About a year ago, I started weeding out most things with high fructose corn syrup. I actually had no idea exactly why it was bad. I just read a little too much Michael Pollan, noticed it was on the banned list at Whole Foods and decided there wasn’t a whole lot of reason to eat or drink the darn stuff anyway. (Ok–except Girl Scout cookies…those get a hall pass).
Well—thanks to researchers at Princeton–I now know the answer. And in fact, what they found has potential to be really important in the broader battle against obesity. From a Princeton news release earlier this week:
A Princeton University research team has demonstrated that all sweeteners are not equal when it comes to weight gain: Rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same.
In addition to causing significant weight gain in lab animals, long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup also led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen, and a rise in circulating blood fats called triglycerides. The researchers say the work sheds light on the factors contributing to obesity trends in the United States.
“Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn’t true, at least under the conditions of our tests,” said psychology professor Bart Hoebel, who specializes in the neuroscience of appetite, weight and sugar addiction. “When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they’re becoming obese — every single one, across the board. Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don’t see this; they don’t all gain extra weight.”
On top of it all, researchers have also found that many products with high fructose corn syrup also contained mercury. Blech!
I’m a big believer in moderate life changes so I wouldn’t recommend spending the next two hours trashing your cupboards and banning your kids (or spouse) from favorite treats. But if you want to know where to start, here’s a list of common foods with high fructose corn syrup: breads, cereals, breakfast bars, lunch meats, yogurts, soups, soda, and condiments. It’s also in a lot of fast food. And, unfortunately, several types of Girl Scout Cookies. Which is why, thank goodness, this is Practically Green— not perfectly green.