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HFCS: the bottom line?

You’ve probably seen the slew of Corn Refiners’ Association commercials supposedly dispelling myths about high-fructose corn syrup. They all start with a snooty character telling another that HFCS is bad for you, but are unable to substantiate their claims. They are left speechless while their opponent defends the pervasive sweetener, saying it’s no worse for you than regular sugar. An article on high-fructose corn syrup, worth reading, states:

Let’s review: HFCS isn’t healthy, but there’s no reason to believe it’s any worse for you than cane or beet sugar; HFCS is just as “natural” as any other sweetener, at least according to the U.S. government; and while HFCS seems to have a slightly different taste from pure sucrose, many people prefer it. So why are we abandoning high-fructose corn syrup? It doesn’t matter how weak each claim is on its own terms; together, they seem irrefutable. You can win over hypochondriacs with one argument, environmentalists with another, and gourmands with a third. That’s the beauty of the three-pronged critique: It’s customizable. The foodies haven’t just killed HFCS—they’ve stuck a fork in it.

-from “Dark Sugar: The decline and fall of high-fructose corn syrup” [Slate]

You could probably skip reading the article altogether, since that paragraph sums it up nicely. But what the author misses is that, while these points may be true – that it may or may not be any worse for you than regular sugar, that it adhere’s to the government’s definition of “natural,” and that people like how it tastes – the reason high-fructose corn syrup is so despised by health experts is because it is everywhere. You cannot escape it. The ingredient has invaded most processed food on grocery store shelves – even in unexpected places, like tomato sauce and crackers. One of the points made in the commercials is that HFCS “is fine in moderation” – but, the thing is, you can’t eat it in moderation, especially for the average American, subsisting on many processed foods. And, if Michael Pollan is right, the production of HFCS is worse for the environment than regular sugar.

It seems that the debate on HFCS is far from over.

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Study links teen vegetarianism with eating disorders

A Time Magazine article entitled “Is Vegetarianism a Teen Eating Disorder?” discusses a study that links experimentation with vegetarianism among teenagers to eating disorders. The study, published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, revealed that “teenage vegetarians as well as young experimenters — those who try it but abandon it — may be at higher risk for other eating disorders compared with their peers.”

While vegetarian teenagers in the study were more likely to have a healthier diet overall – composed of more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lower in fat – than their meat-eating counterparts, they were also more likely to engage in behaviors typical of eating disorders, such as binge eating and taking extreme measures to control one’s weight.

“…most common reason teens gave for vegetarianism was to lose weight or keep from gaining it. Adolescent vegetarians are far more likely than other teens to diet or to use extreme and unhealthy measures to control their weight, studies suggest. The reverse is also true: teens with eating disorders are more likely to practice vegetarianism than any other age group.”

First off, what annoyed me about this article is that title implies that vegetarianism IS the eating disorder itself – making it likely that lots of parents are going to read this, then frantically worry about their teenage vegetarian. The article goes on to say that “it seems that a significant number of kids experiment with a vegetarian diet as a way to mask an eating disorder, since it’s a socially acceptable way to avoid eating many foods and one that parents tend not to oppose.” So, vegetarianism is not an eating disorder itself, but a potential symptom of one – as any drastic change in an adolescent’s eating habits might be.

read on…

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