Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ben and Jerry's: Maybe not "all natural" but HFCS-free!

Ben and Jerry's ice cream has made headlines again. In a flurry of news releases all linked to findings from the CSPI about the unnatural ingredients found in Ben and Jerry's "all natural" ice cream, the ingredients list of this ever-so-tasty line of ice cream has come under scrutiny. Here's an example of one such news release:
Ben & Jerry’s uses unnatural ingredients, group says

Basically CSPI is stating that there are ingredients (such as alkalized cocoa and corn syrup) in the Ben and Jerry's flavors that are labeled all-natural. Ben and Jerry's contends that they are (1) following FDA guidelines, and (2) responsive to consumer complaints and interests.

Given the issues I have with HFCS, i pretty much knew that Ben and Jerry's ice creams were safe, with one exception: Cherry Garcia. Well, it turns out that about a year ago, Ben and Jerry's changed the formula for Cherry Garcia, removing the HFCS from the cherry mix. Why? consumer interest/demand.

So, two comments on the fact that Ben and Jerry's has made headlines for unnatural ingredients:

(1) at least they're responding to their customer base

(2) in a fundamental way, the FDA and their ludicrous notion of what is "natural" is the source of the problem

Saturday, August 7, 2010

HFCS and pancreatic cancer: digging a lil' deeper

From the moment I saw the first article on a link between HFCS/fructose and pancreatic cancer (Cancer Cells Get Fat From HFCS Too), i was imagining how the Rick Berman/CCFs and Audrae Erickson/CRAs of the world would counter this claim.  Based on recent research coming out of UCLA (Fructose Induces Transketolase Flux to Promote Pancreatic Cancer Grow), this latest charge against HFCS/fructose is all the more unsettling due to the scariness of pancreatic cancer.  Here's an excerpt from the abstract of this recent UCLA study:
Here, we report that fructose provides an alternative substrate to induce pancreatic cancer cell proliferation. Importantly, fructose and glucose metabolism are quite different; in comparison with glucose, fructose induces thiamine-dependent transketolase flux and is preferentially metabolized via the nonoxidative pentose phosphate pathway to synthesize nucleic acids and increase uric acid production. These findings show that cancer cells can readily metabolize fructose to increase proliferation. They have major significance for cancer patients given dietary refined fructose consumption, and indicate that efforts to reduce refined fructose intake or inhibit fructose-mediated actions may disrupt cancer growth. Cancer Res; 70(15); 6368–76. ©2010 AACR.
So, just how did Rick Berman's CCF react to the UCLA study?  In Fudging Fructose Findings, the author presents the usual arguments (paraphrased here): HFCS and sugar have nearly the same amount of fructose; it's all pseudoscience; Americans don't even really consume that much HFCS; and rates of pancreatic cancer in men have gone down so what the heck is all this nonesense about, anyway?

So, let's just look at the CCF's defense of HFCS for a few seconds, exploring a couple points further.  

1. The claim, and they quote of course Marion Nestle, is that "HFCS is not particularly high in fructose compared to table sugar. Both are about 50% fructose and are about equal in their effects."


Why, seriously, this drives me crazy, WHY is someone like Marion Nestle even regarded as an expert after making claims like this?  I've said it before (and so have others), but (happily for CCF and CRA and all the other folks who make money off HFCS) people still seem to be confused:

There are multiple types of HFCS with varying ratios of fructose to glucose; consumers cannot (just by reading labels) know which type of HFCS they are getting.  That said, even the most common form of HFCS, the roughly 55% fructose/45%glucose, actually has more fructose than table sugar.  Not a lot more, but enough to offset absorption.

The fact that HFCS varieties exist in even higher concentrations, fructose-wise, seems to be ignored by Marion Nestle.  CCF and CRA will tell you that they are seldom used.  In a previous post, I take issue with just how seldom these other types of HFCS appear (using none other than the words of manufacturers as evidence.)

2. Pancreatic cancer rates have gone down in men.  That's terrific.  Honestly, that's great news.  According to Cancer Facts and Figures 2010: "Incidence rates of pancreatic cancer have been stable in men since 1981, but have been increasing in women by 1.7% per year since 2000."

PER YEAR?  That's kind of scary, isn't it?

Why the difference between men and women?  Now, i don't think even the authors cited by CCF are brilliant enough to assume that something like pancreatic cancer is caused by just one factor, but even if you look solely at HFCS and consider the information cited above, an interesting disparity emerges.

Not to self-promote, but there's no point being redundant either: In one of my posts from June, HFCS-90, I researched a variety of HFCS that CRA claims is seldom used except in the creation of other varieties of HFCS.  I found, by exploring websites from HFCS manufacturers, that HFCS-90 is in fact used in a number of manufactured goods.  This is a form of HFCS that is 90....   NINETY....

yes, that's right....
percent fructose.

What are the manufactured goods that contain HFCS-90?  Oh, let's see.... yogurt, especially low-calorie varieties, frozen desserts, especially low-cal types, and some other diet sweets.

Who, let's just take a stab in the dark, who, in terms of gender, is more prone to purchase and consume: yogurt, low-cal frozen desserts, and other low-cal sweets?

Women?  Really?  Can it be?

Well, now, let's revisit the percentages above regarding pancreatic cancer, broken down by gender.  Interesting, isn't it?  Now, I am not trying to say that there's just one cause for this disparity between pancreatic cancer and how it's affecting men and women, but it's certainly interesting that there's an apparent link to fructose and women are the consumers more prone to eat items with HFCS-90. 

Oh, and just in case i wasn't clear in my post on HFCS-90....

Labels never say which HFCS you're consuming....  convenient, isn't it?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Waffle House: Is there HFCS in them there waffles?

The Waffle House, an American icon and source of sustenance for travelers across the South for decades, is famously mum on the ingredients in their food.

My fascination with the Waffle House began pretty much at the same time that I first entered one and saw that they had their own music on the jukebox (in addition to a smattering of oldies, classics, and current hits.) At least as far as I knew, no other fast food/breakfast joint had their own music.  The kitsch value was too high not to be impressed.  And the waffles were quite tasty, too.  Top that off with the fact that there wasn't a local Waffle House where I lived at the time, and you get a recipe for obsession (yes, i wrote to corporate HQ and asked them to remedy the dearth of Waffle Houses in my area.)

Every chance I could, i dined at the Waffle House.  For me it was quite significant to have the opportunity.

When I learned about HFCS and my need to avoid it due to fructose malabsorption, I was pretty certain that the Waffle House, a favorite of mine for decades, would now be on the no-go list.

Well, i researched it and basically found that Waffle House Corporate HQ doesn't divulge information about their recipes.  I kept meaning to write to them again, but since there wasn't one where I now live, it was out of sight-out of mind. 

On a recent work trip, i passed by Waffle Houses and I once again i wondered: Is there HFCS is those famous waffles?

So, I wrote to them.  I am always impressed when a company writes back with a response tailored to my question.  So, here's what they said:
Thank you for inquiring about Waffle House nutritional information and ingredients. Upon checking, we’ve found the waffle mix and sugar free syrup do not contain high fructose corn syrup, but the regular syrup does.
So, rejoice! If you avoid HFCS for whatever reason, you can still enjoy Waffle House Waffles, but just make sure to request the sugar free syrup!