

“Once you factor in crop subsidies, ecological damage and what we pay in health-care bills after our fatty, sugary diet makes us sick, conventionally produced food looks a lot pricier.”

You can get a burger, fries and a Coke for right under $5. I paid about that much last night for a head of broccoli. Bad-for-you calories cost less than good-for-you calories. We know this. And it’s no wonder America has a weight problem. But it’s not just our personal food choices that are to blame. When you look at what goes into making that $5 meal, it’s even worse.

Corn is the staple of everything on that value menu, from the corn syrup in the Coke, to the oil the fries are cooked in, to the feed the cow eats. That’s because corn is super cheap to grow thanks to government subsidies. Annually farmers produce 12 billion bushels of corn – four times what they did in the 70s – to feed our food supply. Corn itself is not bad, but with the chemicals necessary to produce such a mass crop, the rate at which Americans are consuming it, and what we’re now not eating instead, it’s simply unnatural.

Cheap corn has kept meat prices low while demand has sky rocketed. It’s the diet of farmed animals (even fish), never mind that cows and chickens are meant to eat grass. Details. The animals live in wall-to-wall packed CAFOs (concentrated-animal feeding operations) and they’re pumped full of antibiotics to keep the waste and bacteria from killing them. All of that gets packaged up with the meat. And it’s sold at $2 a pound on a shelf near you.

Angry? Then you should probably read the article.


You’ll Never Look at Dinner the Same Way…

A little scared?

Don’t be. Ignorance may be bliss, but not when it’s in the form of a cheeseburger giving you E. coli poisoning. Rare? Not so much. Food-related illnesses happen to an estimated 76 million Americans a year. A gross figure that could be helped with some responsibility.

Food Inc., a new documentary out in theaters, points out just how far removed we are from where our food comes from.

Consider this scenario:  You go to the grocery store, pick up a package of chicken breasts, a marinade, box of pasta, jar of sauce and a bag-o-salad. In an hour it will be dinner. But have you ever asked where those chickens were raised? How were the tomatoes in that pasta sauce grown? Probably not. It’s OK, I didn’t either.

We’ve come a long way in how we get our food. And we’re really efficient at producing large amounts of food at a low cost. But it’s coming back to bite us.
Now we have new strains of E. coli, antibiotics, pesticides, artificial food additives, and whatever else is or may be in the foods we eat every day. And then there’s the taste. Tomatoes are supposed to be sweet when they’re ripe! But I suppose ripening with chemicals just doesn’t have the same effect.

If that’s where the movie ended though I wouldn’t be wasting my time and yours. We’ve heard most of this before. We’ve seen the E. coli spinach on the news and heard about what goes on in meat processing plants. Yes, “Gross,” but that’s not the point. The point is that WE (the consumer) get the last word. We have control over the foods we buy and eat. If you don’t want antibiotic-pumped chicken, don’t buy it. If you don’t want Coke with high-fructose corn syrup, don’t buy it. If you don’t want genetically-modified tomatoes, don’t buy them.

Eventually the food companies will change. They’ll have to in order to stay in business. Organic, free-range, local food will become more accessible if it’s demanded. The power is in the wallet.

Intrigued? See for yourself.