See What Scott & White Pediatric Dietitian, Amy Cantrell, Has To Say About The Popular Sweetener
It’s no surprise that there’s an obesity epidemic in our country. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese in 2008.
With so many children and adults battling the bulge, many people want to blame someone or something. But is there one food that is more of a culprit than the others?
Some think that the popular sweetener, high fructose corn syrup is to blame. And with so many conflicting reports out there about the dangers of consuming too much of the sweet additive, it’s hard to know whether it’s safe or not.
“There’s a lot of popular press out there that says that high fructose corn syrup is the reason for obesity,” said Scott & White pediatric dietitian, Amy Cantrell, RD, LD. “But it’s been disproven and disproven that that’s not true.”
In fact, HFCS is not even the most widely used sweetener across the world. Ninety percent of the nutritive sweetener used worldwide is sucrose (table sugar).1
And if HFCS is causing the obesity epidemic in America, why are other countries that use just as much of the sweetener not as heavy?
“Japan uses high fructose corn syrup. Europe uses high fructose corn syrup, and we have the obesity issue,” Ms. Cantrell said.
The reason, the dietitian says, is that Americans eat too much of everything else and activity in general is very low.
Refined sugar consumption rose from 80 lbs per person per year in 1970 to a little more than 100 pounds per person per year in 2005.
“Sucrose is providing 45 pounds a year, high fructose corn syrup is providing about the same amount, and there’s some glucose or corn syrup that’s providing maybe five pounds,” Ms. Cantrell said. “It’s an equal consumption. It’s not like we’re having more high fructose corn syrup.”
Even though HFCS is not solely to blame for America’s expanding waistline, Ms. Cantrell said that anything eaten in excess is going to be harmful to the body.
“There’s nothing wrong with fructose. Fructose is in fruits and some vegetables,” she said. “But the problem comes with kids drinking a lot of fruite juice (or consuming other foods that contain a lot of sugar). It can cause their blood fats (triglycerides) to be high, as well as contribute to excess weight.”
High triglyceride levels can lead to high cholesterol, heart disease or a number of other illnesses.
So, is it necessary to remove HFCS from your family’s diet?
“Let’s face it, there’s no recommended daily allowance for high fructose corn syrup,” Ms. Cantrell said. “Some of the products that HFCS is in are not good choices to have, for example some popular sports drinks or regular sodas.”
Extra sugar leads to extra calories, the dietitian said. So, giving your family a healthy, low-sugar diet is a good way to keep their weight and risk for health problems down.
A healthy diet should include:
- Plenty of non-starchy vegetables daily
- Moderate serving of fruit
- Modest amount of starch-bases foods
- Moderate amount of protein or meat
- Two to three cups of lower percentage fat milk a day
For more information about healthy diet, go to ChooseMyPlate.gov.
What do you think about high fructose corn syrup? Do you think the sweetener is okay as a part of your family’s diet? Are you a family who has cut HFCS completely out of your diet? Tell us about it.
1 White, John S. “Straight talk about high-fructose corn syrup: what it is and what it ain’t.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 88. (2008)(suppl): 1716S-21S.
* This article has been edited for accuracy.