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Consumers have it right: HFCS isn’t just another form of sugar

Posted by -- April 17, 2014

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A proposed new law in California would require warning labels to be placed on soft drinks stating that “Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.”

Unfortunately, what this bill does is to further blur the difference between “sugar,” which was used in soft drinks for many years, and “sugars,” which is Food and Drug Administration terminology for all caloric sweeteners – most notably high fructose corn syrup, which is now used in practically all the non-diet sodas now on the market.

It’s an important distinction. And it’s one that has already been clouded all too often by the use of the common misleading expression “sugary drinks.”

But those in the business do know the difference.

Take Pepsi.  It is now about to introduce a new line of soft drinks that are “made with real sugar,” representing a return to the days before HFCS started replacing actual sugar in most processed foods and beverages. No doubt, the company is hoping this move will help reverse the steady decline in soda sales we talked about in a blog last week.

Of course, what we’ve been hearing a lot lately from nutritionists, media, politicians (such as ex-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg) and the Corn Refiners Association,  is that “sugar is sugar.”

And we agree — sugar is indeed sugar.  But sugar isn’t high fructose corn syrup — either in actuality or in the way it’s defined by the Food and Drug Administration (even though, confusingly, both are classified as “added sugars”).

So when commentators try to tell you that this is merely a matter of perception and that you’re “deluded” and “misguided” if you think there’s any real difference, as one recently did, they’re flat out wrong. Because there’s a significant body of scientific research that contradicts their position. And it turns out that consumers, a majority of whom (that is, 58 percent) ranked HFCS as one of their top food safety concerns during a 2008 survey, are a lot smarter than they’re given credit for being.

And what really matters is that those consumers are increasingly using their purchasing power to show that the addition of a cheap, unnatural and (in the opinion of numerous experts) unhealthy sweetener to foods and beverages is something they’re no longer willing to unquestioningly accept.

How one risk factor leads to another

A number of studies, many done by leading universities, have already linked HFCS consumption to various health problems, from the obesity and diabetes epidemics (which didn’t exist before HFCS became a substitute for sugar in numerous products and was added to many others) to heart and kidney ailments, metabolic syndrome, the development of pancreatic cancer, memory and learning disabilities, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

That last association was made by University of Florida Division of Nephrology researchers, who concluded that that “the pathogenic mechanism underlying the development of NAFLD may be associated with excessive dietary fructose consumption.”

And now comes word of yet another study that in turn, links NAFLD with obesity and a high risk of heart disease – this one done at Saint Luke’s Health System’s Liver Disease Management Center in Kansas City, Mo.

When researchers in this study took upper-abdominal CT scans of nearly 400 patients, they found that those with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease were more likely to have coronary artery disease. The risks that poses, they concluded, was stronger than other more traditional risk factors for heart disease, such as smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and metabolic syndrome.

Of course, the Corn Refiners Association and others who have tried to misrepresent HFCS as just another form of sugar (when they’re not touting it as a “natural” substance, which it also isn’t) will tell you that it contains the same amount of fructose as sugar does.  But, as we’ve often pointed out here at Food Identity Theft, that’s very often not the case, as high fructose corn syrup has been found have significantly higher amounts of fructose – which in some cases is as “excessive” as 90 percent (it wasn’t called “high fructose ” for nothing). In addition, the fructose and glucose of sugar are chemically bound together, in HFCS, they’re not – and many doctors and researchers consider that to be part of the problem.

Oh, and one more thing. Dr. John Helzburg, who helped lead this latest study, noted in a press release that “(i)f current trends continue”, the prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease “is expected to increase to 40 percent of the population by 2020.”

But whether those trends continue may well depend on how many more food and beverage companies decide to listen to their customers and make a serious effort to get this disease-linked laboratory sweetener being falsely represented as “sugar” out of our food supply.

 

Does this toxic metal, now linked to Alzheimer’s, belong in anyone’s diet?

Posted by -- April 15, 2014

By BILL BONVIE

opening a canAsk people what they’re most afraid of when it comes to their health, and they’ll probably tell you it’s the possibility of developing Alzheimer’s.

Yet, many of us regularly consume things containing an ingredient that’s now been positively linked to that dreaded, mind-robbing disease.

In fact, you might very well be doing so yourself and not be aware of it. Because the ingredient in question can be found in a whole bevy of processed foods, ranging from frozen fish to frozen pizza to commercial cake mixes, not to mention certain over-the-counter drugs.

It’s aluminum.

For many years, this toxic metal has been regarded by many health experts as a possible perpetrator in the fast growing number of Alzheimer’s cases after turning up in the brains of some who have succumbed to the disease.  But we were always told there was never enough “proof” of its involvement – especially given that the victims were mostly older people and no direct ‘cause-and-effect’ association was ever clearly established.

But now there’s much stronger evidence – strong enough to move aluminum from something regarded with suspicion into the category of an official “suspect”.

The breakthrough came when researchers from England’s Keele University examined the brain of an industrial worker who had died of early onset Alzheimer’s following eight years of regular occupational exposure to aluminum sulfate dust. Prior to his diagnosis, the man, whose medical history showed no indication of the disease, complained of tiredness, headaches and mouth ulcers, then began to develop memory problems and depression.

Following his death several years later, a neuropathological examination confirmed that he had advance stage Alzheimer’s disease.  “There then followed the most comprehensive investigation ever of the aluminium (the British spelling) content of the frontal lobe of a single individual with 49 different tissue samples being measured for aluminium,” according to a UK health website.

The examination found the amount of aluminum in the victim’s brain to be at least four times higher than might be expected for someone his age. “Overall, these results suggest very strongly that occupational exposure … contributed significantly to the untimely death of this individual with Alzheimer’s disease,” noted Keele Professor Chris Exley.

In other words, a direct link between Alzheimer’s and aluminum exposure was finally made.

A little aluminum with that?

Of course, the chances are you’re not regularly breathing in aluminum dust in your workplace. So should this concern you?

The answer is yes — because aluminum, as many product ingredients labels will tell you, is something you’re apt to be consuming on a regular basis. The number of everyday foods to which it’s routinely added include such items as:

  • Betty Crocker, Pillsbury and Duncan Hines cake mixes, all of which contain sodium aluminum phosphate;
  • Gorton’s Fish Tenders and Fish Sticks, which also lists sodium aluminum phosphate as an ingredient in its baking powder;
  • DiGiorno Rising Crust Pizza, which does likewise.
  • Clabber Girl Baking Powder, which can add sodium aluminum phosphate to your homemade cakes and pies (as opposed to such brans as Argo and Rumsford, whose labels note that they’re “aluminum free.”

And you may be getting it from other food-related sources as well: aluminum foil, if you use it to wrap meats, fish and other items during cooking, and aluminum cookware (which should be replaced with newer ceramic varieties).

In addition, if you suffer from indigestion, a number of the antacids now on the market contain aluminum compounds as either active or inactive ingredients — which is why you should check those labels, too.

Of course, the amounts of aluminum you’re absorbing into your bloodstream from food and other sources aren’t apt to be anything like the airborne levels to which the unfortunate British worker was exposed.

But knowing that this toxic metal can accumulate in brain tissue, and is now considered a likely culprit instead of just a ‘substance of interest’ in the development of Alzheimer’s, do you really want to be ingesting it – especially when you don’t have to?

Here’s the top ten to avoid. Get ready for “Read Your Labels Day” tomorrow!

Posted by -- April 10, 2014

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Tomorrow is the second annual “Read Your Labels Day,” and in case you missed any of the top ten food additives to avoid, here they all are.

This is the rogue’s gallery of unnecessary and health-damaging ingredients that turn up in so many products — what they are, where you’re most likely to find them, and why you should keep them out of your diet.

The “Read Your Labels”  top ten additives to avoid in review:

 

#1. High fructose corn syrup

Where you’ll find it:

Where do we begin? HFCS has permeated the marketplace in so many foods and beverages it’s just about impossible to create a list. For starters, it’s in most all sodas, and many other beverages such as tea and flavored drinks, and numerous juice drinks made for kids, as well as other sweetened items such as jellies, cookies and pastries. It also turns up in some surprising places like bread and condiments, and oddly, even in some diet foods (where it’s possible that a super-high fructose version is used). All in all, to purge HFCS from your diet, you need to read ingredient labels and reject all products containing this laboratory sweetener.

Why you should avoid it:

  • HFCS and high fructose consumption have been implicated in a variety of diseases and health problems, including heart disease, diabetes and weight gain.
  • The actual fructose percentage of HFCS is variable and unknown (which is why Citizens for Health has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to require the true fructose content of HFCS formulas be disclosed on food labels).
  • Contrary to industry propaganda, HFCS isn’t “corn sugar” or a “natural” ingredient, but a test-tube concoction that’s much cheaper than sugar.

#2. Aspartame

Where you’ll find it:

Aspartame is apt to turn up in foods labeled as “light” or “low-cal,” diet soft drinks, teas and juice drinks, kid’s vitamins, liquid cold drugs and other pharmaceuticals, chewing gum, cereal, sugar-free candies. Foods containing this artificial sweetener must also bear a warning that the item contains phenylalanine for those with a disorder called PKU.

Why you should avoid it:

  • Aspartame has never been proven to be a safe food additive, and is, in fact, considered by experts to be in a class of ingredients called “excitotoxins” that can literally excite brain cells to death, especially in children and the elderly (as are the three additives that follow);
  • Studies have connected it to the development of brain tumors in rodents and grand mal seizures in monkeys.
  • Thousands of aspartame-related health complaints, from migraines to memory loss to dizziness to vision problems have been reported to the FDA.

#3. Hydrolyzed protein
#4. Autolyzed yeast
#5. Monosodium glutamate

Where you’ll find them:

These “excitoxins” can be found in soups, broth, flavoring additives, chips, dips, soup mixes, ramen noodles, frozen meals, snack mixes, canned fish, and a wide variety of other dishes –  including “natural,” “vegetarian,” and organic ones.

Why you should avoid them:

  • These are all toxic substances containing processed glutamic acid that can kill brain cells. They are especially harmful to kids, the elderly and developing fetuses.
  • Adverse reactions to these additives include everything from skin rashes and asthma attacks to mood swings, upset stomach, migraines, heart irregularities and seizures – even potentially fatal anaphylactic shock.

#6 Potassium bromate

Where you’ll find it:

Added to flour, it can be found in breads, flat breads, bakery products, knishes and tortillas. (It may also be listed on ingredient labels as “bromated flour.”)

Why you should avoid it:

  • Potassium bromate has been known for over three decades to cause cancer in laboratory animals.
  • It’s banned in Europe, China, Canada and Brazil.
  • If it’s not used “properly,” a significant residue of this additive can end up in the finished food product.

#7 Brominated vegetable oil, or BVO

Where you’ll find it:

Some Gatorade products, Mountain Dew and other drinks containing citrus flavorings.

Why you should avoid it:

  • BVO builds up in fatty tissue and been shown to cause heart damage in research animals.
  • It’s banned in Europe, India and Japan.
  • It’s never been declared safe by the FDA, where its status has remained in limbo  for over 30 years.

#8 BHA and BHT

Where you’ll find them:

This pair of preservatives turn up in many breakfast cereals (including most Kellogg’s varieties), as well as snack foods, chewing gum, pies, cakes and processed meats.

Why you should avoid them:

  • Made from coal tar or petroleum, BHA and BHT have been of concern for decades.
  • Over 30 years ago studies found that after pregnant mice were fed BHT and BHA, their offspring were born with altered brain chemistry.
  • BHA is considered a possible carcinogen by the World Health Organization and listed as a carcinogen in California.

#9 Trans fats

Where you’ll find it:

Any food products containing partially hydrogenated oil contain trans fats, regardless of a zero trans fats listing on the nutrition facts label. These can include bakery items, pizza, dough, pies, cakes and cookies, snack foods and frozen meals.

Why you should avoid them:

  • Trans fats increase LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, and decrease “good” HDL cholesterol.
  • People with high blood levels of trans fats appear to have a greater risk of developing certain cancers. (Some research has even linked them to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s.)
  • All health authorities, including government agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are in agreement that trans fats cause heart disease and that cutting them out of our diet could prevent thousand of heart attacks and death from coronary disease each year.

#10 Artificial colors

Where you’ll find them:

They’re present in many cereals, cakes, candy, bakery products, drinks, juice drinks, vitamins and pharmaceuticals.

Why you should avoid them:

  • Artificial colors are widely acknowledged to cause hyperactivity and behavioral problems in some children.
  • They’re made from both coal tar and petroleum extracts – hardly the sort of things one would want to ingest.
  • Some, such as Red #3, have been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals, but are still allowed to be used in foods.

So there they are in review – the top ten offenders among food additives. They’re best avoided (except in the case of processed glutamic acid), by buying organic processed foods, or, better yet, by cooking your own food from scratch as much as possible. But if you’re too hard pressed to always do all that, you should at least take the time to read those ingredient labels – and keep the items that contain these health-threatening intruders out of your kitchen and out of your life.

Slumping soda sales reflect growing wariness of harmful sweeteners

Posted by -- April 8, 2014

dietpepsi

By BILL BONVIE

Are Americans waking up to what’s actually in the food and beverages they’re buying?

An important indication that such awareness is finally getting through to the public came last week in a report that soda sales, both regular and diet — and especially the latter — are in a substantial slump. “Soda losing its grip on America,” is the way it was headlined by ABC News, which noted that sales figures show a three percent decline, with those for diet soda double that, representing “hundreds of millions of fewer bottles” consumed. Nor did this “seismic change, ”as ABC termed it, just come about – it’s been going on for quite some time, with Americans now drinking 20 percent fewer carbonated soft drinks than in 1998, according to the report.

What makes this especially encouraging news is that the message finally seems to be hitting home that both varieties of soft drinks are among the worst products currently on the market from a health standpoint.

Caloric sodas – you know, the ones usually misidentified by nutritionists, politicians and reporters as “sugary drinks” – are probably the leading source of the unnatural sweetener high fructose corn syrup, which as we have so often pointed out, shouldn’t be confused with “sugar” (meaning sucrose) – and which is first on our list of the “top ten food additives to avoid.”

As for “diet sodas” (or any type of “diet” drink or product, for that matter), they’re infused with the artificial sweetener aspartame, a notorious neurotoxin and threat to brain cells whose ‘rap sheet’ includes many thousands of cases of adverse reactions, along with studies linking it to brain tumors in rodents and grand mal seizures in rhesus monkeys.  In fact, aspartame is number 2 on our list of worst additives — an ingredient we refer to as the “diet devil in disguise” because it is often misrepresented as a healthy non-caloric alternative to sugar (or HFCS). And the bad news about it just keeps coming, with a new University of Iowa study having found that women who drink just two diet sodas a day have a significantly higher risk of heart attacks and strokes.

What all this adds up to is that neither of these laboratory-created ingredients should be a part of anyone’s diet. Yet the American beverage industry has been putting them in its carbonated drinks for a good many years – and in so doing, has been wreaking havoc on our collective health in ways that are both obvious and invisible.

Consumers catching on to toxic additive risks

In addition to research pointing to HFCS as a likely culprit in the current epidemics of obesity and diabetes (which correspond with its having replaced sugar in soda and many other products for purely economic reasons), different studies conducted over the past few years have linked this cheap laboratory concoction to increased risks of heart disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, kidney disease and pancreatic cancer.

As the public has become more aware of these potential health problems, increasing numbers of consumers have made a point of avoiding HFCS, despite a campaign by the Corn Refiners Association to misrepresent it as a natural product “made from corn” and even rename it “corn sugar.” But while it’s been removed from some processed foods, it has remained as an ingredient of most regular soft drinks, which may help account for their rapid decline in popularity.

If diet soda sales are showing an even greater drop, that may well have a lot to do with the fact that more and more people are becoming knowledgeable about aspartame’s dangers, despite attempts by industry, the Food and Drug Administration and even the media to stifle such concern by making it appear benign. (ABC News, for example, notes in the print version of its recent story that Americans “don’t seem to be convinced that aspartame and other artificial sweeteners are safe, even though there is no scientific evidence that they cause any harm” – a statement many experts would dispute.)

The new level of consumer awareness that may be largely responsible for pushing down soda sales was perhaps best summed up by Robert Banks, a Washington, D.C. resident who told ABC News: “I have been trying to eliminate high fructose corn syrup, so soda is the number one culprit. Once I stopped drinking sodas I began to lose weight, which reinforced my desire to drink water. I thought about diet soda, but I recently heard studies that indicate artificial sweeteners aren’t healthy.”

No doubt, a lot of other people are coming to the same conclusions. The response of the beverage industry has been to diversify into products other than sodas, perhaps blaming the fact that they’re losing their “fizz” with the public on campaigns waged against these so-called “sugary drinks” by politicians and nutritionists.

But what both the industry and its critics may not realize is that consumers are becoming increasingly savvy – and the real reasons they’re increasingly turning their backs on Coke, Pepsi and all their carbonated cousins have to do with the fact that, for a long time now, they’ve been anything but “sugary.”

New study gives a clean bill of heart health to a condemned commodity

Posted by -- April 3, 2014

butter

 

By BILL BONVIE

Heard about the astonishing new health-food discovery?

It’s something that can “significantly” reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a new study out from Britain’s University of Cambridge.

And it’s something that can be easily used in any meal of the day — as a spread on your morning toast, in sandwiches, or in cooking.

So what, exactly is this miracle food, and where can you buy it?

As it turns out, it’s available in the dairy case of any supermarket or grocery store.  It’s something called butter.
Yes, you heard me right – the same stuff that we’ve been warned to avoid for decades if we wanted to keep from becoming a heart disease statistic. In fact, we now know that the real threat to our heart health was posed by the very butter substitute we were originally advised to use (and that many people still do) – margarine, a major source of artery-clogging, heart-attack inducing trans fat.

The research on which this finding was based wasn’t just limited to one locale, In fact, it, involved a rather comprehensive analysis of some 72 studies with 600,000 participants in 18 countries. And what the investigators also 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.

So what does all this mean? According to the university’s press release, that “current evidence does not support guidelines which restrict the consumption of saturated fats in order to prevent heart disease.” There was also “insufficient support for guidelines which advocate the high consumption of polyunsaturated fats (such as omega 3 and omega 6) to reduce the risk of coronary disease.”

In other words, everything you’ve been told by doctors and health experts about the dangers of eating saturated fats, such as butter, was wrong.

But it’s not as if this is the first time that butter has been seen as a key to better health.  While mainstream groups like the American Heart Association continued to demonize it as a major risk factor, other, lesser known authorities were boosting its benefits – benefits they maintained went considerably beyond promoting heart health.

Back in the year 2000, for example, The Weston A. Price Foundation for Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts posted an article at its website on “Why Butter is Better,” which talked about the “disinformation campaign” that called naturally saturated fats from animal sources “the root cause of the current heart disease and cancer plague, with butter bearing “the brunt of the attack.” As a result, butter “all but disappeared from our tables, shunned as a miscreant.”

Such claims, the group said, “would come as a surprise to many people around the globe who have valued butter for its life-sustaining properties for millennia. When Dr. Weston Price studied native diets in the 1930′s he found that butter was a staple in the diets of many supremely healthy peoples.”

A sharp rise in heart disease, the Foundation pointed out, corresponded to the widespread replacement of butter with margarine – which should have exonerated butter as a cause.

Actually, the group noted, “butter 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.

Butter’s other benefits, according to the Weston Price Foundation, include:
•    Strong cancer-fighting components, such as short-and medium-chain fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid, and cholesterol that offers protection from colon cancer;
•    Properties that protect against gastro-intestinal infections;
•    Iodine that helps the thyroid gland to function properly;
•    Immune system support, protection against osteoporosis, and even prevention of tooth decay, and
•    Helping promote proper growth and development in kids.

The prosecution remains adamant

Even without all that, however, you’d think the latest mega-study would exonerate butter and convince the health establishment that it should be urging people to get butter back on their table ASAP.  But it doesn’t quite work out that way.

The American Heart Association, for instance, noted in a press release that while the study calls “established wisdom” into question, it “stands by its guidelines that saturated fats can hurt your heart while polyunsaturated fats may help it, with a representative quoted as saying that  it merely means “that we lack the data from controlled clinical trials that truly test this question of how much saturated fat is acceptable, so we must rely on existing science that suggests that saturated fat … tends to promote the formation of fatty plaques in the arteries.”

In fact, the AHA response that butter remains a culprit in heart disease sounds a lot like that of a prosecutor trying to keep someone he’s helped convict behind bars after the prisoner has been exonerated by DNA evidence. Just like the criminal justice system, the health establishment is always unready to admit it’s made a grave error.

Fortunately, you need not keep butter locked away from your family any longer – any more than you do eggs, another natural food which the purveyors of counterfeit commodities once also tried to hold responsible for the ills they’ve actually created.

And, like a lot of other foods, it’s always best to go organic with both butter and eggs.

But welcome back butter!

The number one food additive to avoid!

Posted by -- April 1, 2014

labelOur number-one additive to avoid in the Citizens for Health “Read Your Labels” campaign is a man-made laboratory creation that turns up in such a wide variety of foods and drinks that you need to read labels constantly in order to keep from ingesting it.

Experts have implicated this unnatural ingredient in scores of health issues and diseases. Author and pioneer in integrative medicine Andrew Weil, M.D. calls it “…one of the very worst culprits in the diet.” Consumers have made it perfectly clear they don’t want it in food products, yet manufacturers of those products keep on using it because it’s cheap and easy to add to foods and beverages.

Like processed glutamic acid, this additive also has the backing of a powerful, multimillion-dollar lobbying group whose purpose is to keep it in widespread use, no matter how unpopular it becomes.

Our number one additive to avoid: High Fructose Corn Syrup (or HFCS)

High fructose corn syrup is a highly-processed, industrial sweetener in which glucose from corn syrup is further processed to create a desired amount of much-sweeter fructose. The manufacturing of HFCS is a highly complicated process, but the product is typically less expensive than sugar. It was first created in the late 1950s and hit the marketplace during the ’70s as a sweetening ingredient in soft drinks, its use soon expanding to almost every conceivable processed food product.

Due to increasing consumer dislike of the additive, the lobbying group representing the manufacturers of HFCS, the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), made a failed attempt several years ago to “officially” change the name of HFCS to “corn sugar.”  Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) firmly rejected the name switch attempt last May, the CRA had already gone full steam ahead in promoting the “corn sugar” concept. And even now, almost two years after the FDA ruled that HFCS is most decidedly not sugar, the CRA still can’t let go of the idea that it is, currently referring to the industrial sweetener and preservative as “…simply a form of sugar made from corn.”

While the CRA wants us all to believe that HFCS and sugar are identical twins – a misconception often unwittingly spread by media and politicians who describe beverages containing HFCS  as “sugary drinks” – there are numerous and substantial differences between the two, one of them being the higher and varying amounts of damaging fructose found in HFCS.

Dr. Michael Goran, director of the Childhood Obesity Research Center (CORC) and professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California, in a 2010 study published in the journal Obesity, found fructose amounts in several HFCS-sweetened sodas, such as Coke, Pepsi and Sprite to be as high as 65 percent – almost 20 percent higher than if they actually contained the 55 percent fructose version of HFCS we’ve all been led to believe they do.

While Dr. Goran’s research should have been the definitive “change (in) the conversation,” as the CRA likes to say, further research by Citizens for Health has turned up additional reasons why high fructose corn syrup is the perfect name for this laboratory-concocted additive.

Citizens for Health filed a petition with the FDA asking that the agency take action against food and beverage manufacturers using HFCS with fructose amounts above 55 percent (the highest amount the FDA allows), and also, in the interim, to provide accurate label information so consumers know just what they’re buying (you can read the petition here and sign it by clicking here). The petition asks that the FDA require a manufacturer that uses HFCS to state the fructose percentage in that formulation and have the label reflect that information, such as HFCS-55, or HFCS-90.

Haven’t yet heard about HFCS 90?  This is a version of the additive that is 90 percent fructose, described by one manufacturer and CRA-member company as “…the ideal choice for reduced calorie foods such as beverages, jellies and dressings.”

A research rap sheet that gets longer all the time

One of the latest negative HFCS studies, done by Dr. Goran, found that countries consuming large amounts of HFCS have a 20 percent higher prevalence of diabetes than those where it isn’t used. Goran said what that study suggests is that “HFCS poses an additional risk” over and above other risk factors, such as obesity,  most likely due to the higher amounts of fructose in HFCS (which even if used at the ‘allowed’ 55 percent is a 10 percent increase over real sugar).

Goran is far from the only researcher to implicate HFCS and high fructose consumption with a variety of diseases and health problems. For example:

  • Georgia Health Sciences University researchers found in 2011 that high fructose consumption by teens can put them at risk for heart disease and diabetes, and also speculated that kids may “crave the cheap, strong sweetener.”
  • A Yale University study in 2013 published in the the Journal of the American Medical Association found that fructose – especially in the form of HFCS – may contribute to weight gain and obesity, since it has little effect on brain regions that act as a check on appetite.
  • Researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles in 2012 showed that a diet high in fructose slows the functioning of the brain, hampering memory and learning – and that omega-3 fatty acids may counteract the disruption.
  • University of California at Davis researchers in 2011 found adults who consumed high fructose corn syrup for two weeks as 25 percent of their daily calorie requirement had increased blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, indicators of increased risk for heart disease.

And with the Corn Refiners Association reporting over 19 billion pounds of HFCS shipped in 2011, it’s pretty obvious that this unhealthy and ubiquitous sweetener is not something folks are consuming in “moderation” as the CRA claims they should. And that, many experts believe, goes a long way in explaining why our population has suddenly become so “large.”

So there you have it – a rogue’s gallery of 10 undesirable food additives that, taken together, are no doubt responsible for many of the health problems that plague our nation, marring the quality of life for tens of millions of us and steadily driving up the cost of health care.  And, unfortunately, so powerful and politically connected are the corporations that profit from their continued use in processed food that we cannot depend on regulatory agencies to keep these harmful substances out of our diet, but must take responsibility ourselves. This is why Citizens for Health has declared April 11 as “Read Your Labels Day,” which, hopefully, will start a healthy new trend. Stay tuned for more details and how you can participate now that you have the “411″ on the top 10.

A really bad additive actor too often mistaken for a ‘good guy’

Posted by -- March 27, 2014

Found in all kinds of foods and beverages, you need to be on the lookout to keep this toxic additive out of your diet

Found in all kinds of foods and beverages, you need to be on the lookout to keep this toxic additive out of your diet 

The second place designation in our Citizens for Health “Read Your Labels” campaign of food additives to avoid goes to a really bad actor found in many supposedly “healthy” foods as well as diet products and beverages. Although this ingredient has become totally entrenched in the marketplace, it has never been proven to be safe. In fact, studies done over 40 years ago connected it to the development of brain tumors in rodents and grand mal seizures in rhesus monkeys.

Even worse – school officials and health agencies are actively promoting this chemical as a healthy alternative for kids!

Number two: Aspartame (a.k.a. NutraSweet, Equal) the ‘diet devil’ in disguise

The aspartame fiasco is an example of how one bad regulatory decision can set the stage for a host of subsequent evils. In this case, the ‘original sin’ was a Food and Drug Administration commissioner’s decision more than three decades ago to ignore the agency’s own scientific advisers by clearing this laboratory-created synthetic sweetener for entry into the food supply, where it was soon firmly ensconced.

Aspartame (originally marketed as NutraSweet), which was accidentally discovered by a chemist working for Searle while looking  for a new ulcer drug, is made up of three neurotoxic chemicals – substances that are toxic to brain cells. (See Tuesday’s blog about other similar excitotoxins liberally added to food.)

Citizens for Health Board Chair Jim Turner, a Washington, D.C. Attorney and author of the best-selling book The Chemical Feast: The Nader Report on Food Protection at the FDA, along with his advocacy group managed to keep aspartame off the market for 11 years until 1981, when its use was approved over the advice of FDA scientists as well as the agency’s Public Board of Inquiry that previously had concluded that it should not be permitted in the food supply.

That official OK was about as clear an example of corporate influence in government as has ever been seen, an obvious political favor to the then head of Searle, Donald Rumsfeld (yes, that Donald Rumsfeld) by the incoming Reagan administration for his help on the transition team. Turner summarizes the entire aspartame fiasco as a case of “political toxicity and biological toxicity working together to create toxic health problems for the public.”

Before long, thousands of aspartame-related health complaints about everything from migraines to memory loss to dizziness to vision problems were being reported to the FDA, which even acknowledged that adverse reactions might be possible, but did nothing to reverse the decision.

Today, a growing number of health-conscious consumers avoid aspartame like the plague, avoiding any product described as “low calorie” or “sugar free.” But if the dairy industry has its way, such descriptive phrases may disappear from the front of flavored milk cartons and other dairy products that contain this chemical sweetener.

Got aspartame?

The latest wrangle involving aspartame is over a petition filed by the National Milk Producers Federation and the International Dairy Foods Association to “amend the standard identity of milk” (and 17 additional dairy products). If the FDA agrees, it would allow flavored milk with added artificial sweeteners such as aspartame to be labeled as just “milk,” eliminating the now-required “low-cal” notice on the front of the package.

The dairy industry claims this would be all for the benefit of American kids. “Promoting more healthful eating practices and decreasing childhood obesity is one of the most pressing problems facing our country today,” notes the petition, which also states that the phrase “reduced calorie…” according to market research, “doesn’t appeal to children.”

But what it does reflect is that milk consumption is way down, especially in schools where the amount of calories in the products sold in school lunchrooms are starting to be “officially” limited, and the feeling of the dairy industry that in order to sell more milk – the aspartame-sweetened kind, that is – they’ve “got to hide it from the kids.”

Fortunately, a lot of American consumers and parents who have by now become familiar with aspartame’s long and ugly “rap sheet” – which includes actually promoting, rather than discouraging obesity — are no longer willing to go along with the idea that this neurotoxic additive is a “healthy” alternative to sugar, as reflected by the amount of public outrage the petition has sparked, including a counter-petition to “tell the FDA we don’t want aspartame in our milk,” and over 40,000 comments sent into the FDA docket.

But it does leave one to wonder about how a really bad additive actor, believed to have caused brain tumors in one set of test animals and brain seizures in another (the latter after being fed a milk-based  formula), to say nothing of countless other adverse health effects, can come to be categorized  as a “safe and suitable sweetener” for chocolate milk being sold to school children.

Big Food continues to dupe Girl Scouts (and consumers) with some really unhealthy cookies

Posted by -- March 25, 2014

girlscout_cookies

It’s a rite of spring as sure as hearing the birds singing in the morning – those cute Daisies and Brownies pitching The Cookies at us in front of our neighborhood supermarket and other stores.

Who can resist? It’s almost un-American to turn them down. After all, this yearly event started almost 100 years ago.

And most people don’t turn them down. In fact, they seem to buy them by the carload and then come back for more. They seem to just assume these are healthy cookies because cute little Girl Scouts are selling them.

Now I have nothing at all against Girl Scouts (even though not becoming a Brownie still remains one of the big traumas of my childhood). So I was taken aback when one of the moms bristled when I started reading the ingredients on one of the boxes.

“Can I help you with something,” she asked.

I told her I was surprised to see partially hydrogenated oils in the super-popular Thin Mints. And that it was especially a shock since back in November even the FDA (finally) proposed a ban on this artery-clogging ingredient that everyone acknowledges kills thousands each year.

“The girls don’t have to hear this,” she said, adding “they probably eat more vegetables than you do.”

I wanted to say “well, yes, Ma’am, I think they do need to hear this.” But instead, I purchased a box of Thin Mints and left, not wanting to be accused of causing any of those cute little Brownies to start crying.

And that’s brings up the real problem here. How can you trust an industry that continues to dupe this sugar-and spice-institution with unhealthy, artery-clogging additives (even while it uses a labeling loophole to pretend they contain “zero trans fats”)?

How bad are the ingredients in some of these Girl Scout cookies? Take a look:

  • Samoas: partially hydrogenated oils, carrageenan and artificial flavors;
  • Caramel deLites: partially hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors and “corn sugar.” (What, exactly, is corn sugar? We’re not sure and the Girl Scouts aren’t returning calls. Is it dextrose, a corn-derived ingredient that contains no fructose? Or is it still more HFCS, which the Corn Refiners Association unsuccessfully attempted to rebrand as corn sugar several years ago.)
  • Dulce de Leche: Yellow Lake # 5 and 6 and Blue 2 Lake, as well as some artificial flavors;
  • Lemonades: partially hydrogenated oil, corn syrup and artificial flavors.

But this is much more than just another processed food with less than stellar ingredients. After all, you’re surrounded by such products every time you step foot inside a supermarket.

No, this is also about, what the Girl Scouts call the “5 skills,” things each one of these adorable girls learn every time you buy a box. Here are some of the good deeds the Scout site says will take place when you buy the cookies:

For Lemonades — “With each box of tangy lemon-icing-topped shortbread cookies you buy, you’re helping a girl learn about goal setting. She learns how to organize her cookie sale, build a goal, and work hard – skills that help her accomplish all she’ll set out to do in life.”

For the Caramel deLites — a girl leans about “…the importance of keeping her word, doing the right thing, and being fair. A girl learns the business ethics that will serve her throughout life.”

So are selling cookies with ingredients reported to cause heart disease, diabetes, obesity and other ills “doing the right thing?” Maybe the catch here is that when you partner with Big Food in a venture, there really are no “business ethics.”

And if you’re curious about what those original Girl Scout cookies were made from back around 1922, it was butter, sugar, eggs, milk, vanilla, flour, salt and baking powder.

Now those were cookies that could help anyone “do the right thing.” And in 2014, you can still make cookies from those very same ingredients.

‘Glutamic bombs’: playing tricks on your tongue and havoc with your brain

Posted by -- March 20, 2014

While the package says “No MSG!” a check of the ingredient label shows “yeast extract,” an ingredient that always contains manufactured glutamic acid (MSG)

They’re often referred to as “excitotoxins” because of their ability to literally excite brain cells to death. Consumers ingest massive amounts of these often hidden and highly toxic “flavor enhancers,” which can also cause adverse reactions ranging from skin rashes to asthma attacks, mood swings, upset stomach, migraines, heart irregularities and seizures. For those who are extremely sensitive, it can put them into life-threatening anaphylactic shock.

The Food and Drug Administration has been presented with ample evidence that these particular additives can be especially harmful to kids, the elderly and developing fetuses. Yet, they’re allowed to be routinely – and liberally — added to scores of processed foods, even organic, vegetarian and “natural” ones, for the devious purpose of fooling the tongue so the food tastes better.  That’s why we’ve designated them as five, four and three on our list of additives to be avoided in Citizens for Health’s  “Read Your Labels” campaign:

(5) Monosodium glutamate, (4) autolyzed yeast and
(3) hydrolyzed protein

Monosodium glutamate is by now a familiar name that many consumers make a big point to avoid. And while you’ll still see it in numerous products such as chips, ramen noodle dishes and soups, manufacturers know that many consumers check package labels for this neurotoxic flavor enhancer.

That’s why looking for monosodium glutamate on ingredient labels is just the tip of the iceberg.

In selecting our top ten food additives to avoid, we not only picked monosodium glutamate, but also two of the most common ingredients that contain manufactured glutamic acid, the substance in monosodium glutamate that triggers all those adverse reactions. And there are dozens more. In fact, if you want all the manufactured glutamic acid (or MSG) out of your diet, you won’t be eating many processed foods.

There is no doubt that the food industry has a love affair with MSG. It allows products with bland or sparse ingredients to taste really exciting, both saving companies money and adding immensely to sales. Why use 20 chickens in a commercial chicken soup recipe when you can use half that number, add some yeast extract, and everyone will love the taste?

The history of monosodium glutamate use is a sneaky one as well. This toxic chemical found its way into more and more products during the 1950s and ’60s, its use having reportedly doubled in each decade since the 1940s. In addition to being marketed as an ‘off the shelf’ flavor enhancer, it was also at one time added to baby food. But in the late 1950s, researchers tested the chemical on infant mice and discovered it destroyed nerve cells in the inner layers of the retina.  A decade later, prominent neurosurgeon Dr. John Olney, found it had a similar effect on cells, or neurons, in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. Disclosure of that information to Congress in 1969 was enough to get monosodium glutamate voluntarily removed from baby food, to which it was being added in amounts equivalent to those that had produced brain damage in test animals.

Experts now know that feeding excitotoxins, such as monosodium glutamate and other ingredients containing manufactured glutamic acid, to newborns and young children can have devastating effects on learning ability, personality and behavior. In his book, Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills (originally published in 1994), well-respected neurosurgeon Dr. Russell Blaylock noted that  “sometimes the effects might be subtle, such as a slight case of dyslexia, or more severe, such as frequent outbursts of uncontrollable anger…”

The list of adverse reactions to these additives is wide and varied, and because they are “sneaked” into so many  foods, highly sensitive people who react to very small doses have no way of knowing they have even been exposed.

The Truth in Labeling Campaign, a grassroots, science-based, information service to help people identify reactions to manufactured glutamic acid and avoid ingesting it, estimates that as many as half of all Americans are sensitive to ingredients containing MSG. And the harm these additives cause isn’t necessarily limited to obvious adverse reactions, for as Blaylock points out, MSG can produce “silent damage to the brain with very few symptoms.”

How to keep your diet (relatively) free of MSG

While monosodium glutamate can be easy enough to look for, the dozens of ingredient names that also contain manufactured glutamic acid can turn a trip to the supermarket into an adventure in chemistry.

Along with autolyzed yeast and hydrolyzed protein, you need to watch out for anything that’s

Here's another Swanson product that says

Here’s another Swanson product that says “No MSG added,” which also contains yeast extract 

“hydrolyzed,” and basically any ingredient name that contains the word “protein” (e.g., whey protein isolate, textured protein).  (For a complete list of ingredients that “always” and “often” contain MSG,  look here). To add to the confusion, many companies use the trick of  putting “NO MSG ADDED” on the labels of food products that contain various amounts of manufactured glutamic acid, which is ‘hidden’ in over 40 different ingredients.

Highly sensitive people can react to extremely small doses of these additives, making nearly all processed foods a dangerous proposition for them. One such extremely MSG-sensitive individual was the late Jack Samuels, who with his wife Adrienne, a Ph.D. focusing on research methodology, founded the Truth in Labeling Campaign, sharing studies and information they learned over decades of research at their web site www.truthinlabeling.org.

Now that you have some idea of where you’ll find various forms of MSG, if you want to know why such dangerous ingredients are still allowed in food, we suggest you read  The Man Who Sued the FDA, by Adrienne Samuels, which documents Jack and Adrienne’s own story of  ‘discovery’ in regard to MSG that spans several decades. The book is also the story of how industry and, in particular, a lobbying group known as the Glutamate Association gets its way when it comes to keeping this toxic additive in the food supply at all costs, even to the point of producing studies claiming MSG to be “safe” that many experts have deemed blatantly flawed.

Admittedly, keeping your family’s diet free of these neurotoxic substances may be tricky, but is well worth the effort. Remember, the brain you save may be your own.

Fake ‘sweetener’ with fake ‘safety’ claim could spell another real disaster

Posted by -- March 18, 2014

scientist

By BILL BONVIE

The phantom flavoring agent we’ve told you about in past blogs is now reportedly available as a food and beverage additive, and should be coming soon to a supermarket near you.

It’s even been given a name – Sweetmyx.

Only don’t expect to see that name listed among the ingredients of products that contain it. More than likely, it will simply be another “artificial flavor” or perhaps an “artificial sweetener,” with the only other clue to its presence being a magical reduction in calories. And while it will be making its debut in beverages manufactured by Pepsi, a Swiss company is reported to be finding ways to use it in all kinds of other processed foods.

But you might be relieved to hear it was declared safe – or at least “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS. And that, of course, means the Food and Drug Administration has conferred an official stamp of safety on it, right?

Well, not exactly.

In fact, the FDA, in a rather unusual declaration, has let it be known that it’s done no such thing, despite an announcement sent out to and parroted in the media that sure sounded like it had.

In fact, here’s how the press release containing that announcement was worded:

“Senomyx, Inc. (SNMX), a leading company using proprietary taste science technologies to discover, develop and commercialize novel flavor ingredients for the food, beverage and flavor industries, announced today that its new Sweetmyx flavor ingredient, previously referred to as S617, has been determined to be Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) under the provisions of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, administered by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “

And here was the FDA’s response:

“On March 11, 2014, Senomyx, Inc. issued a public statement suggesting that its food ingredient Sweetmyx (also known as S617) was generally recognized as safe (GRAS). The statement appeared to suggest that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had made the GRAS determination. In fact, the agency had not made this determination nor had it been notified by Senomyx regarding a GRAS determination for this food ingredient. The company’s statement has been corrected and now notes that a third party organization made the determination.”

Ah, yes, it was actually a “third party organization” that made the determination of safety – to be specific, the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association, which also uses the acronym FEMA (not to be confused with the better known federal agency).  And that group seems to have made its determination in keeping with a 1997 proposed rule that would have allowed GRAS declarations to be made on a voluntary basis, but was never finalized.

But, like one of those courtroom statements that the jury is instructed to disregard, the original announcement had its desired effect, which was to jack up the company’s stock price 26 percent (and possibly to give the impression of an official safety confirmation to anyone who wasn’t privy to the follow-up).

So is the FDA now planning on doing its own assessment of the safety of Sweetmyx? Not that we’re aware of.

In fact, if the FDA knows what this stuff is or how it’s made, they’re not passing that information on to the public.  All we do know is that it’s not really a “sweetener,” but rather a “sweetener enhancer” that tricks your taste buds – and your brain – into perceiving an amplified level of sweetness that’s not really there.

A road we’ve been down before?

Might Sweetmyx, then, turn out to be another “excitoxin” that can cause neurons in your brain to fire until they self-destruct, like MSG (another “flavor enhancer”) or aspartame? Again, we don’t know.

And aspartame should, perhaps, be an object lesson in the dangers of allowing a chemical concoction to enter the market as a sweetening agent without our having a complete understanding of its effects and potential hazards.  In fact, aspartame (originally marketed as NutraSweet) actually received GRAS status — although that approval by a political appointee, FDA commissioner Arthur Hull Hayes, in the early 1980s came despite some rather ominous results of testing done by the original manufacturer, G.D. Searle, which caused an earlier FDA approval to be rescinded, and ran counter to the advice of the FDA’s own Public Board of Inquiry.

Many thousands of adverse reaction reports have since resulted from aspartame’s widespread assimilation into any number of products as a noncaloric synthetic sweetener, ranging from migraines to vision problems to blackouts. But once having become firmly entrenched  (even though it is now being shown to actually promote weight gain), it has become an accepted additive to processed foods that consumers often don’t even realize is there, and that no amount of health complaints seem able to dislodge.

Now once again, we see a mysterious new ingredient about to be added to an unspecified number of products, but which this time isn’t even likely to be identified by name. In fact, food industry marketer-turned-critic Bruce Bradley cites it as an example of how companies encourage “excessive consumption” by introducing “more and more minimally tested additives” into the food supply “with questionable concern for the long-term health consequences for consumers.”

But is it mere coincidence that Sweetmyx is making its appearance at a time when so-called “sugary drinks” — which actually contain high fructose corn syrup – are being targeted by reformers as a major cause of the current obesity epidemic? After all, what could be wrong with finding a way to reduce the “added sugars” (again, really HFCS) they contain without making them seem any less sweet?

As it turns out, quite a lot — which we know only too well from having already had the disastrous experience of allowing industry to use our food as a testing ground for experimental substances to enhance its profits.