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Sorry, but I can’t seem to let go of this HFCS thing. After I published my original sugar post, I thought I was finished with that subject. But no, the Corn Refiner’s Association had to come up with those deceptively sweet commercials and I got caught up in it again. And now, with Halloween right around the corner — well, I just can’t help myself.

What prompted this revival of my HFCS interest (obsession)? I recently read that twenty million pounds of candy corn are sold in the United States each year, most of it around Halloween. What? How can that be? And what is candy corn, anyway?

Before I launch into part 3 of my sugar diabtribe, imagine this. I’m at K-Mart this morning sneaking around the bulk (and I mean BULK) candy isle (now called Seasonal Favorites), which by the way, is several miles long and conveniently located next to the Health & Beauty section. I’m wearing a tattered London Fog trench coat, a Blondie wig, and Jackie O sunglasses. Why? Because I’m a nutrition therapist on an anti-HFCS rant and here I am buying candy corn by the 5 pound bag. Hypocrisy aside, that just doesn’t look good.

But I digress. Back to the mission at hand. What exactly is candy corn and how could we possibly consume 20 million pounds of the stuff each year?

According to my sources (Wikipedia and the National Confectioners Association), candy corn is made from sugar, corn syrup, honey, carnauba wax, fondant, and marshmallows. Okay, so we’ve got sugar, sugar, and sugar for the first 3 ingredients. Carnauba wax and fondant? Does that sound nasty to you?

Carnauba wax is what gives candy corn its glossy look. The wax is collected from a plant, then refined and bleached. It’s used in car wax, furniture polish, shoe polish, and candy corn.

Now we have sugar, sugar, sugar, and bleached wax. Yum!

On to fondant, which is sugar and water cooked to a “soft-ball” stage.

Sugar, sugar, sugar, bleached wax, and sugar.

Aaah, some redemption in the last ingredient. Marshmallows. We all know what marshmallows are, right? No? Well, guess what? Marshmallows are made from sugar, corn syrup, water, gelatin, dextrose, and flavorings — whipped to a spongy consistency. Before I wrap this up, you need to know two more things. Gelatin is usually made from collagen extracted from the bones, connective tissue, intestines, and organs of cows. And remember when I mentioned in sugar post #1 that words ending in “ose” usually indicate — you guessed it — sugar!

If I’m correct, candy corn is made from (drum roll, please), sugar, sugar, sugar, bleached wax, sugar, sugar, sugar, cow connective tissue, sugar, and flavorings. “Flavorings” being the mystery ingredient as I couldn’t figure that one out. Maybe we don’t want to know.

Bottom line? Skip the candy corn and here’s why.

First off, much of the sugar in candy corn is in the form of HFCS. New research published in the current issue of the Journal of Nutrition shows that the ratio of fructose to glucose is important in how efficiently we turn sugar into body fat. Three different test groups were used. One group drank a 100% glucose drink, one group a 50% glucose/50% fructose mix, and the final group a 25% glucose/75% fructose mix. All three groups consumed the mixture in the morning. To make a long and rather complicated story short, body fat synthesis was measured immediately after these sugar drinks were consumed showing a significant increase in lipogenesis as the fructose concentration went up. Lipogenesis is the process in which sugars are converted to body fat.

The higher fructose mix given at breakfast also impacted the way the body dealt with lunch fats, increasing the storage of converted fats rather than using them for other purposes. Once the process was kick-started in the morning, it continued. Dr. Elizabeth Parks, the lead scientist conducting the study, noted that people trying to lose weight shouldn’t eliminate fresh fruit from their diets (the sugar in fruit is fructose), but should eliminate processed foods containing refined sugar and HFCS. The relatively small amount of sugar in fresh fruit is mixed with fiber, bulk and other good things which minimizes the lipogenesis potential.

As I mentioned in my first sugar post, sugar is not inherently evil and is not the sole cause of our obesity epidemic, but it does contribute. Americans eat too much fat, too much sugar, too much protein, too many calories and we don’t get enough exercise. Obesity is the result of a combination of things. And although those recent HFCS commercials suggest it is a natural substance and is fine in moderation, this new study indicates this version of sugar might put you on the fast track to weight gain. HFCS may be “natural” but it boosts fat storage, so eliminate it from your diet. Instead, use honey, maple syrup, or molasses in moderation.

And don’t touch that candy corn.

In good health,
Melissa

Sugar Post #1
HFCS Post #2

16 Responses to “boo hoo! (high fructose candy corn syrup)”

  1. Tevis says:

    Hi Mom!

    Thanks for posting something about high fructose corn syrup. First, it’s so gross and over processed that I don’t understand how the FDA allows it to be something that is used in foods and is okay for consumption! Second, as someone who is highly allergic to corn, I’m a strong believer in the more people know about HFCS the less they will purchase goods that have this as an ingredient. Besides, it’s just really creepy that this is something that the food industry sees as being “okay” to put into foods.

    Oh, and go see King Corn, it’s really interesting and will make you think about what American’s are putting into their bodies.

    Much love!
    t

  2. Shirley says:

    Yet, another thing I agree with you on! I have a special candy corn basket, but it is remaining empty this year. In addition to the HFCS, a lot of candy corn has soy. I don’t do well with soy (and I think it has a lot of harmful effects).

  3. Melissa says:

    Hey Tev — I’ve missed your comments! When I started this whole blog thing over a year ago (wow, has it been that long?), you were my only reader. Even though I talk to you all the time, it’s nice to have your input here as well. I can’t believe I haven’t seen King Corn. Thanks for reminding me!
    xoxox

    Shirley — thanks for your comments. Yes, soy is hard for some people to digest. It bugs me as well, so I avoid it. You’ll have to put something healthy in your candy corn basket this year. Almonds maybe?
    :-)

  4. CeliacChick says:

    How much protein do we really need? I’m guessing that there is an average suggestion, but that people probably vary in their needs. I know I need 20grams each meal or STAY OUT OF MY WAY! :) Is that high, low, average?

    Great writing, Melissa!

  5. CeliacChick says:

    Hey look what I found! A “healthy” candy corn recipe. Personally, I’m not a big enough candy corn junkie to take the time to make it, but thought that someone might appreciate this, or it might be fun to make with kids.

    http://theurbanhousewife.blogspot.com/2007/09/homemade-vegan-candy-corn-happy.html

    Also, somewhere someone suggested mixing candy corn with peanuts and it tastes like a PayDay candy bar, but cuts the candy ratio in half. Again, just an idea if you think that someone would freak out if you took it completely away.

  6. Melissa says:

    Kelly — I try to eat a little protein with each meal as well. It helps maintain consistent energy levels. It’s more about the quality of the protein you’re eating. If your sources are high quality, you’ll be consuming less calories and providing your body with good building blocks. And you’re right, depending on your activity level and various health concerns, the amount you need varies.

    I LOVE the vegan candy corn recipe, not that I will attempt making any, but what a great link! Thank you for providing that. I may have to edit my post to include it. And thanks for the balance — we don’t want to freak anyone out. Sometimes I get dangerously close!

  7. Lauren says:

    I feel like you couldn’t talk about HFCS enough! I’m glad you have several posts about it because we need more awareness around processed foods like HFCS, which I doubt are really safe for human consumption. I remember giving up yogurt for a long time because I couldn’t find a brand which didn’t include HFCS in the ingredients. It’s definitely a problem in this country when our grocery stores stock only unhealthy options. But, I digress. Thanks for the great nutritional information and I got a great laugh out of thinking about you lurking in the candy aisle in disguise!

  8. I read the same statistic about the amount of candy corn sold each year. I also read that most of it isn’t actually consumed; it is used primarily as a decoration!

  9. Melissa says:

    Hey Lauren, You’re right about the effort it takes to find healthy options in some grocery stores. Speaking of yogurt, I really like Redwood Hill Farm’s vanilla goat yogurt. I try to avoid dairy and although this is obviously a dairy product, I seem to do okay with it if I eat it in moderation. It’s sweetened with maple syrup. Yum! Hope you had a happy birthday!

    Hi Susan — Thanks for the comment and I’m sure you’re probably right about most of the candy corn being used for decorative purposes. But if you’ve got it sitting around, it’s hard not to munch on it (especially if you’re a kid), whether it’s a decoration or not. Lots of it is also given out in those little individual “snack” packs on Halloween and I would guess all of that gets eaten by little goblins. And you know, if it’s just getting thrown away, that is such a waste agriculturally. Not that I’m suggesting eating it!
    :-)

  10. Lo! says:

    Keep talking about HFCS. Some day manufacturers will listen and stop taking short-cuts that are detrimental to our health!

    I’m actually a big fan of candy corn… but I don’t eat it because it is so nasty for you. On occasion, I’ve found maple-syrup sweetened candy corn, but it’s just not the same.

  11. Fantabulous post! I have serious issue with these HFCS ads. They are just plain wrong. Thanks for the reminder about gelatin. I stay away from anything that contains gelatin as I have no desire to eat cow bones or organs. Blech.

  12. Megan says:

    Well, that oughta cure me of the seasonal desire I feel for these. I was more of a mellocreme pumpkin girl, but now I think I am officially neither. I was always aware of the heart rate increase due to three types of sugar, but bleached wax? I think I’m old and wise enough to know better.
    Thanks for the icky reminder.
    :)

    Megan

  13. Melissa says:

    Lo — we’re on the same page with this. Maple syrup candy cane? Wow, that’s way better. :-)

    Maureen — thank you! And, I totally agree with the gelatin thing. “Blech” is right!

    Megan — mellocreme pumpkin girl? You crack me up and I love it that you “call it like it is.” We all have our own versions of those candy loves, it’s just important to know what they’re actually made of. Just eat a small chunk of high grade dark chocolate and have a glass of red wine. Decadent health food. Small chunk and one glass being the key.

    :-)

  14. Amy says:

    Wow! This is my first visit to your website and I think I just read at least 6 of your postings in one sitting (and plan to read more!). The three on sugar (and its “friends”) really caught my eye.

    For those of you reading who cannot fathom successfully completing a sugar cleanse, I just wanted to mention that there is such a thing as a sugar allergy. It’s not something a doctor diagnoses, but you can easily figure it out for yourself. Basically, if you start eating (especially foods containing sugar) and cannot stop when you want to, you may have this allergy.

    I struggled with my weight (and all of the accompanying issues) for most of my life. It turns out I have an addiction to sugar that causes me to compusively overeat. If anyone out there identifies with this, checkout oa.org. It’s a 12-step program for people who compulsively overeat (this category includes aneroxics and bulimics).

    Thanks for raising awareness about sugar and some of the problems it can cause.

  15. Melissa says:

    Hi Amy — it’s nice to “meet” you and welcome! The allergies and sensitivities that you’re talking about can be complicated, but you’re so right, you can crave sugar for physiological reasons. It is an addiction of sorts and I appreciate your personal comments on this. Thanks!

  16. Marcy says:

    Here here….my son is allergic to corn, wheat and soy, and high fructose corn syrup gives him the most problems and he knows right away…the natural candy store is a great resource so they don’t miss out on Halloween, Easter etc.

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Disclaimer: All material on this website is provided for informational and educational use only and should not be used for diagnostic purposes. Consult with your physician regarding any health or medical concerns you may have.
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