Posted by Linda Bonvie
February 24, 2015
It’s another one of those cases where the claim on the front of the package doesn’t seem to jibe with an ingredient you find listed on the side.
This time, the product involved is Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Apple Cinnamon Cereal Bars, a product on whose box can be found the assertion “No High Fructose Corn Syrup,” even while “fructose” is listed among its ingredients.
We first encountered – and reported on — this apparent contradiction back in December in a box of General Mills Vanilla Chex. At the time, we noted that the Corn Refiners Association was claiming on its website that the term “fructose” was currently being used instead of HFCS-90, a type of high fructose corn syrup that’s 90 percent fructose, which is a much higher amount than the 42 or 55 percent found in regular HFCS and allowed by the Food and Drug Administration.
Our report on that was one that was picked up by a number of other sites, as well as progressive commentator Thom Hartmann.
Our latest find along these lines was one that prompted us to attempt a little investigation of this seeming inconsistency. So we called the consumer line at Kellogg’s, and after being told that the fructose in those NutriGrain Bars is a “monosaccharide, found in fresh fruit and honey,” asked to talk to someone more authoritative. We were then referred to Maggie Lang, a nutritionist with consumer affairs, who said she’d try to find answers to our questions, although she couldn’t promise.
About a week later, Maggie e-mailed us, saying she’d be “glad to share more information about fructose.” What information she could provide, however, was all rather vague. After repeating what she had told us on the phone that “the fructose in the product can come from different sources,” she said she was sorry to report that she could not verify “exactly which source the fructose in the Nutri-Grain Bars is derived from. The source of fructose will vary based on supplier. We cannot disclose supplier detail as this information is proprietary and can change because we purchase our ingredients on the open market.”
She did claim, however, that in regards to HFCS-90, “Kellogg products in the U.S. do not contain this ingredient. The ingredient ‘fructose’ on our packaging is not high fructose corn syrup and is simply ‘fructose’ as listed.”
However, in reply to another of our questions, she acknowledged that “we do use crystalline fructose in some of our foods, but as stated, due to supplier changes we cannot verify the exact source of fructose in our products.” Crystalline fructose, which described as 98 percent fructose, is usually made from corn in a manner quite similar to HFCS – that is by taking the glucose found in corn syrup and using enzymes to convert it into fructose.
What’s the difference, really?
So, we still are no closer to knowing the origin of that anonymous “fructose” that’s increasingly appearing as an ingredient in various products – and which, according to the CRA, is nothing more than another name for HFCS-90.
But we can tell you one thing with reasonable certainty: fructose that’s been deliberately added to a processed food is still fructose – and no matter where it came from or what form it takes, it’s nothing that belongs in a healthy diet.
Last October, for example, we reported on Harvard Medical School findings that fructose “may have a particularly deleterious effect on health,” according to one its lead authors, Dr. Mark Herman, HMS assistant professor of medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism. “If you feed animals or people higher-than-normal amounts of fructose,” Dr. Herman noted, “they become obese, less responsive to the key actions of insulin and develop fatty liver disease and abnormal blood lipid levels. All of these increase the risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”
Other experts have also weighed in on the harmful effects of fructose – that is, fructose not naturally bound together with glucose, as it is in sucrose, or table sugar, or with the fiber found in fruit. Back in 2010, for example, a team of UCLA cancer researchers concluded that pancreatic cancers use fructose to activate a key cellular pathway that drives cell division, helping the cancer to grow more quickly and that “cancer cells can readily metabolize fructose to increase proliferation.
And as for fructose being a “monosaccharide” – well, it’s those single, unbonded monosaccharide fructose molecules found in high fructose corn syrup that make it so difficult for the body to use HFCS as an energy source and cause it to store excess fat, according to Dr. David Brownstein, one of the country’s foremost practitioners of holistic medicine.
So whether or not that fructose is another name for HFCS-90, is derived from corn by a similar process, or actually comes from “fruit and honey” (however unlikely that may be), just remember — it’s still fructose, and every bit as bad for you as, if not worse than, the fructose found in HFCS itself