Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Perp Walk: The Sugar Seven

Just about every day, Eric and I remind ourselves how grateful we are to live in the Bay Area. We have access to the freshest produce on a daily basis. At work, I lunch every day at what is probably the world's first kosher, organic salad bar. We shop at places where "crunchy granola" does not mean Quaker Breakfast Bars. Still, when I read a recent New York Times article on the Diabetes Epidemic, it engendered a frisson of alarm that sent us scouring our cabinets.

Entitled "Bad Blood," it traces the rise of Type 2 diabetes in the poorest regions of NewYork City, where, not coincidentally, obesity is rampant.

Most parents know that kids get too much sugar. They might even be aware that things like soda and candy contain way too much of the stuff. After reading this series, though, I was reminded of the story of high fructose corn syrup.

I believe that it is a straight line from the rise of all-pervasive high fructose corn syrup -- which was developed in the 1970s -- to the rise of obesity in the last 30 years, to the epidemic of Type 2 diabetes in the last 20 years. (It can take 7-10 years for this form of diabetes to fully assert itself -- you can do the math.)

Now check out the ingredients on a Quaker Granola Bar -- count how many times the words "corn syrup" alone appear. Look on any Nature Valley product, go ahead.

So there we are, reading about all of the horrible effects of HFCS on your metabolism, and I wonder how much of the stuff we have around. I mean, we have access to what must be one of the healthiest lifestyles on the planet. We buy organic, free range, cage-free, line-caught. We make our own pot pies, our own soups, our own yogurt. Our bread ingredients say things like "sprouted organic wheat berries" and "organic flax seeds." We buy the impossibly expensive, impossibly good Straus Family ice cream, which has ingredients like "cream" and "vanilla" as opposed to "dextrose" and "guar gum." Yeah, we don't have stuff like Eggo Waf-fulls (what the hell is a waf-full anyhow?? Is it so called because it's aw-full?) or Miracle Whip around.... and yet...

Eric is diabetic, Type 1, which is so different from the so-called "adult-onset" as to be an entirely different disease. What is not different between the two types is the need to know what you're putting into your mouth and how it's going to affect your body. But heck, aren't we all supposed to know?

Still, our household is probably far more vigilant -- even, I dare say, more than the average diabetic household -- when it comes to the issue of sugars and carbohydrates. As we cracked open the cabinets and looked at the labels of just about everything we had, we were gratified and perhaps a little sheepish to find HFCS on the ingredient list of only the seven items pictured at the top.

Hey, you can try it at home yourself. Email me the crazy things you find in your pantry with corn syrup in them.

I'm not the only food proselytizer to track the ills of HFCS, by any means. Keep on top of the Accidental Hedonist, who is doing a great job of covering the issue.

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