Author Archive

Coca-Cola’s ‘Life’ may not be a perfect product – but it is an encouraging one

Posted by -- February 26, 2015

cokelifeBy BILL BONVIE

For the last three years or so, one of our goals at Food Identity Theft has been to try to alter the dynamics of the food industry by influencing readers to avoid products containing ingredients that have no place in a healthy diet. By pointing out the ways in which additives like high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, partially hydrogenated oils, monosodium glutamate and similar flavor enhancers have contributed to chronic and often life-threatening health problems, we hope to add momentum to a growing consumer movement that will ultimately discourage food companies from using such harmful ingredients.

Still, we’re realistic enough to recognize that bringing about a transition of this sort isn’t something that happens overnight, and to expect considerable resistance from an industry that has billions invested in certain products and processes. So whenever tangible changes do begin to appear in the marketplace in response to consumer pressure, we think it’s also our job to acknowledge them.

One such change that came to our attention recently in the form of a prominent merchandising display for a new soft drink called Coca-Cola Life.

Now this isn’t the sort of product we’d necessarily endorse, or recommend you run out and buy. But it does represent a markedly significant improvement over the products that the company has been mass marketing for the past few decades – particularly its flagship products, regular and Diet Coke.

Because instead of either the disease-and obesity promoting HFCS long used in regular Coke or the neurotoxic artificial sweetener aspartame contained in the Diet variety, this new variation – which boasts having 35 percent fewer calories – is sweetened with old-fashioned cane sugar and stevia leaf extract.

And if that idea should catch on with enough regular soda drinkers – especially teens – it might well prove to have a positive impact on the nation’s increasingly grim health statistics. It could, for example, make a substantial dent in the growing epidemics of diabetes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which scientific studies have linked to the widespread substitution of HFCS for sugar in soda and other products. And it could even help break the diet soda habit that threatens the brain health of young people, and can result in such symptoms as migraines, seizures and vision problems.

Stevia: what happens when industry ‘flips’

What we find especially interesting is another positive change this reflects – the one revolving around stevia.  A mere two decades ago, this traditional South American herbal sweetener, long recognized for its health benefits, was all but banned by the Food and Drug Administration, which labeled it an “unsafe food additive” and barred its importation into the U.S. And just why was it considered “unsafe”? Not because of any reported adverse reactions to it, or any meaningful scientific evidence – in fact, extensive testing in Japan had found no cause for concern – but on account of a “trade complaint” the FDA received from an unidentified party that was widely believed to have been the NutraSweet Company, which then held the patent on aspartame (a product the FDA had no problem with, despite the thousands of adverse reaction complaints it received about it).

It wasn’t until industry itself became interested in stevia as an alternative sweetener, in fact, that this official taboo was discarded. Not that the marketing of stevia products has been unproblematic – for example, Cargill’s Truvia has been the subject of both class-action litigation challenging its claim to being natural and some unsettling research about the insecticidal properties of its primary ingredient, erythritol.

We wouldn’t go so far as to call Coca-Cola’s Life a perfect product – it still contains caramel color, a suspected carcinogen, as well as phosphoric acid, which some health experts believe could be linked to osteoporosis and the preservative potassium benzoate. And we can only hope that the stevia used in Coca-Cola Life is the real McCoy.

But, assuming that it is, what we can say is that replacing biologically harmful laboratory sweeteners like HFCS and aspartame with cane sugar (which all sodas once contained, back before the diabetes and obesity epidemics) and stevia is an encouraging development.  And that instead of hiring pop star Taylor Swift to sing the praises of aspartame-tainted Diet Coke, a far wiser move might have been to have her introduce her audience to “Life.”

Because where there’s “Life,” there’s hope!

Another product containing ‘fructose’ makes ‘no HFCS’ claim meaningless

Posted by -- February 24, 2015

nutragrainBy BILL BONVIE

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

Attention everyone who eats!

Posted by -- February 19, 2015

RYLD image 150 4X6

 

This April 11th marks the third annual Read Your Labels Day, sponsored by Citizens for Health.
It’s a day when we hope everyone will recognize the risks we take by eating “in the dark.”

By that, we mean purchasing and consuming processed foods without reading the ingredients label. Because ignoring ingredients can end up being very hazardous to your health.

And if you have any doubts about just how risky that can be, we’ll be explaining it all in our countdown. And this year, we’ll be adding another dangerous additive to the list. One that’s been given a rather deceiving disguise by food companies to make it sound healthy and “natural” when it’s anything but.

So find your magnifying glass (if need be), because we want to make sure you can read all that fine print that tells you what’s actually in the things you’re considering consuming.

Once again, here’s our Food Identity Theft top 10 food additives to avoid – with more details to follow on each one – as well as that new addition you want to make absolutely sure is not included in the items you put in your shopping basket:

1.    High fructose corn syrup
2.    Aspartame
3.    Hydrolyzed protein
4.    Autolyzed yeast
5.    Monososium glutamate
6.    Potassium bromate
7.    Brominated vegetable oil, or BVO
8.    BHA and BHT
9.    Trans fats
10.  Artificial colors

And we’ll update you on all the latest developments we’ve been following throughout the year where these awful additives are concerned.

Eggs about to be ‘officially’ exonerated. But what about butter?

Posted by -- February 17, 2015

eggBy BILL BONVIE

Call it the exoneration of eggs.

If you still feel “guilty” about enjoying eggs in the morning because of an decades-old nutritional “rap sheet” identifying them as a prime suspect in heart disease, you’ll be happy to know they’re on the verge of being officially cleared of all charges.

For nearly 40 years, in fact, people have been advised to limit their egg consumption over concern that this traditional breakfast staple was responsible for high cholesterol levels in their blood, as were delicacies like shrimp and lobster.

But it now appears that long-standing advice is about to be relegated to the misinformation heap of history.  According to news reports, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which provides the scientific rationale for the federal  government’s publication “Dietary Guidelines,” is about to recommend that such foods no longer be considered significant enough sources of cholesterol to concern us.

Not that vindicating a previously condemned commodity comes easy to these “experts,” who meet once every five years and counsel both the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture on what they should advise consumers. You might even say that when they call for so dramatic a reversal, they wind up with, well a good deal of egg on their faces (especially given how their recommendations impact the nation’ s nutritional norms, to say nothing of their economic effects on sectors like egg production).

In fact, an indication of how painful this is can be seen in the way they’re still trying to blame high cholesterol levels on consumption of commodities high in saturated fat, like butter.

But hasn’t butter already been given a clean bill of health?  Indeed it has, by Britain’s University of Cambridge after a comprehensive study that we reported on last April.  That study consisted of an analysis of some 72 smaller studies involving some 600,000 participants in 18 countries. And what the investigators found was that “total saturated fatty acid, whether measured in the diet or in the bloodstream as a biomarker, was not associated with coronary disease risk in the observational studies.” Nor was there any significant associations between consumption of total monounsaturated fatty acids, long-chain omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, consumption and cardiovascular risk.

Despite all that, however,  the undeserved ‘bad rap’ given to butter, along with other really healthy high-fat foods like coconut oil, has still not been officially expunged from those Dietary Guidelines.

And unfortunately, we’ve paid a high price for having turned innocent traditional foods like butter and eggs into culinary culprits all those years ago, and having continued to malign them when we perhaps should have reevaluated the evidence. Because, like good citizens given a bad reputation, the health benefits they could have been providing people have been largely sacrificed in the process.

Paving the way for harmful additives

Consider, for example, that eggs, according to the website MedicalNewsToday.com, are  “considered to be one of the best sources of protein available,” as well as being rich in vitamins A, B2, B12, B5, D and E, and folic acid, along with biotin, choline, iodine and iron. And the biological beneficiaries of these nutrients include your immune, nervous and reproductive systems, your vision, your teeth and bones, general metabolism and mental well-being.

And butter, as noted by the Weston A. Price Foundation, actually “contains many nutrients that protect us from heart disease.” These include vitamin A, of which butter is the most easily absorbed source, lecithin, which assists in the assimilation and metabolism of cholesterol, and artery-protecting antioxidants such as vitamin E and selenium That’s right – butter, rather than contributing to high cholesterol, actually helps the body to assimilate it.

In fact, as we now know, much of the blame that’s been attached to things like butter and eggs for heart disease actually belongs to trans fat, which is found in the partially hydrogenated oil used in so many products, primarily to maintain self-life. The Food and Drug Association now acknowledges this, holding PHO responsible for approximately 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths every year (although a proposal to phase it out, made over a year ago, has stalled after industry strenuously objected to it).

And for many years, a primary source of trans fat was margarine – the very product promoted as a “healthy” substitute for butter.

But there have been other repercussions to such misinformation as well.  Attaching unnecessary stigmas to “fat” and “cholesterol” (which our bodies use in the maintenance and repair of cells), along with salt, has also led to food products being laced with a whole slew of harmful additives to compensate for the resulting blandness. These have included neurotoxic flavor enhancers such as monosodium glutamate, hydrolyzed protein and other forms of free glutamic acid. And a lot of unhealthy processed products have been substituted for old-fashioned eggs at breakfast time.

So don’t wait for the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s latest cholesterol recommendations to become official – or for it to change its mind (five or 10 years down the line) about saturated fat.  If you haven’t done so already, welcome the butter and eggs back into your diet. And while you’re at it, we’d recommend you opt for the organic versions.

Study: The more organic food you eat, the less organophosphates in your system

Posted by -- February 12, 2015

organicappleEvery so often, some organization or publication tries to dismiss the value of organic foods.  And it isn’t always whom you might expect, either. For example, one of the latest such attempts at disparagement came from the Susan B. Komen Foundation, the breast-cancer awareness organization of pink-ribbon fame, which declared on its website that” consumption of organic food is a controversial issue and high quality human research is lacking in this area” and that while  “some studies have shown that organic food has a lower amount of pesticides …research has not confirmed that lower amounts of pesticides are causally related to preventing certain diseases or conditions.”

Had that come from the Grocery Manufacturers Association instead of a nonprofit supposedly dedicated to promoting wellness, it couldn’t have read any differently. But rather than causing most people to have second thought about organic food, what such a declaration really does is to make many readers of the site question the credibility and motives of the Komen organization.

And that’s especially so in light of the “high quality human research” that continues to support the health benefits of eating organic, such as the study recently published in Environmental Health Perspectives that found people who consumed little or no organic food had roughly twice as much organophosphates, a particularly pernicious class of pesticide, in their bodies as those whose diet was primarily organic.

Those results came from testing the urine of approximately 4,500 subjects who were asked to fill out an extensive questionnaire concerning their eating habits.

Noting that “diet is the primary source of organophosphate pesticide exposure” for most Americans, Dr. Cynthia Curl, an assistant professor at Boise State University’s School of Allied Health Sciences said this particular study suggests “that by eating organically grown versions of those foods highest in pesticide residues, we can make a measurable difference in the levels of pesticides in our bodies.”

Organophosphate residues are particularly apt to be found on such popular and nutritious fruits as apples, peaches, grapes, blueberries, pears and nectarines.

While studies have linked organophosphates to two kinds of cancer, leukemia and lymphoma, they’re particularly notorious in the area of brain and neurological health. They work by inhibiting an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase, which controls nerve impulses. The resulting interference with this biological process can lead to a variety of dysfunctions and neurological diseases, ranging from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to Parkinson’s (which has been associated with proximity to applications of three organophosphates in particular – diazinon, chlorpyrifos and dimethoate). Higher exposures can result in everything from nausea and headaches to inability to breathe and convulsions to death.

Of course, the benefits of organic foods aren’t just limited to what they don’t contain. Last July, for example, an analysis of 343 studies done by a multinational group of experts, led by Newcastle University and published in the British Journal of Nutrition, concluded that organic crops and the foods made from them are up to 60 percent higher in key antioxidants than those that are conventionally grown.

So whenever you hear that organic foods aren’t worth whatever extra money they might cost, or are no different nutritionally than their conventional counterparts, you can reasonably surmise that there’s an “ulterior agenda” at work on the part of whomever or whatever organization is making any such spurious claim, whether it be an industry lobby or a nonprofit seeking corporate supporters.

Study finds diet free of HFCS-laced drinks may cut COPD risk by a third

Posted by -- February 10, 2015

We’ve known for a while that eliminating beverages containing high fructose corn syrup from your diet can substantially reduce your risk of becoming obese, developing diabetes and a whole raft of other serious metabolic diseases.  But who would have guessed that it might also make you less apt to get COPD (which is short for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a lung condition marked by wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath)?

Now COPD, as everyone knows, is an ailment mostly attributable to smoking, with exposure to polluted air also known to be a contributing factor. But now, a surprising new study has found that having a healthier diet — which includes reducing or eliminating consumption of beverages that contain high fructose corn syrup – can also help to keep this life-altering and life-threatening disease at bay.

Of course, as is so often the case, a report on the study posted at the site Medical News Today only makes mention of “sugary drinks.”  But it doesn’t require a medical degree to translate that into HFCS- sweetened ones. That’s because the study involved is actually an assessment of the effects of diet on the risk of COPD among 73,228 women who took part in the Nurses’ Health Study from 1984 to 2000, and 47,026 men who took part in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study from 1986 to 1998.

And it just so happens that 1984 – the starting year of that research – was the exact same year that major soft-drink manufacturers first substituted HFCS for sugar in their products. And they’ve been using it ever since. (In fact, it’s interesting and somewhat disturbing to note that despite the marked decrease in smoking in America over the past few decades, the mortality rate from COPD actually rose for about men and women — especially the latter — in the decade between 1999 and 2009, taking it from the fourth to the third leading cause of death in this country.)

Consumption of those mislabeled “sugary drinks” was one of the key criteria for a healthy diet (known as the Alternative Healthy eating Index 2010, of AHEI-2010) that researchers concluded made those who followed it a third less likely to develop COPD than participants who scored lowest for their eating habits. AHEI-2010 also calls for replacing red or processed meats and refined grain with higher amounts of vegetables, whole grains, polyunsaturated fats, nuts and omega-3 fatty acids, such as are found in salmon, sardines and other fish.

So is there a scientific explanation for these findings? According to the report, the researchers theorize that the loss of lung function over time and the eventual development of COPD” may be related to the way “certain exposures (and local inflammation) can further increase the burden of oxidants,” and that the antioxidants in a healthy diet may help offset the effects of “potentially toxic substances.”

Of course, HFCS isn’t the only “potentially toxic substance” to be found in conventional processed food. The list also includes many others that impact health in various ways, from the adverse reactions and possible brain damage caused by monosodium glutamate and aspartame to the artery-clogging effects of partially hydrogenated oil. (And even certain nonorganic vegetables can harbor unhealthy residues of pesticides that can lead to cancer and neurological damage.)

But HFCS, which tops our list of undesirable ingredients, has the distinction of being linked by scientific research to a whole slew of serious health problems, including obesity, diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, heart problems and pancreatic cancer.

And now there may be one more important health-related reason to avoid it — or at least one of its main dietary sources — if you aren’t already doing so.

Coca-Cola tries to revamp its image with a ‘makeover’ of milk

Posted by -- February 6, 2015

fairlifemilk

 

By BILL BONVIE

At a time when healthier food is reported to be more popular than ever, some 56 percent of the North American consumers who participated in a recent Nielsen Global Health and Wellness Study said they distrust claims found on nutritional products.

Why such skepticism? Well, let’s just consider one of the latest such claims – the one being made on bottles of Coca-Cola’s newly introduced dairy product called “Fairlife” (about as lame a name as ever emerged out of what must have been a marathon creative competition).

And right beneath that product name you’ll find the slogan “purely nutritious milk.”

Now, what might that mean, exactly?

Well, the first definition of “purely” appearing in my dictionary is “in a pure manner, without admixture.” And “admixture” is defined as “the act of mixing” or “the state of being mixed.”

Yet,  in the publicity accompanying its launch in various test markets, Fairlife is described as a form of milk that’s been processed in a special “soft filtration” system developed to separate the milk into five components – water, protein, fat, lactose, and nutrients –which are then recombined in different proportions to provide 30 percent more protein and 50 percent more calcium. I don’t know about you, but that sure sounds like “admixture” to me (far more so than being merely homogenized).

The again, maybe “purely” nutritious is intended in the sense of “entirely” or “completely” nutritious, with any idea of  actual purity being purely coincidental.

Milk identity theft?

Whichever, Fairlife’s list of ingredient consists of nonfat filtered milk (high protein, high calcium, reduced sugar), lactase enzyme (to make it lactose-free), vitamin A Palmitate, and vitamin D3 – all of which might sound innocuous enough if the idea of “enhancing” a formula created by Mother Nature by separating, altering and recombining the ingredients doesn’t bother you (and if the premium price — the kind usually charged for organic milk – seems justified, given that the product was described  by one Coca-Cola executive as “the premiumization of milk”).

What may bother many consumers, however, is that we’re talking here about the Coca-Cola Company, whose trademark products have up to now been carbonated beverages that for many years have been sweetened with two of the least healthy substances on the planet  — high fructose corn syrup, the cheap sugar substitute that studies have linked to obesity, diabetes, heart problems, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and even pancreatic cancer, and aspartame, the neurotoxic synthetic sweetener that was linked to brain tumors and seizures in laboratory animals and has since been the source of thousands of adverse reactions reports, as well as being considered damaging to brain cells in children and the elderly.

There’s also  the fact that the Coca-Cola Company is already being sued for allegedly having a misleading label on its subsidiary Minute Maid’s “Pomegranate Blueberry Flavored Blend of 5 Juices” beverage, which is actually 99 percent apple and grape juice – a case that the U.S. Supreme court has ruled may proceed by an 8-0 vote.

In light of all that, it should perhaps come as no surprise that some consumers don’t appear to have been all that impressed by either the company’s having diversified into dairy or by the titillating ad campaign it has created for Fairlife featuring models whose scanty attire appears to be made of milk. “ ‘Fairlife Milk – made by Coca Cola’. That tells us all we need to know about the un-health benefits and value of this drink,” went one such response to an article about the product, while another called the company “the antiChrist of nutrition.” Still another found “the blatant sexualization of women in their ads” to be “offensive,” as well as noting that she didn’t buy Coca-Cola products and is “not a baby anymore and don’t need milk, especially from another species of animal. “

But then, the fact that many of today’s health-conscious consumers no longer consider milk itself (and particularly milk that’s not organic) to be the ultimate health drink is something that the company was either unaware of or chose to ignore when it decided that a milk ‘makeover’, along with visions of maidens dressed only in milk,  was the way to go to give itself a more wholesome image.

Type 2 diabetes in those under 30 and HFCS: both ‘unheard of’ a while back

Posted by -- February 4, 2015

sodaboy1-250x374By BILL BONVIE

A report just published by the Mayo Clinic has identified the fructose being added to products in the form of  high fructose corn syrup as a particular driver of type 2 diabetes.  Of course, that’s not the first time such a link has been made — but it does provide further support for an increasingly plausible explanation of why so many young people are now being classified as diabetics.

While it’s common knowledge that this acquired disease (as differentiated from type 1, or juvenile diabetes) now afflicts people of all ages, I wasn’t aware until last week of the existence of a group called Students with Diabetes that currently has chapters on several dozen college campuses throughout the country, including a number of state universities. In fact, it was a brief reference on a TV news program that prompted me to Google this organization, which is dedicated to helping young adults with diabetes to connect with each other in colleges and universities and “equip them with the tools and information they need to succeed.”

But that’s hardly surprising, given the fact that, according to the website HealthDay, the incidence of type 2 diabetes among children and adolescents has “skyrocketed” from less than 5 percent in 1994 to about 20 percent of all newly diagnosed cases, prompting the journal Diabetes Care to call it an “emerging epidemic.”

In fact, as HealthDay put it, “type 2 diabetes used to be practically unheard of in people under 30,” as I can readily attest. Back in my student days a few decades ago, the only time I can ever recall the disease even having been mentioned was when a high-school classmate who suffered from type 1 went into a diabetic coma and died. But as for type 2, that was something no one in our age group ever even thought about, let alone had to deal with themselves.

So did we all lead healthier lives back then?  Well, no and yes.

We certainly ate all kinds of processed foods and confections, and drank our share of sodas and “sugary drinks,” which were constantly being hyped in ad campaigns. In that respect, kids of that era weren’t much different from kids today (just watch any of the old movies depicting teens in the ‘1950s and ‘60s). But somehow, not only did we not get type 2 diabetes, but only a very small minority of my contemporaries could be described as “fat,” let alone “obese,” as so many of the teens and pre-teens in these times obviously are.

So what might account for this dramatic divergence between then and now? Well, consider the fact that all the sodas and snack foods sold back in those days were genuinely “sugary” – which is to say, they were sweetened with sucrose, or old-fashioned table sugar. No one had ever even heard of high fructose corn syrup, the much cheaper laboratory sweetener now found in nearly all soft drinks and any number of other products as well.

The widespread substitution of HFCS for sucrose, which was done for no other reason than to increase food manufacturers’ profit margins, was one those stealthy, clandestine changes very few people paid any attention to at the time. But it’s come back to haunt us — or you might say, to haunt our health –  in a number of very real ways, not the least of which may well be the growing epidemic of diabetes we’re now seeing, particularly among America’s young people.

Coincidence? Not according to research

Now, of course, there are those who will try to tell you that this is all “coincidence” – that there’s no “proof” of one being related to the other, Or to blame it all on greatly increased soda consumption, or on the fact that kids just don’t get enough exercise any more.  They’ll try to tell you that sugar and HFCS have similar ratios of glucose and fructose, and that in any event, “the body handles them the same way.” And that fructose occurs naturally in fruit.

So what about such claims? Well, for starters, as we’ve noted in previous blogs, the glucose and fructose in HFCS aren’t bound together the way they are in sucrose – and as experts have pointed out, the two are metabolized by the body in a far different manner. Similarly, the naturally-occurring fructose in fruit is locked together with fiber, which allows your liver to metabolize it slowly. By contrast, HFCS “floods your bloodstream, overwhelming your liver’s processing capacity,” according to David Brownstein, M.D.

But does all that translate into an “emerging epidemic” of diabetes? While correlation isn’t proof of cause, it well might, according to some of the research that’s been done. For example, a 2007 Rutgers study that found that that soft drinks sweetened with HFCS may contribute to the development of diabetes, particularly in children, due to the “astonishingly high” levels of reactive carbonyls in those beverages associated with unbound molecules of fructose and glucose. Another study done by the University of California’s Keck School of Medicine in 2013 found that countries that used HFCS had a 20 percent higher rate of diabetes than those that don’t.

In fact, the switch from sugar to HFCS is even likely to be responsible for higher soda consumption among today’s kids, due to the fact that consuming fructose in that form has a minimal effect on brain regions that control appetite, according to a 2013 Yale University study.

And now, if to emphasize the point, comes the Mayo clinic’s confirmation of a particularly strong link between diabetes and HFCS consumption.

So when you hear that type 2 diabetes in young people was “unheard of” a few decades ago, just remember – so was high fructose corn syrup.

Bill Bonvie is the author of “Repeat Offenders,” a collection of previously published essays available at Amazon.com

‘OldBaygate’ — a deception with the potential to spoil any Super Bowl party

Posted by -- January 29, 2015

oldbay2

 

By BILL BONVIE

With “Deflategate” having become the main topic of conversation in the days leading up to Super Bowl Sunday, we’d like to take this opportunity to briefly change the subject to one much closer to home for millions of football fans and their families and guests. It’s one we’ve talked about before, but that we thought needed to be reemphasized, if for no other reason than to keep a festive occasion from turning into a fiasco – or worse yet, a visit to the emergency room.

We’ve even given it a name – OldBaygate.

OldBaygate as in Old Bay Seasoning, you might ask?  Well, yes – but not in regard to the seasoning itself. That product, which has been around for 70 years and has long been manufactured by McCormick & Co., is, as far as we can tell, a perfectly benign and healthy one (which, in fact, we often use ourselves).

But that, in fact, is the crux of the issue at the heart of OldBaygate –the trust that so many Americans have in the quality of Old Bay Seasoning and its “unique blend of spices and herbs” that includes celery salt, spices, including mustard, red pepper and black pepper, bay (laurel) leaves, cloves, allspice (pimento), ginger, mace, cardamom, cinnamon and paprika. And the way that trust is being abused by the marketing of a trio of snack items that feature the Old Bay name and logo, along with a depiction of a canister of Old Bay Seasoning — all of which might easily cause many consumers to overlook the fact that they actually contain a neurotoxic additive not found in the actual seasoning.

That additive, the flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate, is one of the ingredients listed in Herr’s Old Bay Seasoned Potato Chips, which the company claims it has been making for more than three decades, as well as its recently introduced Old Bay Seasoned Popcorn and Cheese Curls.  But unless you happen to look at the list of ingredients on the back of the packages, you may think that all you’re getting are chips, cheese curls or popcorn seasoned with “classic” Old Bay (in fact, popcorn is one of the things that the Old Bay canister suggests it be sprinkled on). And that could well spell disaster for anyone who’s especially sensitive to the free glutamic acid in monosodium glutamate, and who ordinarily makes a point of avoiding it.

A little A-fib, anyone?

And there are many good reasons to avoid it.  They include such potential “side effects” as blinding headaches, asthma attacks, nausea, chest pains and even seizures, as well as depression and disorientation. But those aren’t the worst. Monosodium glutamate, as even the American Heart Association acknowledges, can also cause atrial fibrillation, of A-fib, a chaotic heart rhythm that can increase your risk of stroke.

As renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Russell Blaylock explains it, that’s due to the fact that there are numerous glutamate receptors found both in your heart’s electrical conduction system and in the heart muscle itself. And these receptors can be overstimulated by an excess of what are known as “excitoxins,” which include monosodium glutamate and other forms of MSG (such as sodium caseinate and hydrolyzed protein), producing cardiac arrhythmias. These, he notes, can be especially dangerous when magnesium levels are low, as is often the case with athletes, and may even account for incidents of sudden death on the playing field.

And that’s not to mention the fact that such excitotoxins, according to Blaylock and other experts, can be injurious to the brain cells of children and older people without a fully functioning blood-brain barrier.

When we initially contacted Herr’s about this last April after finding Old Bay Seasoned Chips in our local supermarket, Phil Bernas, the company’s vice president for quality assurance, acknowledged to us that that what they were seasoned with was “an entirely different product” than Old Bay Seasoning – and that the “total seasoning package” used in the chips was supplied by McCormick, not Herr’s.

Old Bay itself, in other words, is apparently the same seasoning it’s always been. But the flavor of those “Old Bay Seasoned” snack items is “enhanced” with something entirely different – an additive with the potential to transform the high spirits of a Super Bowl party into high anxiety, and even land you, a family member or a guest in the ER.

So we strongly advise you to steer clear of these spurious snacks just as you would any other foods in which monosodium glutamate and other excitotoxins are present. It’s the one way you can make sure OldBaygate doesn’t end up deflating your plans for the big game.

Insiders advised that HFCS is considered ‘public enemy #1’

Posted by -- January 27, 2015

hfcs

Very often, if you want to find out the real “inside” story about things that matter to us as consumers, the best places to go are publications, web sites or blogs intended only for industry insiders.

Such was the case last week with a blog written by Crystal Lindell, the managing editor of Candy Industry Magazine.  Under the headline “Labels: What are consumers really looking for while they scan the grocery aisle?” it offered an analysis of new data from Nielsen’s recent Global Health & Wellness study, which “looked at what people eat and why in more than 60 countries.”

Interpreting that data for her candy industry readers, Lindell notes that people “actually read all those nutritional claims you throw out there, and then make snap decisions about whether or not they buy into them right there in the middle of the grocery store aisle.” And the “good news,” she reports, is that about 80 percent of North American consumers “are willing to pay a premium for foods with healthy claims or attributes.”

Now, that is good news indeed.  But the best news of all, as far as we’re concerned, is something in the report she says most of her readers in the industry “probably already know from experience” — that “Americans HATE high fructose corn syrup.” To this end, she quotes Nielsen as saying, “In the U.S., high fructose corn syrup was public enemy #1 and 65 percent of consumers said it was very or moderately important to buy products with labels touting its absence.” As a result, she advises her consider to either getting rid of it or replacing it with a different sweetener.

What makes this especially interesting, coming as it does directly from an industry publication, is that it directly contradicts continual claims made by the Corn Refiners Association that most Americans really don’t care whether products they buy contain HFCS or not, and that “only 3 percent of consumers name HFCS as an ingredient they avoid.” (In fact, one of the sources the CRA alleges supports that notion on its industry-targeted website, CornNaturally.com, is Nielsen “Shopper Data.”)

And it’s not as if Lindell is an advocate for abandoning HFCS on health grounds, either. As she comments, “I know, I know, it’s cheaper and our bodies probably digest it the same way they digest sugar. But the public has a different opinion on the matter, so the only sane thing left to do is either comply or accept the consequences.”

In other words, consumers are really calling the shots by exercising their purchasing power. And as it turns out, they’re apt to be better informed and more concerned about the effects of food ingredients than industry gives them credit for being.

And one thing it appears consumers may soon catch on to – if they haven’t already – are any attempts to mislead them into thinking that a product contains no high fructose corn syrup when a particularly potent form has actually been added another name. We’re referring, of course, to the substitution of the word “fructose” for HFCS-90, a formulation that’s 90 percent fructose, far in excess of the maximum 55 percent level allowed in HFCS by the Food and Drug Administration.

One reason they’re apt to quickly get wise to this subterfuge is that news of it has gone viral on the Internet since we first disclosed in a blog last month that General Mills was claiming that one of its Chex cereals contained no HFCS while “fructose” was named as an ingredient.  That particular blog was first picked up by the Natural Society, which disseminated it as well, resulting in its being featured on various other Internet forums, in addition to being discussed by commentator and activist Thom Hartmann in a video broadcast, and only last week becoming the subject of an on-line petition circulated by the activist phone company Credo.

That’s but one example of how the public now has access to its own “inside information” – even while industry insiders have to rely on consultant firms to try to keep up with what consumers know, and when they know it.