High Fructose Corn Syrup: Dig Deeper Before Believing the New Corn Lobby Ads & Consuming the Stuff

Have you seen any of the TV spots, print and online banner ads that seek to convince us that high fructose corn syrup is fun to consume?

Before you believe the many new ads from the Corn Refiners Association – which is spending a reported $20 million to $30 million to convince us of its safety — I urge you to get facts from my recent Gab With The Gurus Radio Show, where I had the following guests:

Before, during or after you listen to the Gab With the Gurus Radio Show about high fructose corn syrup, I recommend that you:

Remember, you can listen at any time to the Gab  With the Gurus Radio Show about high fructose corn syrup.

Why Did Company Put Sucrose In Its Organic Baby Forumla?

Note from Connie: It’s bad enough to always be on the alert for sugar in adult foods, but now baby foods have sugar added. Talk about disappointing news! Kudos to Julia Moskin of The New York Times for dishing the sour scoop about this. Jennifer Moore gives you more details.

Buyer beware: Just because something is labeled organic doesn’t automatically make it the best thing for a person’s health.

Case in point: Similac, a leading baby formula company, sweetens its line of organic formula with sugar derived from evaporated cane juice, according to an eye-opening article by Julia Moskin of The New York Times. (Full disclosure: In the 1990s, I was a co-worker of Moskin’s at a publishing company.)

Why is sugar in baby formula a concern? Because, Moskin informs us, the cane sugar Similac uses is "significantly sweeter" than sugars in other brands of formula. What’s more, Moskin found an expert who said research shows animals prefer sucrose to other forms of sugar. (The story didn’t cite any specific studies, though).

Similac describes the sugar they use in their organic products as "safe and well established," having been approved by the F.D.A.

But the European Union is sufficiently concerned that sucrose-sweetend formuals will be banned in Europe by the 2009, except for severely allergic tots whose doctors orders these brands, Moskin reports.

So just how sweet in this Similac Organic stuff? The Times convened a panel of testers to taste it along with seven other formula brands, and they concluded that Similac’s product was the sweetest of the bunch, "with the sweetness of grape juice or Country Time lemonade." Yikes!

Given our nation’s obesity problem, it’s really a shame that a company is plying infants with the sweetest sugar they can find. I’d advise parents who are trying to minimize their children’s sugar intake to carefully read food labels, even those of organic foods.

Jennifer Moore for SUGAR SHOCK! Blog


FDA: Foods Containing High Fructose Corn Syrup Shouldn’t Be Called “Natural”

Citing synthetic "fixing agents" used to manufacture it, an FDA official in charge of product evaluation and labeling said that "we would object to the use of the term ‘natural’ on a product containing HFCS," according to Lorraine Heller of FoodNavigator-USA.com.

This could be good news for people trying to eat well if it means that more food corporations will back off from labeling HFCS-sweetened foods as "natural," as Cadbury Schweppes and Kraft have already done.

Health blogger Rebecca Scritchfield provided the tip about this development.

CalorieKing/Joslin Internet Tool Makes Healthy Eating Easy

Note from Connie: Let’s face it, not only can kicking sugar be tough, but when you’re on the run — which many of us are these days — eating a healthy diet can be a major challenge. That’s why you’ll want to know about this easy-to-use nutrition tool created by CalorieKing and the Joslin Diabetes Center at Harvard Medical School. Karen James brings you info about it.

The Internet-based food search toolbar (available for PC and MAC users) not only gives you the nutritional information of more than 50,000 basic and brand name foods, but it also tells you about how many minutes it will take to walk off that double-decker burger covered in sloppy sauce. (Of course, we’re not recommending that you have one.)

This CalorieKing-Joslin tool also provides information on the calorie density of various foods using a one- to four-star rating system that signals which foods, calorie-wise, are the best choices.

But this may be the best part yet—the toolbar is also available in a simplified mobile format for those with Internet-enabled mobile or smartphone.

What this means is that no matter where you are (as long as you have cell coverage), you can get the skinny on what you’re about to eat.

Karen James for SUGAR SHOCK! Blog

High Fructose Corn Syrup-Sweetened Sodas Contain Compounds that May Raise Risk of Diabetes

Note from Connie: It seems like every couple of months (at least) we keep learning about more alarming news and new research studies relating to the potential dangers of the ubiquitous sweetener high fructose corn syrup. Now Jennifer Moore updates us about a study from Rutgers University.

Rutgers University food scientist Chi-Tang Ho, Ph.D. took eleven popular sodas sweetened with HFCS to a lab, and found that they all contain "astonishingly high" levels of compounds called reactive carbonyls. He presented his findings at the recent meeting of the American Chemical Society.

What’s so bad about these reactive carbonyls? They are often found in the blood of diabetics and may cause cell and tissue damage linked to the disease, according to Health Day.

Interestingly, Ho says that table sugar doesn’t contain reactive carbonyls (though there are plenty of other reasons to avoid it, too, as Connie amply demonstrates in her book SUGAR SHOCK!). Big Soda uses HFCS instead of sugar because it’s sweeter and cheaper.

Soda isn’t the only drink that concerns Ho.

"I worry about kids in high school," Ho told Health Day.

"They rely on energy drinks to do their homework and stay awake. The level of [HFCS] is so high."


Soda Companies Settle Benzene Lawsuit

Note from Connie: It’s bad enough that soft drinks contain so much sugar, but for over a year, we’ve been hearing that that some soft drinks contain high levels of the carcinogen benzene. In fact, last year I posted here about this sad development and then again here.

To refresh your memory, the EPA says that acute (short-term) inhalation exposure to benzene could cause "drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, as well as eye, skin, and respiratory tract irritation, and, at high levels, unconsciousness" while chronic (long-term) inhalation exposure" has caused "blood disorders, including reduced numbers of red blood cells and aplastic anemia, in occupational settings." What’s more, experts reported reproductive problems "for women exposed by inhalation to high levels" and an "increased incidence of leukemia (cancer of the tissues that form white blood cells) have been observed in humans occupationally exposed to benzene." Today, blog researcher/writer Jennifer Moore brings you the latest development about benzene and soda companies.

PepsiCo and several other beverage companies just settled a lawsuit, which alleged that their drinks contain the carcinogen benzene, Ahmed ElAmin of FoodNavigator.com reports.

The suit claimed that Pepsi’s Diet Wild Pepsi soda contained four times the amount of benzene the Environmental Protection Agency deems safe to ingest (which begs the question of why any amount of a possibly cancer-causing substance would be considered safe, but I digress.) The settlement means that the soda makers will reformulate the potentially dangerous drinks, if they haven’t done so already.

It’s really too bad that it took a class-action lawsuit to get the soda companies to do the right thing. But in my opinion, the bigger problem is that we can’t even rely on our so-called public health watchdogs to look out for us, either.


TV Ads for Sugary Taunt & Tempt Our Unsuspecting Kids: More Than 40% of Commercials Push Candies, Snacks & Junk Food

Pity our poor, TV-watching kids. Just about every time they turn on the tube to watch their favorite shows, they’re accosted by ads pushing one sugary food after another.

If they’re not tormented by commercials trumpeting the scrumptious flavors of certain candies, then they’re being nudged to become a fan of the newest sugary cereal.

And if they don’t see ads for candies or cereals, then they’re teased into submission to chomp some processed-carb crap snacks.

That’s my rather casual summation on the largest study ever done of food advertised to children on TV.
The much-needed, landmark study, entitled "Food for Thought: Television Food Advertising to Children in the United States, was just released from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
More specifically, the study — whose lead author is Walter Gantz, chairman of the Department of Communications at Indiana University — found that:
  • Children aged 8 to 12 (they call them "tweens") see the most food ads on TV, an average of 21 ads a day, or more than 7,600 a year.
  • Teens see slightly fewer ads, about 17 a day, or more than 6,000 a year.
  • And children ages 2 to 7 see about 12 food ads a day, or 4,400 a year."

Not suprisingly, the study found that food was the top product advertised. Sure enough, of the food ads that target children or teens:

  • 34% are for candy and snacks.
  • 28% are for cereal.
  • 10% are for fast foods.

And we wonder why our kids are becoming moody, depressed, tired, irritable and fat?

Then, the Kaiser Foundation study found that:

  • A mere 4% are for dairy products and
  • 1% for fruit juices.

And get this: Of the 8,854 ads reviewed in the study, not one sinle ad targeting children or teens urged them to eat fruits or vegetables.

Duh! Small wonder that why our nation’s kids aren’t getting enough nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables.

But this "tween" category — aged 8 to 12 — appears to be the most vulnerable to these influence-generating ads.
The Kaiser Family Foundation issued the following statement:
"Children of all ages see thousands of food ads a year, but tweens see more than any other age group,” said Vicky Rideout, vice president and director of the Program for the Study of Entertainment Media and Health at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “Since tweens are at an age where they’re just becoming independent consumers, understanding what type of advertising they are exposed to is especially important.”
FYI, Walter Gantz the lead author and chairman of the Department of Communications at Indiana University.
I highly recommend that you also check out AP writer Kevin Freking’s take on the study.
Also, make sure to read Nanci Hellmich’s excellent summation of the study in USA Today. She also cites another major study, released December 2005 from the Institute of Medicine, which found that more than $10 billion each year is spent to market foods and beverages to children, "mostly," as she put it, "for products not considered nutritious." (I discussed the landmark study earlier.)
In particular, check out the quotes Nanci Hellmich got from Margo Wootan of the Center for the Science in the Public Interest and Daniel Jaffe of the Association of National Advertisers.
It’ll be interesting to see what the industry now does — other than become defensive — now that this landmark study was released.
Again, I urge you to listen to the audio file here.

Strong Evidence Links Soft Drinks to Obesity & Type 2 Diabetes,

Wake up, soda drinkers! Even if you crave sweet, sugary, bubbly drinks, it’s time to face the sour facts.

If you’ve been happily swigging soda with no concern about your health, it’s time to reassess your habit.

Even if you’ve paid no heed to previous studies, you need to pay attention to a new, hard-to-ignore sytematic review, which provides strong evidence indicating that it would be wise for all Americans to shun soda — or at least drastically cut back on it.

After looking at a whopping 88 studies, researchers from Yale University conclude, in the April issue of the American Journal of Public Health, that drinking sugary soda is tied to:

  • Weight gain
  • Increased consumption of calories, and
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Reduced intake of milk and fruit

Bear in mind that we’re not just talking about one study. This was a careful look at a whopping 88 studies, and this review flat out concludes:

"Recommendations to reduce population soft drink consumption are strongly supported by the available science."

Meanwhile, this report comes from a very credible source. One review co-author was none other than renowned obesity expert Kelly Brownell, Ph.D., director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University.

"Nobody claims there is a single cause to the obesity problem, but the existing science certainly puts soft drinks in the list of leading contributors," said Dr. Brownell, who greatly admired within the nutrition and healthy community. (In fact, I was thrilled when Dr. Brownell agreed to be interviewed for my book SUGAR SHOCK!)

If you have diabetes in your family, you’ll really want to pay attention to this next bit of information, too.

Perhaps the “most striking link” was between drinking soft drinks and developing type 2 diabetes, according to the reviewers.

That’s right — there’s a soda an type 2 diabetes link.

As MedicalNewsToday.com reports, in one study of 91,249 women, who were followed for eight years, those who consumed one or more soft drinks per day were twice as likely as those who consumed less than one per month to develop diabetes.

That’s something to consider next time you want to swig one more sodas a day, don’t you think?

"This result alone warrants serious concern about soft drink intake, particularly in light of the unprecedented rise in type 2 diabetes among children," the review points out.

The compelling review pointed out other shocking soda facts, too — ones that we’ve talked about here previously.

For instance, if you down a soft drink, it just may not satisfy your sweet tooth. It may even do just the opposite.

As pointed out by Laura Kennedy, a contributing writer for Health Behavior News Service "several studies found that the caloric increase is actually greater than that contained in the soda. This then rasies "the possibility that soft drinks increase hunger, decrease satiety or simply calibrate people to a high level of sweetness that generalizes to preferences in other foods,” the review authors say.

As also pointed out in MedicalNewsToday.com, the reviewers also observe that:

"These results, taken together, provide clear and consistent evidence that people do not compensate for the added calories they consume in soft drinks by reducing their intake of other foods."

Of course, whenever you learn about a soda study, you need to look to the funding source. In this case, the review study was supported, in part, by the Rudd Foundation, a private philanthropic organization focusing on obesity and education.

Not surprisingly, the American Beverage Association — which represents manufacturers of soft drinks and other non-alcoholic beverages — blasts the study on its website, calling it "bias" and coming from "activists," etc. 

OK, here’s what I suggest.

You decide who to believe — scientists from Yale who looked at 44 different studies or an industry that seeks to continue to sell these sugary soft drinks.

Coke Sales Bubble Up As Company Repositions Diet Sodas as “Healthy”: Atlanta Journal-Constitution Article Also Quotes Me

Duane also explains how the company is now positioning soft drinks as "healthy." (Read on to see my shocked comments about this new wildly creative marketing approach.)

Perhaps because of the fact that I’m a trained journalist, I do respect Duane’s measured approach to the subject when he writes:

"To, sell even more sodas, [CEO Neville] Isdell is pushing back against the stigma surrounding carbonated soft drinks, escalated in part by a debate over childhood obesity. He told stock analysts at a recent convention in Scottsdale, Ariz., that he wants to reframe what defines the category. His argument: The decision to drink a diet soda also can be a health-conscious choice."

Health-conscious? Oh please. But back to Duane’s more objective assessment:

The reporter also reveals that:

  • Coke plans to unveil a new vitamin-enhanced diet soda, called Diet Coke Plus.
  • The company began "dropping the term `carbonated soft drink’ from its communications last month in favor of the term `sparkling beverages.’"

I’m sorry, but I think "sparkling" is applies only to the bottled water I had at dinner tonight, not soda.

Duane then covers the other side of the issue, which is where my point of view belongs.

He says that:

"Coke’s effort to refresh the image of carbonated soft drinks as healthy has been panned by some, who say it’s just window dressing."

Then come my remarks:

"I think it’s really laughable to try to pass off diet drinks as healthy," said Connie Bennett, author of the book "Sugar Shock," which details health risks of sugary foods and beverages. "They sell water. Why don’t they just market that more."

Duane pretty well captured my sentiments.

He also brings up another valid point, which is that:

"Some consumers also "worry about artificial sweeteners in diet drinks, in part because of studies suggesting links between the sweeteners and cancer and other illnesses. The federal government, which regulates artificial sweeteners, has said there is no clear evidence of such links."

You know, despite the fact that I consider diet drinks anything but healthy, you really have to almost grudgingly admire these absolutely outlandish marketing tactics — which clearly have been designed to make a buck.

I sure hope no one falls for this absurd concept. Diet drinks are not healthy. End of the story.

So I Slept With 8 Bags of Unopened Candies in the Next Room! The Strange Things Writers Will Do!!

Yesterday, I entertained myself. More specifically, I embarrassed myself, because I just had to buy six bags of candies at my local drugstore.

That’s right: I went out and purchased some the stuff I used to eat quite often.

So awkward did I feel about getting the sugary foods that I so often rail about that I felt a need to justify my actions.

I emphatically told the cashier, "I am NOT buying these to eat. I’m getting them to talk about."

She certainly looked at me askance. She thought I was making this up. (Guess she thought I was a "sugar addict"?)

"Honest, I said."

Well, that piqued the curiosity of the woman behind me in line. She wanted to know whatever possessed me to spend all this money on candy, but then not even eat it! I told her I’d written a book and was going to give a talk.

She sweetly grilled me several times over, and so I pleasantly replied.

Then, she said, "Well, if you’re going to talk about sugar’s dangers, you really need to buy some marshmallow Easter candies." (You know the ones you peer at suspiciously or rapturously! LOL!)

Darn, I realized, she was right!

So I went back to buy two more bags of pink and yellow marshmallow thing-ys. Oh my goodness, the contents are about as nutrient lacking as you can get! (Yuck!)

(By the way, right before I purchased more junk food, I learned that this woman behind me who’d been grilling me was a reporter from Newsweek magazine. Hmm. Well, I’d be happy for a mention or an article in that illustrious publication. After all, TIME saw fit to write about my book SUGAR SHOCK!)

I’ll tell you later how my talk with the candies went. Basically, I’m going to offer some tips to people at my book signing so they don’t let those sugary foods hold such power over them.

Oh, and P.S. I slept quite well, completely unaffected by the fact that all these candies were sitting in (unopened) bags in the next room.

See, you can maintain a distance from the stuff. Your sugar habit does not have to control you.