I found myself drawn to a video this morning that prompted considerable thought about what I am putting in my mouth; specifically, it included information on what makes people fat. Since I am an ample woman, I admit it – I got interested. When the presenter advised that I stop eating wheat bread because it was making me fat, I was shocked, appalled, and even gave my bread a questioning glance as if it would tell me the truth. As I questioned my bread from across the room, I quickly realized that the villainous bread was one of the state nutritional requirements in my daughter’s lunch box. I had to take a closer look. My saunter across the kitchen was slow and tentative. After all, did I want to know What’s that food? Here’s what I found.
The first ingredient that caught my eye was something I had read about already: high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). This baby has been around for a while and research on HFCS appears to have consistently been suspected as one of several culprits contributing to weight gain. In one peer-reviewed journal article by Bray, Nielson, and Popkin (2004), the authors conclude that a connection between HFCS and obesity exists. This is only one example of many, many older and newer studies. I encourage anyone interested to look this substance up. I may devote a future article only to this as some doctors that I ran across during research indicated that HFCS is highly addictive and may contribute to sugar addiction.
While my research has focused on finding fault with HFCS, a sweetener made from corn, I have come across some claims saying that HFCS does not contribute any more to obesity than other sweeteners like sugars. I will add here that the bread has a plethora of ingredients that are not food appropriate. A list? Sure thing. Here goes: gluten (oh boy,this one’s not good), soybean oil (yep, research is beginning to show some issues here too; why are we putting this in our bread?), calcium sulfate (a dangerous chemical that can cause minor to severe problems – folks, the CDC advice on how to treat worker exposure is enough to make me cringe! Another name for this? Plaster of Paris – guess what that is found in cereals, and most of what I have read has indicated that intestinal blockage can be a side effect). The list goes on. My bread was not the only product. As I sifted through my pantry, at least half of the products had one or many of the ingredients that may cause not only weight gain, but chronic health issues.
In addition to bread, my husband’s blueberry muffins had similar items in it but added in silicoaluminate. This substance is added to act as an anti-caking agent, but the side effects have been linked to Alzheimer’s. One website mentions that this link between aluminum (one of the components in silicoaluminate) and Alzheimer’s is inconclusive; simply put, while there is evidence, more studies have to be done to announce that there is a true connection. Some evidence is cause for concern. I’ll add that the blueberries in the blueberry muffins my husband ate this morning aren’t blueberries at all. Hold on a sec…I may have to pause writing to go see if my husband remembers my name.
The second item of interest mentioned as I watched the video was one of my personal favorites: diet soda. Okay, so what bothers me about this is that the drink has no calories, so how on earth can it cause my love handles to expand? Even seeking out the knowledge was painful as I occasionally indulge in several different diet sodas (my favorite happens to be orange). What I found made me frown (you know, the kind of frown a three year old might do-puckered lip hanging down a full inch or more past my mouth). So here it is. While there were some mixed messages, I ere on the side of “Danger Will Robinson!”
A well-known health guru, Jillian Michaels, shares some pretty damaging information on these calorie-free drinks. Sure, I’ve heard these rumors before, but I like to live in that place where we all go sometimes when we want to ignore the truth. In a few sentences, I can sum it up: Diet sodas have harmful sweeteners and chemicals as well as stimulate our need to eat. I looked up a few of the claims on the website where she discusses the need to quit drinking diet sodas and they checked out. Good grief – I feel the need to have a diet soda to relax after reading that, but I won’t.
The Truth Is Out There
While we (I’m including me in this too!) ignore the things we don’t want to hear about what’s in our food, food industry businesses are peddling unsafe products that currently flood our market. We, as consumers, contribute to their continued profit by our denial and perhaps simple ignorance. After all, until I began looking, I had no idea that the rumors about diet soda were true or that my light potato chips were dangerous. I had no idea that my daughter and my husband were eating foods laced with chemicals that might contribute to Alzheimer’s.
I will be posting other articles on a variety of foods in my What’s That Food (WTF) series and hope to eventually weed the unsafe and unhealthy foods out of my entire family’s diet. It’s a struggle certainly. Convenience is part of my life as well, but if not for me, then for our children’s sake. Ultimately, choosing safer alternatives forces businesses dealing in food to change to meet consumer demands. I sincerely hope that everyone reading this will consider that we have the power to change our food system for the better.
Another interesting article (nope, I didn’t write it) on high fructose corn syrup.