Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?

Comment Re:GOOD GRIEF! (Score 1) 497

By the way, don't believe me. Refer to the professional scientific consensus:


Is HFCS less safe than other sweeteners?

FDA receives many inquiries asking about the safety of HFCS, often referring to studies about how humans metabolize fructose or fructose-containing sweeteners. These studies are based on the observation that there are some differences between how we metabolize fructose and other simple sugars.

We are not aware of any evidence, including the studies mentioned above, that there is a difference in safety between foods containing HFCS 42 or HFCS 55 and foods containing similar amounts of other nutritive sweeteners with approximately equal glucose and fructose content, such as sucrose, honey, or other traditional sweeteners. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that everyone limit consumption of all added sugars, including HFCS and sucrose.

American Heart Association:

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting the amount of added sugars you consume to no more than half of your daily discretionary calories allowance. For most American women, that's no more than 100 calories per day, or about 6 teaspoons of sugar. For men, it's 150 calories per day, or about 9 teaspoons. The AHA recommendations focus on all added sugars, without singling out any particular types such as high-fructose corn syrup.

(FYI -- that daily limit for sugar for men is approximately one 12-oz. can of soda. It's less for women. And that assumes you don't consume ANY added sugars in anything else you eat that day, which is nearly impossible if you consume any processed foods.)

Review article supported by the American Medical Association:

Because the composition of HFCS and sucrose is so similar, particularly on absorption by the body, it appears unlikely that HFCS contributes more to obesity or other conditions than sucrose does. . . . At the present time, there is insufficient evidence to ban or otherwise restrict use of HFCS or other fructose-containing sweeteners in the food supply or to require the use of warning labels on products containing HFCS. Nevertheless, dietary advice to limit consumption of all added caloric sweeteners, including HFCS, is warranted.

You can find plenty more things like this if you look, because there are dozens of studies that back up such a position. After decades of looking, we so far have only a handful of studies measuring significant differences with HFCS metabolism. That doesn't mean we shouldn't keep looking... but it's important to see those Princeton findings in context.

Comment Re:GOOD GRIEF! (Score 1) 497

And yet, the research. Maybe high-fructose corn syrup has more differences than just the fructose/glucose levels?

Yes, let's talk about "the research." I've been following this fairly closely for a decade.

About a decade ago I got into an argument with a friend over the overconsumption of sugar. I, like you, assumed with all the bad press about HCFS (even back then) that it was terrible for you. So, I started looking for reliable, clear studies that proved it.

The problem was: THERE WEREN'T ANY. Since then, there have been a few, but given how many people are shouting about how terrible HFCS is, it seems surprisingly hard to prove it.

Let me summarize the state of current research:

(1) Pure fructose vs. glucose -- there are dozens of studies showing that pure fructose screws up metabolism in rats and humans much worse than glucose.

(2) Pure fructose vs. sucrose -- there are dozens of studies showing that pure fructose screws up metabolism in rates and human much worse than sucrose.

(3) HFCS (~50/50 mixture of fructose and glucose) vs. sucrose -- until about 2010 and that Princeton study, there were basically NO STUDIES that showed a statistically significant difference between consumption of HFCS vs. sucrose (table sugar). To the contrary, there are at least a dozen or so studies out there if you look where they tried looking for a difference and didn't really find one.

This surprised me, given what I had been told about HFCS, but it also makes sense given that HFCS is basically about 50/50 fructose/glucose, which is very close to what sucrose becomes very early in the digestive process.

The vast majority of people who are shouting "HFCS is terrible!" tend to cite the studies in categories (1) and (2). You did precisely that in your quote from the Journal of Clinical Investigation. A number of studies in the past which tried measuring pure fructose and found significant differences found that there were little to no measurable differences when they substituted HFCS for the fructose.

I'm very interested in the studies in category (3). They include your Princeton citation, as well as a more recent study out of the University of Utah. There was also a bit of attention given to recent population-based study which claimed to find a correlation between diabetes and HFCS availability in different countries. (These sorts of population studies are always notoriously difficult to do well statistically, since there are always a ridiculous number of confounding factors, but I mention it because it's one of the few such things out there.)

The problem is that these HFCS studies are fighting an uphill battle -- as I said, prior to 2010 there were studies that measured HFCS vs. sucrose and tended to find no significant differences. Which also leads to the question now about whether the Princeton and Utah studies could be an example of publication bias -- we only tend to see them because those studies show an effect which hadn't been observed previously, but perhaps those effects are due to random chance or unintentional changes in study design. (And since HFCS had been branded as bad long before any rigorous scientific evidence was available, there are probably a lot of groups looking for effects... and yet we only have 2-3 studies.)

Despite what the powerful corn lobby in the US would have you believe, corn is just not all that good for you in large amounts. And with the amount that goes into HFCS, drinking soda pop is getting corn in large amounts.


To be clear: I think HFCS is terrible, and the whole corn growers industry needs to be rethought, since our agricultural subsidies for corn are distorting the economy and our food production network. But the problem with HFCS is that (1) it's cheap due to the subsidies, and (2) it's liquid, so it can be blended easily, leading to companies throwing it randomly into all sorts of foods where it really isn't needed.

I think the concern about metabolic differences is much lower on the list of things to be worried about, at least until we get a stronger scientific consensus about how bad HFCS might be compared to sucrose. (Another notable thing: honey is often touted as a better substitute by "natural foods" people, but it basically has a composition very similar to HFCS with a few trace nutrients. I'd think a comparative study with honey vs. sucrose vs. HFCS might also be informative....)

I thoroughly agree with you that we should stop subsidizing HFCS production. But as to the question of whether drinking a soda with 10 teaspoons of sucrose is "better for you" than drinking a soda with 10 teaspoons of HFCS -- I think the scientific "jury is still out."

But I also think the scientific "jury" can tell you one thing clearly: Americans eat too much sugar in general. Switching all that sugar from HFCS to sucrose may be slightly better, but it's NOT going to solve our obesity problem.

Comment Re:Coca Cola (Score 1) 497

Switch back to cane sugar. Fuck the sugar cartel. Throw them all in prison.

You do realize it's not the fault of a "sugar cartel," but rather our crazy agricultural subsidies in the U.S., right? If we weren't encouraging so many people to grow corn to make corn syrup, it wouldn't be as cheap, and cane sugar or beet sugar would likely be more widely used. These subsidies of corn production also arguably led to the U.S. crazy of adding corn syrup to everything, even plenty of food products that have no need of sweetener... but corn syrup is easy to blend and shelf stable, so why not?

It's the politicians you should be blaming. (Not that it makes a huge difference nutritionally -- the amount of sugar in Coke is terrible, whether it's made from cane or corn.)

Comment Re:GOOD GRIEF! (Score 2) 497

If it was "sugar" it wouldn't be so bad.

Sorry, but YES it would be. Having a 12-ounce drink with something like 9-10 teaspoons of sugar in it is just ridiculous. It has no nutritional value other than the easiest form of energy for your body. Unless you're starving to death and simply need the extra calories, there's simply no reason to consume plain sugar.

The stuff they use to sweeten soda pop is some lab-accident shit, but it sure ain't sugar.

Uh, you do realize how much processing goes into making white cane sugar? Just because they started doing it several generations ago doesn't make it any less of "lab accident" crap than corn syrup.

Do you have any idea how many FEET of sugar cane you'd have to consume to get the equivalent of the amount of sugar in a (Mexican) bottle of Coke? Even if you did eat enough sugar cane to do so, you'd have also consumed so much fiber that it would completely change your digestion and metabolism of what you ate.

You wanna taste sugar in soda pop, you gotta find the good stuff bottled in Mexico.

I have. Yeah, it tastes different. Still terrible and sickeningly sweet. Sometimes I actually like a little bit of sweetness in a drink -- although I don't usually do this, sometimes I add a teaspoon of sugar or so to a 12-ounce mug of coffee or tea. NOT TEN TEASPOONS.

The quantity of sugar in soft drinks is absolutely insane. Suggesting that somehow it wouldn't be "so bad" for you if it were cane sugar is just nonsense.

Comment Re:GOOD GRIEF! (Score 2) 497

Oh, it still works just fine for people who read the labels.

Well, I was responding to GP, who said you could just look at a label for "no added sugar" -- and my specific response was that using that marker does NOT "work just fine" if your intention is to avoid foods or drinks with significant amounts of added sugar.

If you don't understand what evaporated cane juice is, then don't buy products that contain it. Simple simple. If you don't know what syrup is, or if it is something that you eat, then be on the safe side and don't eat it.

Absolutely -- and with that I wholeheartedly agree. I don't buy any products that contain ingredients which I'm unfamiliar with. Then again, I have a strong science background and understand quite a bit about chemistry, so I can decipher more food additives pretty well.

The average person simply doesn't have that kind of knowledge, so they trust labels that say things like "no sugar added" to have some useful meaning. They take their best guess at what "evaporated cane juice" might be, and it sounds like "juice." Have you ever talked to the average person, with an IQ of around 100? Now talk to the 50% of the population who don't have that level of intelligence. It's really hard to sort these things out for most people.

Of course, the easiest way to avoid most of these issues is just to stop buying "processed" food. (I know that term is a bit vague.) I don't buy much of it myself -- and I cook and bake most of my meals for myself from basic ingredients. Unfortunately, our culture has collectively lost a lot of that basic kitchen knowledge in the past couple generations, coupled with a work culture that doesn't allow one parent to be allowed time to devote to food preparation.

So a lot of people just have to resort to "processed" foods. And even many of the "healthy" choices at the "natural" markets will be using misleading labels like this. I have had many people in my own family who have been "taken in" by these things (people who are otherwise quite smart, have very good jobs, advanced degrees, etc.), and they simply don't realize the bogus advertising. They're trying to make a better choice for themselves or for their kids, and personally I think they shouldn't have to know a dozen different obscure products that are essentially "added sugar" to be able to spot them buried in ingredients lists for products with "no added sugar."

The FDA's guidelines on product labeling exist for a reason. I don't think a company like Chobani is technically in violation of the current guidelines -- rather, this is a case where better guidelines could make things more transparent.

Comment Re:GOOD GRIEF! (Score 5, Interesting) 497

It's also possible to read the ingredients list and make your decision that way. You don't have to do it every time, just identify the brands that say things like "no added sugar"...

Actually NO -- that no longer works. Companies who try to sell you "healthy" foods want to lie to you.

There are all sorts of things that are basically pure sugar that many companies are trying to add into products with "no added sugar."

One of my favorite examples is Chobani's "natural" greek yogurt, with "no added sugar," but which contains large amounts of "evaporated cane juice" (which is... well, a very slightly different processing method to make SUGAR). There have been class action lawsuits over this, but judges have thrown them out.

I mean, it's "juice," so "evaporated cane juice" must be good for you, right? Also on the list of fun ways for companies to say "sugar" in another way on "natural, no sugar added" foods -- "brown rice syrup" or "honey" or "agave nectar." Wow, it's made with "brown rice" -- must be good for me! "Nectar" -- wow, that's like a good fruit juice, no?

No matter that these things are basically 97%+ sugar and the only reason they are added to anything is as a substitute for sugar so that businesses can claim "no sugar added" on their labels and sound "healthier."

Just to be clear -- most flavors of Chobani yogurt contains more sugar per ounce than Coca Cola. That's what a "no sugar added" label gets you these days.

Comment Re:Soda is TOO expensive (Score 1) 497

How hard can it be for soda companies to figure that out.

$2.79 for a drink for a meal that costs $8???

Uh, restaurants DO know this. They also know a LOT of people order drinks with meals anyway. Unlike many food items (where they often get only a thin margin of profit), drinks are where most restaurants make their money.

That's why it generally costs 3-4 times as much for a bottle of beer to be served to you in a restaurant compared to the cost in a store. That's why you pay $6 for a glass of "house wine" that probably comes from a bottle which costs $6 retail for the entire bottle. That's why you pay $10 for a shot of scotch when the whole bottle might cost $60 and contain 20 drinks of that size.

The mark up on soda is often even greater. Right now, most people who like to drink soda with a meal will order one when they eat out, even if it's $2-3. If the restaurant charges you 25 cents (maybe less), which is probably what they'd need to charge to make an equivalent profit percentage to what they make on food, they'll only get a few more cheap people buying sodas, and they'll be losing out on a few dollars of profit on every other customer who would've ordered soda anyway.

Same thing in the stores. Coke seems to want $4.50/12 pack these days. Other brands want $3.00. So I don't buy coke products anymore even tho I love coke products.

Even for that, it's pretty high-priced sugar water.

Comment Re:Finally, and end to 2nd hand soda (Score 1) 497

I am happy as long at keeps people from spitting half swallowed soda in my face at meal times and other social gatherings.

You're not analyzing this correctly. The analog to "second-hand smoke" is obviously second-hand carbonation, a noxious brew of gases emitted from the belching guts of stinky soda drinkers.

Pretty soon there will be lawsuits from waitresses and bartenders around the globe, complaining about how working in such a noxious environment of belching carbon dioxide will harm their health....

Oh wait, NO THERE WON'T -- because selling you a soda for $3 with your meal that probably costs the restaurant 5 cents in syrup is one of their biggest profit items. And belching, while sometimes disgusting, is unlikely to cause cancer in people around you.

So, hmm... maybe there are some differences between smoking and "big soda," no?

Comment Re:GOOD GRIEF! (Score 4, Informative) 497

Along with that, I think somebody should point out that fuit juice is almost as bad as soda. Sure it contains a small dose of nourishment absent from soda, but the amount of sugar in it just isn't worth it and can contribute to obesidy, fatty liver, cholesterol, and other problems just as bad as soda does.

This is a critical part of the discussion too. Just because it says "100% juice" doesn't mean it's very good for you. A lot of "100% juice" involves blends of the sweetest possible fruit juices with the highest sugar content. (This is often most true of juices that have been highly advertised for some sort of "antioxidant" properties or whatever -- that cranberry or pomegranate "100% juice" drink is probably mostly a bunch of super-sweet grape or apple juice or whatever with a sprinkling of the juice that's too sour for most people to find palatable.)

If you want to eat fruit, well -- eat fruit. The fiber is generally good for digestion and for regulating metabolic pathways, rather than just getting a glass full of colored sugar water with a couple vitamins in it. Also -- guess what? If you drink less sweet drinks (including fruit juice), you'll often crave less sweet drinks in the future... which probably means you'll consume fewer nearly-empty calories in drinks.

Comment Re:Yawn... This was more interesting 50 years ago (Score 3, Informative) 99

A better comparison is made in TFA to the musical piece by John Cage called As Slow As Possible. While initial performances were for a half hour or hour, some crazy people decided to build an organ in Germany and plan a performance that will last over 600 years. (The next note will change in 2020.) And then you have stuff like stretching out a recording of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony to 24 hours without pitch distortions, which was vaguely interesting over a decade ago.

At least these previous projects had a goal of taking a preexisting artwork and pushing it to its limits. When such things were first done, it at least brought up philosophical musings about the perception of time and artworks. I'm not sure what this adds or what the novel achievement is here other than "watch me program an image file that changes slowly."

Comment Re:Framing is not a new tactic (Score 1) 256

There is nothing new about this tactic. You can get almost anyone to make choices by framing the problem. Child whines that they want a cookie. You don't ask if they wouldn't want an apple instead. You ask do they want an apple or carrots? You frame the issue and give them choices but only the choices you want.

This is absolutely true. More importantly, I think many parents will be surprised how often kids adjust to the "normal" choices they are given and stop whining for the cookie. You want to stop the whining for sweets? Just stop having them in your house. Or set up specific rules (that you NEVER diverge from) about when they are available.

Often, the problem isn't the kid's diet -- it's also the adults who eat a lot of crap too.

If you stop offering bad choices, eventually many kids will change their tastes and come to like choosing from the list of "good" options.

Also, I don't think people realize how much food likes and dislikes can be tied up in cultural preferences and attitudes. I saw this in my son, who was perhaps offered sweets once or twice when he was a baby (e.g., ice cream). He had no interest. On his first birthday, he not only spit out his first piece of cake -- he actually scraped his tongue with his fingers to remove as much remnants as he could.

I think it was a texture thing as much as anything, but the few times he was offered a cookie or cake or whatever after that, he had little interest. Similarly, ice cream was cold and weird too. We never fed him processed foods or foods that contained random sugar anyway, so he just seemed to reject them when they were offered. They were as unfamiliar and "weird" as broccoli or asparagus are to most kids -- at least partly because they just weren't a choice that was offered.

It wasn't until he started regular pre-school when he was about 2.5 years old that he finally got interested in sweets. Why? Because the school had a tradition that they would provide cupcakes for kids birthdays at school. My son came to associate these sweet foods (which had previously been weird and unpalatable to him) with celebrations and joy... and suddenly he was asking for cupcakes at his 3rd birthday party.

We just assume that all kids will love sweets and hot dogs and chicken nuggets and french fries -- partly because that's what the American diet assumes that we all should love. There's an argument that we are simply attracted to these foods more because they provide dense calories and our bodies are programmed to find calories -- and that's true. But I think we underestimate the amount that cultural familiarity plays too. Kids like these things at least partly because we introduce them to kids, because our culture tell us that kids will like them.

Most organ meats, for example, are incredibly nutritious with lots of protein and often plenty of calories -- tongue, for example, is quite high in fat. (A lot of them are often prepared in ways that make them more caloric too -- sauted or fried with heavy sauces or whatever.) But Americans mostly hate them... because they are culturally less acceptable. In many "less developed" cultures around the world that slaughter and eat the "whole animal," these are often the most prized parts of the animal -- given to elders and to children for their extra nutrition.

If our children's dietary likes are really only determined by caloric and nutritious value, why aren't toddlers storming the gates for some yummy rich sauted sweetbreads or some fried liver strips in rich gravy, instead of hot dogs and chicken nuggets? Part of the answer is certainly cultural. (Before the age of three, my son had tried a number of different organ meats, most of which he loved. But his mother dislikes them and is frankly somewhat disgusted by some of them, and he eventually picked up on that. So they became a "harder sell" -- not because of taste or unfamiliarity, but because of what his parent modeled for him and told him. On the other hand, he would still eat "weirder" meats that his mother found acceptable... for example, he loved oxtail stew and would even ask to gnaw on the leftover tailbones, like they were pork ribs or something.)

In sum, our dietary likes and dislikes are clearly shaped by natural human tendencies to seek out calorie-dense and nutritious food. But I think we greatly underestimate the amount that those likes and dislikes can also be shaped by culture and the choices we assume are available to us. If you assume little kids only tend to like chicken nuggets and french fries and cookies, that may well come true.

Comment Re:Thaty's the wat to do it ... (Score 4, Informative) 256

And before you know it, they start catching anything they can find in the schoolyard to supplement their diet of vegetable soup with some protein. Snails, frogs... do we really want the children of America to start eating like the French?

My guess is that you're trying to be funny here, but just to clarify my previous comment -- the kids get other ("main") courses that include protein. It's just that to get there they either have to eat their veggies or spend 10+ minutes being hungry and watching other kids eat their veggies. (Older kids will be used the routine, so they'll just start eating.) Peer pressure and hunger combined do wonders here.

Comment Re:Setting kids up for failure (Score 4, Insightful) 256

Give me a pile of veggies or a piece of chocolate cake, I know which one I'm going to want to eat first. Kids aren't any different and have less self control. If you give them an attractive bad choice, most of them are going to make that bad choice.

This is a good example. If you give me a pile of veggies or a piece of chocolate cake, but I'm expected to eat both of them, I'll definitely choose the pile of veggies first.

I didn't learn this particularly well as a child, but as an adult I'm often put in situations -- like eating at someone else's house -- where I'm served some food I don't particularly like. As an adult, my choice is generally to consume the undesirable food first, because (1) I'm hungrier, so any food will taste better, and (2) I'd prefer to end my meal with something I find pleasant.

Kids often lack the self-discipline to make such a rational choice, AND they know that most parents aren't going to force-feed them. So, they eat the good stuff first and get full enough that they've satisfied their initial hunger pangs (because vegetables often are the low-calorie portion of the meal, even if high in nutrients) -- is it any wonder they aren't going to volunteer to eat all the veggies at the end??

I also think that Americans have a particular propensity to worry too much about kids not eating regularly. We often give kids snacks a number of times each day. And at mealtimes if a kid doesn't eat much, the parents often fret at night -- "Is he okay? Did he get enough? Won't he be hungry?"

In reality, the vast majority of kids obviously have excellent survival mechanisms that won't let them starve themselves. If they eat a bit less at one meal, they'll eat more at the next. If they don't have a lot of snacks, they'll be likely to eat better at meals in general. (And they'll also be less restless and better behaved, since they'll be focused on eating and satisfying hunger, rather than running around burning off the sugar from the cookie they had an hour ago.)

Parents can easily use hunger to their advantage -- it won't get kids to eat everything, but presenting something unfamiliar to kids as a "first course" will generally make it more likely that they will eat more of it... simply because they're hungry.

Comment Re:Thaty's the wat to do it ... (Score 5, Interesting) 256

Eat you vegatables ... OR STARVE !!

Yes, well -- the reality is that French people have known this for many years. They didn't need "scientists" to measure food pairings to figure it out.

In many French schools, it is standard practice for primary school kids to eat a 3-course lunch which takes at least 30 minutes. The kids are required to sit at table and behave effectively like well-mannered adults.

Almost all do. And almost all eat a large variety of foods.

How is this possible?

It's incredibly simple. The first course often will consist of something that kids may like a bit less, such as vegetables or a soup made with vegetables or whatever. But the kids are hungry. They generally don't have constant snacking as is common in the US.

But that's the first course -- it's all the kids have. So they either eat it, or they sit there for 10 minutes or more watching other kids eat until they are served something else. (Since the meals are served to them at table, they simply learn to wait.) Under these circumstances, guess which most HUNGRY kids will choose? They eat their vegetables.

It's not rocket science. And once kids get used to this routine, they learn to like more foods, and they'll observe older kids eating unfamiliar foods and they'll try those too. Pretty soon they just eat a wide variety of things.

I don't mean to downplay this research too much, but it's a pretty obvious thing to do. American culture of eating has tended to focus much more on efficiency in the past half century or so -- eat fast, slap everything on the plate, and be done. French culture still values the idea of lingering at the table with multiple courses, so this "research" was simply obvious to them and has been standard practice for decades.

Comment Re:Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics (Score 1) 444

Get back to me when there is outrage that men are only 10% of the population in teaching and nursing careers. Why aren't we channeling funding to make teaching and nursing careers appealing to male students?

Uh, there are organizations dedicated to fixing these problems -- like here or here or here.

You can argue that we don't provide enough attention to these issues, but there are plenty of people who care deeply about gender divides in these professions and are thinking hard about how to encourage more men to join.

Oh, because male students get to choose careers while minorities and female students are weak and unable to pursue the repressed interests that statistics say they must secretly harbor.

Or perhaps there are social stereotypes and biases that affect career divides. You may not be aware of this, but men encounter serious bias problems when they try to enter primary or preschool education (due to overblown pedophile scares), and while male nurses are becoming more common, they are almost universally derided in popular culture. (Remember Meet the Parents, anyone? That movie, and its sequels, were pretty much continuous riffing on the apparently ridiculous idea that a man should be satisfied in a nursing career.)

"Confound these ancestors.... They've stolen our best ideas!" - Ben Jonson