Posts Tagged ‘USDA’

This Corny Connotation Isn’t So Sweet

24 Sep

The interpretation and connotation of words is fun game we writers play, but sometimes in our 24/7 stream of mega media information, some folks get a little stretchy with their word choices.

Specifically, I’ve noticed a new sales pitch spewing from my television, defending the reputation of high-fructose corn syrup, “in moderation.”

These new pro-corn syrup commercials are proclaiming that HFCS isn’t the bad kid on the block. It is, after all, made from corn, and just like sugar, it is an okay food to eat every once and awhile.

To back up the commercial’s claims, viewers are directed to visit On the site, property of The Corn Refiners Association, there are several highlighted quotations from various medical professionals and organizations, such as:

“After studying current research, the American Medical Association (AMA) today concluded that high fructose syrup does not appear to contribute more to obesity than other caloric sweeteners…” (American Medical Association press release, June 17, 2008)

In the same press release the AMA went on to say that Americans should limit the amount of sugar they eat each day to 32 grams for every 2,000 calorie intake, which translates to 7.6 teaspoons of sugar, a guideline backed up by the USDA.

In one of the commercials, the “mom” character is pouring into cups what looks like generic fruit punch, which contains on average, 30 grams of sugar per serving.  That translates to 7.14 teaspoons of sugar.

That maxes out an adult’s daily serving of sugar, let alone a child’s daily intake (of which there are no set guidelines, just the phrase “in moderation” when it comes to sugar for children).

The average American eats 20 teaspoons of sugar a day, according to the FDA. Around 60 percent of that is from corn syrup, near 40 percent from table sugar and the rest made up from honey and other sweeteners.

“In moderation,” is not exactly a concept this country is comfortable embracing.

I get the basic point of the campaign: HFCS isn’t any more evil than white table sugar. The commercial easily could have just substituted the word “sugar” for “corn syrup,” I’d still find it ridiculous.

The problem is that sugar is in EVERYTHING. Stop reading this blog (come back though, please) and go check out your pantry. Pick four items, and check their sugar content. Heck, I’ll do it now too:
1. Kashi Cherry Dark Chocolate cereal bars (I love these): 8 grams.
2. Quaker Carmel Apple Rice Cakes: 3 grams.
3. Near East Toasted Pine Nut Couscous: 2 grams
4. Classico Vodka Sauce (pasta sauce): 5 grams.

So if I had a cereal bar snack in the morning, couscous with lunch, a rice cake in the afternoon and pasta and sauce for dinner I’m at 18 grams of sugar, without even taking the spoon to the sugar bowl.

The USDA maintains that people who consume food or beverages containing high levels of added sugars end up consuming more calories and fewer nutrients than people who chose foods and beverages with lower added sugars.

And high-calorie, high-sugar diets, well, let’s face it; sugar and fat go together like a mischievous mirror to carrots and peas. In a study released in the September 2008 issue of Obesity, connections are being made to eating high sugar/fat foods and binge eating disorder behaviors such as binge eating and self-restriction of more nutritious foods.

What’s so bad about sugar?
Sugar is too much of a good thing. In our pre-refrigeration days, like salt, it was used to preserve food, now it seems more like a food group, one that doesn’t give any nutritional value, just calories. Furthermore, table sugar, its friends HFCS, honey, molasses, brown sugar and the like, are simple carbohydrates. The body breaks these down very quickly, as seen when experiencing a sugar “high.” This is in sharp contrast to the complex carbs found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, which take longer to break down and are packed with fiber, nutrients and vitamins.

So perhaps the commercials should have run with a slightly different twist: After “like sugar, it’s fine in moderation” the mom should be seen measuring out ¼ cup of fruit punch for each serving, which only contains 1.78 teaspoons of sugar. Now that’s moderation.