Archive for December, 2013

A resolution to lose weight might be as simple as avoiding HFCS in the new year

Posted by -- December 31, 2013



These days, an awful lot of New Year’s resolutions are vows to lose weight over the coming year.   Unfortunately, many — if not most — of these well-intended promises we make to ourselves sooner or later fall by the wayside.

But some folks are resorting to seemingly radical measures to carry out such vows  — like having a plastic mesh patch surgically stitched to their tongue for a month, making it too painful to attempt to consume solid food and forcing them to switch to a liquid diet until the patch is removed.

While this painful and expensive procedure, — which costs around $2,000 — has reportedly helped subjects to shed some of those excess pounds (at least temporarily), it has also been lambasted by some doctors and nutrition experts, who find it appalling. But I would like to propose a resolution that just might help you become the “big loser” you’d like to be without putting yourself through any such extreme ordeal.

The suggestion is simple: every time you go grocery shopping, examine the ingredients listed on the labels of all processed foods and put back any that include high fructose corn syrup, or HFCS.

Why? Because studies conducted by scientists at prestigious universities and published in peer-reviewed journals have found HFCS  consumption to promote weight gain in one way or another. Which means that a growing body of scientific evidence points to a likely link between ingesting foods in which high fructose corn syrup is used as an additive and becoming overweight or obese.

And that kind of makes sense, when you consider that the massive increase in body mass that has occurred in the U.S. population over the past two or three decades parallels the switch many food companies have made from using sugar in their products to this cheaper, laboratory sweetener, resulting in its addition to countess items on supermarket shelves.

So what, exactly, are the connections that researchers have made between HFCS and becoming, well, fat? Here are summaries of three such studies spanning the last five years:

Yale University Study, “Effects of Fructose vs Glucose on Regional Cerebral Blood Flow in Brain Regions Involved With Appetite and Reward Pathways, “ published in Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Jan. 2013.

This study found that increases in fructose consumption have paralleled the increasing prevalence of obesity, and high-fructose diets are thought to promote weight gain and insulin resistance, whereas centrally administered glucose promotes satiety. In other words, fructose – especially in the form of HFCS — may contribute to weight gain and obesity because it has minimal effect on brain regions that control appetite.

Princeton University study, “High fructose corn syrup causes characteristics of obesity in rats, increased body weight, body fat and triglyceride levels,”  published in the online journal Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior,  March 2010.

The Princeton University research team conducting this study found that rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same.  In addition to causing significant weight gain in lab animals, long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup also led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen, and a rise in circulating blood fats called triglycerides. The researchers claimed their work sheds light on the factors contributing to obesity trends in the United States.

University of Florida College of Medicine study,  “Fructose-induced leptin resistance exacerbates weight gain in response to subsequent high-fat feeding,” as reported in The American Journal of Physiology,  November, 2008.

This was the first study to show that high fructose consumption can result in leptin resistance, a condition associated with weight gain and obesity, since leptin is a hormone that plays a role in helping the body to balance food intake with energy expenditure. The study involved two groups of rats tested over a six-month period, at the end of which the rats on the high-fructose diet had higher levels of triglycerides in their blood.

Of course, by making and keeping a resolution to avoid HFCS in the new year, you’ll be avoiding possible risks raised by other studies as well, such as those linking HFCS consumption to diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver disease and kidney disease.

And it sounds a lot easier than going on a crash diet — and a lot less painful and expensive than having a patch stitched to your tongue.

Have a happy and healthy new year!

Coming soon from Big Corn: lessons in ‘health and nutrition’

Posted by -- December 27, 2013


Looks like the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) is launching another consumer “engagement” campaign!

You may recall the last big, multimillion-dollar effort the CRA put out – the one that included the classic scene where a character dares to hint that high fructose corn syrup is an unhealthy ingredient:

“You don’t care what the kids eat?”

“Excuse me?” says the host, pouring the HFCS-sweetened punch at a kids’ birthday party.

“You know what they say about it,” says the concerned party guest.

“What? That it’s made from corn?”

This much-parodied commercial then goes on to embarrass the ingredient-questioning friend because she can’t rattle off the numerous scientific studies and concerns from MDs and other health professionals about the ill effects of consuming HFCS.

That commercial, and a multitude of other print and online ads, was part of the CRA’s big-buck campaign to try and get consumers to believe that HFCS and sugar are one in the same, along with promoting its failed attempt to get the Food and Drug Administration to OK a name switch to “corn sugar.”

While that video has since been retired to Saturday Night Live parody archives, the CRA has been busy planning a new advertising blitz. Putting its “corn sugar” disaster on the back burner, the group is busy readying another consumer-confusion campaign, this one, said by the CRA to “promote a healthy lifestyle through caloric balance…rather than focus on a specific type of sugar.”

In other words, ‘please don’t pay any attention to that high fructose corn syrup on the label.’

Newly installed CRA President, John Bode, is quoted in the group’s press release announcement as saying, “Our goal is to provide consumers with facts about health and nutrition so they can make informed decisions…” Yes, you read that right. Big Corn is going to teach us about “health and nutrition.”

This “digital campaign” will be presented, according to the CRA, as banner advertising on some high- cost sites such as AOL’s Food Super Channel network and The featured “experts” who will inform us that natural sugar and HFCS are “nutritionally equivalent” will include one of the trade groups favorites, Registered Dietitian Neva Cochran, and perhaps one or more of its hard-selling ‘spokesdocs’.

This isn’t the first time the CRA has dipped its toes in the health and nutrition bandwagon. This spring it launched a similarly-themed website called to help folks manage stress, give “values” to kids, and of course, not worry about consuming HFCS. While the site appears to have been discontinued, the CRA’s health and wellness messaging marches on.

How much is that in HFCS?

While the trade group readies its new campaign, one that’s focused on blurring all types of sweeteners into one sticky haze, a recent study found that consumers are confused enough already in deciphering what “added sugars” actually means.

University of Florida Registered Dietitian Gail Rampersaud and  Lisa House, a food and resource economics professor, working with other university researchers, set out to discover just how much people know about added and naturally occurring “sugars” in beverages. And the results were: not very much.

The group’s study, published at the beginning of December in the journal Nutrition Research, discovered that half the surveyed participants believed that the term “sugary” means any sweet drink, even diet ones containing artificial sweeteners, and that 40 percent of respondents thought that 100 percent fruit juice is “sugary” despite containing no added sugar.

Commenting on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans that recommend consuming water instead of “sugary” beverages, House is quoted as saying in the university’s press release, “If we’re going to be using the term ‘sugary’ in dietary guidance to refer to beverages with added sugars, we need to make sure people know what that means.”

Rampersaud added, “The issue is: the Nutrition Facts panel does not make a distinction between natural sugars and added sugars. The labels list ‘sugars’ but don’t define whether they’re added or sugars that are natural to the beverage…”

The term “sugars” is one of the many confusing aspect of the nutrition facts label, which, as Rampersaud noted, gives no hint as to whether such “sugars” are naturally occurring or added, nor what the source may be.

“Sugars”ending in ‘s’ is defined by the FDA as “the sum of all free mono- and disaccharides (such as glucose, fructose, lactose and sucrose).” In other words “sugars” can include lactose (from milk), added honey, real sugar (sucrose), fructose and high fructose corn syrup.

With all the confusion surrounding exactly what “sugary” means (helped along by the media), we really don’t need the CRA chiming in with more “help.”

The best thing you can do to clear up the confusion is to go right to the source, the ingredient label. That’s the only item on a food product that will tell you what kind of sweetener is in a food or beverage. And if you want to learn more about health and nutrition, there are much better sources out there than the HFCS-coated statements issued by the  Corn Refiners Association.

Read that ingredient list (and check it twice)

Posted by -- December 23, 2013


It’s that time of the year again when supermarkets are filled to o’erflowing with “goodies” of every description, even as health experts warn about how overindulgence can quickly result in our becoming overweight.

But are excessive calories really the worst health risk posed by all these holiday temptations? Or do the insidious ingredients lurking in many of them represent a far greater threat – especially considering how these, too, can add up to hefty doses of noxious additives that, unlike extra calories, can’t simply be “worked off”?

On a recent trip to the supermarket, we made a point of looking at the actual contents of some of the “traditional” treats being offered by various processed food manufacturers — and the more we read the less inclined we were to want to indulge in them at all, let alone overindulge. (You’ll find some better ideas before this blog is done, so stay with us.)

Don’t leave these cookies out for Santa

To find an example of the kind of packaging humbug that makes its appearance at holiday time, one need look no further than Little Debbie Christmas Gingerbread Soft Cookies –  the ones in the bright red box that depicts Santa Claus enjoying them on his ‘cookie break’, along with the slogan “Unwrap a Smile this Christmas.”  But if you look at the ingredients listed on the back, rather than the “festive gift tags” that distract from them, you’ll find partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil – the very  oils that the Food and Drug Administration is currently proposing be phased out due to the artery-clogging trans fats they produce.

There’s also the petroleum-derived  preservative TBHQ, which has resulted in such symptoms as vomiting, delirium and collapse after consumption of just a single gram, and five different artificial colors – the same number that resulted in hyperactivity and diminished learning ability in baby rats in studies performed at Yale’s Institute of Pediatric Neurology.

In fact, artificial colors are a standard ingredient in many of the Christmas cookies you’ll find in  supermarket displays and bakery sections – as are partially hydrogenated oils, even though the food industry claims their use has been reduced in recent years. And if you think opting for more expensive ones will necessarily guarantee you better ingredients, you may well be mistaken.  The boxes of Silver Lake Season’s Greetings Holiday Cookies we found, for instance, go for $19.99 apiece, yet contain six varieties of synthetic dyes (two yellow, two red and two blue for holiday cheer) along with artificial flavor and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) — that cheap, laboratory sweetener that studies have linked to obesity and diabetes.

Fruitcake, of course, continues to be a traditional favorite, despite all the jokes made about it — and Tastykake offers an “old-fashioned” one that looks like it could be the perfect holiday dessert or snack item.  That is, until one does a quick scan of those ingredients, and finds they include high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil, and  TBHQ (one of seven preservatives) — stuff that definitely wasn’t part of those old-fashioned family fruitcake recipes.

Unhealthy additives can even sneak into your oven

Seeing what goes into many of these so-called “old-fashioned” and “traditional” processed treats, of course, motivates many folks to do more of their own baking.  And if you’re one of them, you’d better watch out for the same types of ill-advised ingredients that one finds in those alluring packaged products.

Does your holiday to-do list include baking an old-fashioned cherry pie, perhaps?  Well , for starters, there’s the question of what kind of pie shell to use.  Unfortunately, one of the most prevalent – the “Nilla Pie Crust” made by Nabisco/Kraft with “real Nilla wafer crumbs” — will automatically turn your homemade pie into a repository of additives that include high fructose corn syrup, heart-unhealthy partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil, and more of that preservative TBHQ.  As for the filling — well, there’s always Duncan Hines “Original Country Cherry Pie Filling and Topping,” which, along with “20% more cherries,” will add an extra dollop of HFCS, along with some artificial red coloring (in case those cherries aren’t naturally red enough).

Or maybe you find the idea of homemade brownies a more appealing sweet holiday treat — especially if they’re made with Pillsbury’s “Holiday Funfetti Premium Brownie Mix,” which comes complete with two kinds of partially hydrogenated oil — palm kernel and soybean — and another five artificial colors (including three “lakes”), as well as artificial flavor and bleached flour.

Not to be overlooked, of course, is eggnog, that jolliest of seasonal beverages that can also add to your overall overload of cumulative holiday health hazards if you don’t bother glancing at the ingredients on the carton before you buy it.  Hood Golden Eggnog, to cite just one example, lists HFCS as its third ingredient, along with three artificial colors, artificial flavor, and carrageenan, a seaweed-based thickening agent that studies have shown can cause inflammation in the human colon.

Carageenan, in fact, is probably the most common additive used in eggnog –  including some organic brands, such as the low-fat version put out by Horizon Organic.

But you don’t have to ingest a whole bunch of nasty “badies” in order to enjoy some genuinely good holiday goodies.

Healthier ways to enjoy the sweetness of the season

Cookies: Instead of all the ones that feature health-endangering trans fats and deceptive dyes, how about trying Pamela’s All Natural Cookies (which are also gluten-free), something from Mary’s Gone Crackers organic cookie line or perhaps some Mi-Del organic ginger snaps?

Brownies: Why not bake up a batch made with Hodgson Mill Brownie Mix, the only ingredients in which are turbinado sugar, whole wheat pastry flour, cocoa, milled flax seed and salt?

Home-made pie: For a ready-made graham cracker pie shell, try Arrowhead Mill brand, and for a more traditional pie, check out the new Bob’s Red Mill Pie Crust Mix, which, just as the package says, is “easy as pie.” And if it’s cherry pie you prefer, some Eden Organic Cherry Pie Filling would be preferable.

Eggnog: If this is a holiday favorite of yours, you can still enjoy it without the carrageenan by buying Organic Valley Eggnog.  A great alternative to conventional eggnog is the eggnog-flavored kefir now being offered by Lifeway. Kefir is a probiotic “smoothie” which is also 99 percent lactose free.

As with Santa, all it takes to “make the season bright” when it comes to treats is knowing good from bad, along with reading that list (of ingredients, that is) and checking it twice.

‘Great taste’ may actually be due to harmful flavor enhancers

Posted by -- December 17, 2013



When athletes are found to be using performance-enhancing drugs, they’re usually suspended and end up losing their standing in their particular sport — no matter how acclaimed they might be.

It’s a shame that the same standard doesn’t apply to processed foods.

I’m talking about all those products that make a point about how tasty, delicious and irresistible they are when a quick scan of their ingredients reveals all their claims of appetite appeal to be largely, if not completely, a result of their use of  flavor-enhancing additives.

These deceptive claims would be bad enough if they only involved cheating. Unfortunately, however, it can be hazardous to our health — including our brain health — when swallowing such assertions means we quite literally swallow the suspect substances that are actually behind them.

You don’t have to look very far to find examples of this insidious form of food fraud:

  • “For taste and more, it’s On-Cor”
    While it’s not at all clear what the “more” refers to in this frequently aired little jingle, the origins of the “taste” part become quite evident  when you stop to check out the ingredients in these frozen, ready-to-serve entrees.The Penne Pasta & Meatballs with Tomato Sauce, for instance,  not only contain the neurotoxic flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate, but three other additives that trick your taste buds —  hydrolyzed soy protein, soy protein concentrate and autolyzed yeast, all forms of ‘hidden MSG” that can literally excite certain brain cells to death (especially in children). In addition to these “excitotoxins, the ingredients include partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil — sources of artery-clogging trans fats that the Food and Drug Administration has now  proposed be phased out of the food supply. (Might that  be the “more” referred to in the jingle, do you suppose?)
  • Bob Evans “New Look, Same Great Taste,” “Farm-Fresh Goodness”
    Those descriptions, coupled with a little history of Bob Evans products, certainly make them sound both appetizing and wholesome — unless our eyes chance to wander to that distracting list of actual ingredients that the down-home folks at Bob Evans would probably we just as as soon skipped over. That’s when you notice that the “great taste” of the Sausage, Egg & Cheese Croissants is probably due to the monosodium glutamate they contain.  And that’s not to mention some of their other additives — like the obesity-and-diabetes promoting laboratory sweetener high fructose corn syrup and enough partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil to register two full grams of artery-clogging trans fats on the Nutrition Facts panel. (How “farm-fresh” does that sound?)

  • “You gotta taste this soup!
    There’s that buzzword again — “taste” — that seems to trump all other values where many food products are concerned, used in another clever catchphrase no doubt conceived by some contemporary Don Draper on behalf of the client, Progresso.  Go on — just taste it — and pay no attention to words like “Corn Protein (hydrolyzed),” “Soy Protein Concentrate,”  “Modified Whey Protein Concentrate,” Soy Protein Isolate,” “Yeast Extract” and “Maltodextrin” listed on the side of the can (in this case, of Progresso “Rich & Hearty” Hearty Chicken Pot Pie Style soup, which is also described as “Rich, Hearty, Satisfying” Perhaps the real kicker, however, is what it says on a side panel — “NO MSG ADDED” and “NO ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS.” Apparently, all those hidden forms of MSG don’t count, nor  should “artificial flavors” be confused with “flavor enhancers,” which all of those additives are.  Eat hearty, now!
  • “A Delicious Home-Cooked Meal Is Just Minutes Away!”
    What could be a more trusted name in frozen food than Birds Eye?  So why would you even bother looking at the ingredients in the company’s “Voila!” line of skillet meals — especially when the package tells you up front that there are “no artificial flavors”? Of course, that may be a technically accurate claim, if, once again, you consider “artificial flavors” and “flavor enhancers” to be two different types of additives.  But should you chance to take a peek at the ingredients in, say, the Creamy Tomato Penne with Chicken, you might discover that what makes it seem so “delicious includes autolyzed yeast extract and hydrolyzed corn, soy and wheat gluten protein in the vegetables, as well as isolated soy protein in the white chicken meat. None of which are the types of things one might exactly associate with a “home-cooked meal.”

To be sure, there are food manufacturers that have been making a conscious effort to improve their products. But a lot of others have continued to depend on flavor-facilitating substances to sell their brands, confident that they still can fool enough consumers enough of the time into believing they’ve created superior-tasting recipes when what they’re really putting out there are injurious, additive-amplified impersonators.

Fortunately, it’s a lot easier to find out if you’re being fooled by food than by athletes, even if we can’t yet ban the culinary con artists from competing. Everything you need to know is right on display in that tell-tale list of ingredients.

Breaking news: ‘antidotes’ discovered for the ill effects of high fructose corn syrup!

Posted by -- December 12, 2013

The “harmful consequences” of high fructose corn syrup consumption, it seems, are becoming ever more apparent to researchers from across the globe. But not to worry – an “antidote” might already exist!

I kid you not. You’ll find it referred to in a study recently published by Turkish researchers – an alleged  remedy for one of the most damaging side-effects of HFCS, vascular insulin resistance.

Not only that, but across the Asian continent in China, researchers have just published a study showing how betaine, a substance found in greens and shellfish and also extracted from sugar beets to make dietary supplements, just might mitigate yet another ill effect of high fructose consumption.

But first to Turkey, where scientists from two universities set out to see if resveratrol – a plant compound high in antioxidants found in the skin of red grapes –  when taken in supplement form, could offset the harmful effects of feeding rats a solution of 10 and 20 percent HFCS added to their drinking water.

At the end of the 12-week study, the Turkish rats that consumed the HFCS-spiked water had increased triglycerides and VLDL (very low density lipoprotein) – which are conditions associated with heart disease – as well as higher total cholesterol, insulin and glucose. Interestingly, the rats did not become obese on their HFCS diet, which caused the researchers to conclude that “metabolic syndrome” can develop without obesity, similar to that observed in their previous study. (Metabolic syndrome is a group of high-risk conditions that can lead to heart disease, stroke and diabetes).

The study, titled “Resveratrol prevents high-fructose corn syrup-induced vascular insulin resistance and dysfunction in rats,” published in Food and Chemical Toxicology, concluded that those harmful effects of HFCS consumption might be mitigated by resveratrol. Possibly adding resveratrol to “HFCS-sweetened foodstuff may be a promising strategy for the prevention of the unhealthy situation,” according to the researchers.

Those of us not taking resveratrol should hold the soda, however, as the study also concludes that “HFCS intake may directly result in the onset of type-2 diabetes.”

Meanwhile, over in China, just-published research in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry examined another one of the devastating conditions that can result from metabolic syndrome – chronic kidney disease. The study found that rats taking betaine supplements (typically derived from sugar beets), had significant improvement in this fructose-induced condition.

Certainly the idea that HFCS and high fructose consumption can cause a wide variety of diseases and conditions is not new. And aside from all of the ill effects from metabolic syndrome and obesity, a Canadian researcher who specializes in addiction presented findings this year showing that rats self-dosing on HFCS show the same pattern of behavior as rats on cocaine, leading him to state that “HFCS has effects that are beyond the sweetness in the mouth” – that is, “effects on the brain.”

And just recently Dr. Mark Hyman, best-selling author and chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine, claimed that HFCS “is driving most of the epidemic of heart disease, cancers, dementia and…diabetes.”

Add to that comments from popular author and pioneer in integrative medicine, Andrew Weil, M.D., who maintained that HFCS is “…one of the single worst things you can give to people that have this genetic constitution that predispose them to insulin resistance…”

So where does that leave us? Should we be popping resveratrol and betaine pills and going about our merry way consuming foods and beverages that contain HFCS (many of which would be perfectly healthy products otherwise)?

It does seem amusing, even bizarre, that scientists would be hard at work finding an “antidote” to an additive that could be totally eliminated from the food supply without concerns about shortages or inconvenience to the consumer. After all, we did perfectly fine before the 1970s when HFCS slowly started creeping into our foods and beverages. There were sodas, bread, ketchup, yogurt, salad dressings, buns, sauces, soups, teas – all the same food and drink as we have today  – except for the fact they contained no HFCS.

So by all means, eat your greens, shellfish, grapes, and even enjoy that occasional glass of wine so you can get all the benefits that resveratrol and betaine have to offer. But that shouldn’t be an excuse to go on ingesting a laboratory sweetener for which an increasing number of “harmful consequences” continue to be disclosed.

Is ‘less’ HFCS in products always a good thing? Not necessarily

Posted by -- December 10, 2013

When Chick-fil-A announced last week that it would be removing high fructose corn syrup from its sandwich buns and dressings, it obviously wasn’t listening to the Corn Refiners Association (CRA).

Who they were listening to was an increasingly irate group of consumers led by popular food blogger Vani Hari, who posted an article two years ago at her site,, called “Chick-fil-A or Chemical-fil-A?”

As Hari pointed out in the blog, the Chick-fil-A sandwich has a lot of  ingredients, almost 100, most of which, she says, have “serious health consequences.” But out of that long list that includes monosodium glutamate, artificial flavorings and preservatives, the company chose to boot HFCS, something the CRA has been working hard to prevent.

Repackaging the hype

Big Corn has been traveling a long and lonely road since the FDA’s rejection last year of it big plan to sweeten up the name of HFCS to “corn sugar.”  Dumping its consumer campaign, the trade group set about redirecting its HFCS pitch to a new target audience, the food industry.

And the CRA’s message to food and beverage manufacturers, grocery stores and chain restaurants is that consumers just don’t care about HFCS anymore, and that no one (with the exception of the CRA, of course) is really talking about it these days.

But industry is talking about HFCS – not how to use more of it, but how to reduce what’s currently being used in products.  And to do that, it has had to employ some high tech concoctions that don’t have any taste of their own, but rather trick our brains into thinking we’re eating or drinking something that is, well, not really there.

I first told you about these ‘tongue-tampering’ ingredients last year and about the leader in the imaginary flavor world – Senomyx, a San Diego-based biotech company that has some close, big-buck ties to the soft drink industry, especially PepsiCo.

Imagining less HFCS

On the brink of regulatory approval in the U.S. is Senomyx’s sweet taste modifier “S617,” designed in the laboratory to trick the brain into thinking a soda with less HFCS still tastes just as sweet as before.

Senomyx CEO Kent Snyder was quoted in a trade pub earlier this year as saying that “(r)educing HFCS in these products…would be welcome by consumers and manufacturers.”

Or would it?

Since S617 is a top secret, proprietary, patented “discovery,” no one, food manufacturer or consumer alike, will be able to find out exactly what it is. Likely to be listed on ingredient labels under “flavoring,” the only thing you can uncover about it is that Senomyx scientists have “successfully cloned human taste receptors,” and that these flavor modifiers “bind to those receptors…to trigger a strong taste sensation.”

In a recent Advertising Age story about S617, Michael Jacobson, executive director of Science in the Public Interest, was quoted as saying that “if they cut the ‘sugar’ in half with this stuff, that’s huge,” and that one reason it could be considered ‘safe’ is because it would be used at such low levels.

Since Jacobson likely knows no more about what S617 actually is than the rest of us, I’d hardly call that “science.”
A much more logical statement on S617 comes from the Feingold Association of the United States. The group, a non-profit founded in 1976 by pediatrician Benjamin Feingold, that educates how diet can affect mood and behavior – especially for kids – has this to say about S617:

…when a chemical has a profound effect on how the body works (in this case, on how the taste buds work), it is considered a drug. A drug must undergo stringent regulations and testing, including discovery of side effects and interactions with drugs, for FDA approval – far beyond anything required for approval of a ‘favoring.’

We wish somebody, somewhere, would study the question of when does a flavoring become a drug?

Good question – but one that’s unlikely to be answered anytime soon, if at all. Meanwhile, S617 will likely hit the marketplace next year – yet another questionable ingredient being added to the witches brew of additives in so many products, this one for the purpose of reducing another that’s already known to be bad. A better idea seems to be to just get rid of the HFCS altogether — what Chich-fil-A is now doing in many of its menu items.

Three ways you can start reclaiming your kitchen from the processed food industry

Posted by -- December 5, 2013

Want to know a simple way to get some of the most harmful and worrisome additives out of your diet – one that doesn’t require all that extra store time reading ingredient labels?

Simply reclaim your kitchen from the grip of Big Food.

Now before you dismiss this idea by saying you haven’t got the time, patience or ability to start actually cooking, we want you to just focus on three items that we eat and drink a lot of, and that also typically contain some of the worst of the worst when it comes to food additives. You can make these items yourself, in your very own kitchen, at a fraction of the cost of what you are paying for the “fake” varieties. And the best part is, it’s relatively easy to do.

We’re talking about:

  • Soup: Canned, dried, frozen and packaged varieties (unless you’re only buying organic brands) are typically a hotbed of bad ingredients, such as high fructose corn syrup, monosodium glutamate, including all the disguised forms of free glutamic acid, mechanically separated chicken and turkey, along with other stabilizers, gums, thickeners and other unnatural ingredients. Soup is one of the easiest foods you can make yourself — in your kitchen — without having a can that says “Campbell’s” on it anywhere near you.
  • Bread: This is one of the simplest and least complicated foods in the world. Bread needs just four basic ingredients: flour, water, salt and yeast. But you would never know that if you only saw packaged commercial varieties or refrigerated rolls, such as those offered by Pillsbury. True, making homemade bread was once a time-consuming and arduous activity. But since relatively inexpensive bread machines came on the market, it’s been streamlined to the point where you can easily do without those ersatz supermarket breads that are ingrained with ingredients not really fit for human consumption.
  • Soda:  There’s nothing  essentially wrong with the idea of drinking soda — it’s just the hideous ingredients that the great majority of these beverages contain that have put them in such disrepute. Nearly all such products these days either contain obesity-promoting high fructose corn syrup or brain-zapping aspartame and other unhealthy synthetic sweeteners. But the good news is, you really don’t have to dispense with soda in order to banish those awful additives from your diet.

Now, here’s how to start taking back your “kitchen privileges”:

The slow cooker: This easy, practical means of cooking has been the butt of jokes for too long.  Since the introduction of the Crock-Pot (a trademark of the Rival Company) back in 1970, slow cooking technology has expanded to include all kinds of possibilities.  And the time has never been better to bring out whatever kind of slow cooking apparatus you might have from wherever you’ve been hiding it, dust it off and start enjoying some real food. If you don’t yet have one, there are dozens to choose from, ranging from cheap to pricey, with all sorts of extra-helpful features that make it really hard to rationalize buying any more of those pseudo soups laced with harmful additives and “flavor enhancers.”

The bread machine: This amazing device first debuted in Japan in the late 1980s, costing a small fortune at the time. While many people own a bread machine, far fewer get around to actually using it. Perhaps the idea of making bread seems complex or intimidating — but with a bread machine, it’s amazingly easy and dependable, and will fill the whole house with a wonderful bakery aroma. One tip from years of home bread-baking experience is to find a machine with two paddles. While these were once just available in expensive versions, mine was under $80 and makes excellent bread. The dual paddles allow for better kneading, plus the loaf pan is oblong rather than a tower shape, which gives you a more traditional loaf.  Also, if you can’t wait the three-plus hours for you bread to be done, don’t be afraid to try the “quick bread” setting. The results are magically delicious in under two hours.

The SodaStream: This device offers an easy way to bring fizzy drinks back into your life without all the dangerous additives. One Food Identity Theft team member who recently got one reports that he is now “an instant fan.”  You can control the level of carbonation from lightly fizzy to full-blown, volcanic bubbles and add the flavorings after the fizzing, which can be tailored to whatever you’re in the mood for. One of the best parts of making your own soda is being able to use sweeteners of your own choosing. Perhaps the most ideal is “simple syrup,” which is, in fact, quite simple to make by heating equal parts cane sugar and water until dissolved, then cooling to room temperature.

As Dr. Mark Hyman, best-selling author and founder of the Ultra Wellness Center, said in a recent blog: “One hundred years ago all we ate was local, organic food — grass-fed, real, whole food. There were no fast food restaurants, there was no junk food, there was no frozen food — there was just what your mother or grandmother made. Most meals were eaten at home. Now, one in five breakfasts is from McDonald’s and 50 percent of meals are eaten outside the home.”

While you might not be able to change the way today’s society eats, there’s a lot you can do to keep the processed food industry from dictating your personal choices in one of the most fundamental areas of your life — starting with some basic steps toward reclaiming your kitchen.


Crockpot 101:

Natural fruit and honey syrups for making flavored sodas:

Using a bread machine for gluten-free and special allergy diets:

The contents of those iconic soup cans might not seem so healthy once you peek at the ingredient list

Posted by -- December 3, 2013


As the weather outside gets colder, there’s one type of “comfort food” that tends to be consumed in much greater quantities. I’m referring, of course, to soup.  And there’s one company (an American institution, really) that, more than any other, has over the years come to be synonymous with soup — the one that made the word “Soup” its middle name way back in 1922.  That would be the Campbell Soup Company, whose traditional red and white cans are considered so iconic that they became one of pop artist Andy Warhol’s best-known subjects back in the 1960s.

As one of the company’s classic commercial jingles once  put it, “Have you had your soup today? Campbell’s, of course,” then went on to say, “Once a day, every day, you should have a bowl of Campbell’s Soup.”

But while Campbell’s remains the nation’s No. 1 seller of canned soups, its popularity has lately been somewhat dented.  In fact, over the past decade, the company has reportedly lost about 13 percent of its market share — a trend attributed to the “millenial” generation’s having been largely turned off by its standard line of products. To get them back, Campbell’s recently began marketing a new line of “Go” soups in easy-to-open microwaveable plastic pouches with ingredients considered more appealing to a younger demographic.

Make no mistake, however — those long-familiar soup cans remain supermarket staples, and there are still many consumers who continue to take for granted that they contain some of the “healthiest” and highest quality ingredients on the market.  And one can hardly blame them, considering that’s how these soups have been promoted throughout their history, from the early 20th Century ads that described them as “The Mainspring of Health,” “healthful, wholesome and absolutely dependable,” and “the standard of soup perfection” to the company’s current web site with its “Nutrition and Wellness” page offering a variety of “Healthy Eating Plans.”

Exposed throughout their lives to such messages, most shoppers have no reason to assume that these are anything but totally wholesome and beneficial products. That is, unless they bother to look at the actual ingredients those iconic cans contain.

Whatever blends of ingredients Campbell’s Soups may have used in an earlier era,  you can be sure that they didn’t include some of the atrocious additives you’ll now find listed on their labels, where, incidentally,  you’ll also occasionally  find the same slogan used in that old commercial jingle, “Once a day — everyday.”

So we thought it might be helpful to put together a week-long “menu” of what such a recommendation would actually mean if you and your family were to take it literally:

Monday:  How about starting the week with some Cream of Mushroom — the kind with “25 % less sodium.”  A peek at the ingredients, however, tells you what the company would probably just as soon you didn’t know — that along with pure monosodium glutamate, it also contains soy protein concentrate and yeast extract, a trio of flavor enhancers of the kind often referred to as “excitotoxins” because of their ability to literally excite certain brain cells to death (especially in children), and which have been associated with a whole range of adverse effects, including aggressive behavior. Then again, you might prefer the Cream of Mushroom with roasted garlic, which in addition to those three aforementioned additives, features yet another excitotoxin, whey protein concentrate,and some partially hydrogenated soybean oil, a source of that artery-clogging trans fat that the Food and Drug Administration has now proposed phasing out of our diet.

Tuesday:  What could be healthier than some Cream of Asparagus — with some more monosodium glutamate and soy protein concentrate thrown into the mix for good measure?

Wednesday: Sounds like a good day for some hearty Minestrone, in which you’ll find not only monosodium glutamate and yeast extract mixed in with the tomato puree, carrots, potatoes and other veggies, but some good old high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) — that cheap laboratory sweetener that researchers have identified as a prime suspect in obesity, diabetes, and a host of other health problems.

Thursday: Let’s go with that old favorite, Chicken Noodle soup. Actually, there are a number of variations on this traditional theme available.  For those on a reduced salt diet, for example, there’s the one with “25% less sodium,” which makes up for it with those three taste tricksters monosodium glutamate, yeast extract and soy protein isolate. Or, perhaps you might prefer the Healthy Request Chicken Noodle, whose lineup of ‘healthy ingredients’ include HFCS, soy protein isolate and yeast extract, as well as mechanically separated chicken, which here at Food Identity Theft we like to refer to as “chicken ooze”.  There’s also one made especially for “Healthy Kids”, which includes that ever-present trio of brain-zapping flavor enhancers monosodium glutamate, yeast extract and soy protein isolate, in addition to some of that yummy “chicken ooze.”

Friday: Lentil soup, anyone?  And what would it be without some more added monosodium glutamate, along with unspecified “flavoring” and “spice” that often are nothing more than excitotoxins under a generic alias?

Saturday: New England Clam Chowder is always an all-time favorite — especially with a ‘flavor boost’ from still more monosodium glutamate and a little yeast extract thrown in to the pot for good measure.

Sunday: A Campbell’s Soup week just wouldn’t be complete without some form of tomato soup, the “classic” version of which has high fructose corn syrup as its second ingredient right after tomato puree.  You’ll also find HFCS  in the “Healthy Request” version (“M’m! M’m good for your heart” — not!) and the Old Fashioned Tomato Rice variety (bet you didn’t know HFCS was used as an additive in the good old days).  But just for a change, that would be a day off from monosodium glutamate.

By now, of course, you might feel a slight buzz in your brain from the constant diet of excitotoxins — as might your kid (which could well serve as an example of the more recent Campbell’s slogan, “It’s amazing what soup can do”).  But don’t forget — this is something the folks at Campbell’s would like you to keep right on doing “once a day, every day.”

If, on the other hand, that doesn’t sound like such a great idea, despite all the health claims you’ve come to associate with Campbell’s Soup, you might just want to opt for soup without all those undesirable ingredients. If you don’t have time to throw together some homemade soup fixings in the crock pot (which isn’t all that difficult a thing to do), there are some genuinely healthy, ready-to-eat commercial alternatives available right in your supermarket, such as the organic varieties offered by Amy’s Kitchen, which include low-sodium versions (Amy’s Organic Lentil Soup, to cite just one example, is made from filtered water, organic lentils, organic celery, organic carrots, organic onions, organic potatoes, organic extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and 100% pure herbs and spices with “no hidden ingredients”).

That’s the kind of soup you really can have every day — without the risk of those additives making you nuts.