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The new "bad apple" in foods is HFC, high-fructose corn syrup. More shoppers are skipping products made with this sweetener, but is that a wise move?
An ear of corn sounds healthy, but when it's made into a highly-processed corn syrup, a growing number of consumers cringe. "We do try to avoid it," one woman said.
Some critics believe the high-fructose sweetener is actually a toxic ingredient that's fueling the American obesity epidemic. They base the claim on a theory, yet unproven, that this corn syrup is more readily converted to fat by the liver than table sugar.
"The way that fructose is metabolized can to lead to high triglyceride levels, and that can lead you to be overweight. [It's] a marker for heart disease if you have got a lot of high triglycerides floating around in your blood," explained nutritionist Dr. Melanie Pearsall.
Now, health-conscious consumers are voting with their pocketbooks, reading labels and skipping products that are made with the sweetener.
The Corn Refiners Association is fighting back with a new multimedia campaign. The goal is to convince consumers that high-fructose corn syrup is natural and fine when used in moderation.
But that idea's a hard sell. "The corn industry would say it's natural, it comes from corn. Oh, well I am sure that's not true," one shopper said.
However, Dr. Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition and public health, says don't blame high fructose. "The issue is not that there is anything especially bad about it, it's that we eat so much of it," she said.
In fact, Americans eat an average 56 pounds per person per year. Add to that an additional 62 pounds of table sugar per person per year, and that's more than 100 pounds. There is little wonder we're getting so fat.
A lot of that sugar is hidden in processed foods like catchup, condiments, even whole-grain breads. So, it adds up. You may also be eating more than one serving, so, once again, read that tiny print on the label.