What Are We Feeding Our Kids?

February 9, 2009
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Award-winning nutritionist and New York Times bestselling author.

What are we feeding our kids? It was bad enough to know that many popular children’s foods are loaded with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), now we find out that the HFCS is contaminated with the toxic metal mercury. Two studies were in the news recently. The first described in the January 2009 issue of Environmental Health found mercury in nearly 50% of samples of HFCS that was tested. A second study found mercury in almost one-third of food and beverage products tested. This study by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) investigated 55 of the most popular products where HFCS is the first or second ingredient on the label.

Mercury Mayhem

Mercury is a very toxic substance and creates damage throughout the body. It particularly affects the central nervous system, the endocrine system, the kidneys, and the mouth, teeth, and gums. Long term exposure can lead to brain damage and death. It is even more toxic to fetuses and infants and women have long been warned about exposure during pregnancy as serious birth defects may result.

In young children mercury can prevent the myelin sheaths from developing correctly leading to severe neurological problems. Brain impairment may present as learning disabilities, memory problems, trouble sleeping, or emotional instability. Other symptoms that will present in children include red cheeks, nose, and lips; loss of hair, teeth, and nails; rashes; and muscle weakness.

How does the mercury get in to the HFCS? Mercury is used to produce caustic soda which is used in the manufacturing process for HFCS. Mercury was found to be most prevalent in dairy products, dressings and condiments and in the products of every major food company.

Dr. David Wallinga, a co-author of the two studies said, “Mercury is toxic in all its forms. Given how much high-fructose corn syrup is consumed by children, it could be a significant additional source of mercury never before considered. We are calling for immediate changes by industry and the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply.

High Fructose Corn Syrup  – Not So Sweet

High fructose corn syrup consumption in the United States is out of control. Over the past thirty years consumption has skyrocketed from 0.6 pound to 73.5 pounds per person per year. This works out to an average of about 12 teaspoons per day. Even more alarming is that consumption by teenagers and other select group is 80 percent above average levels.

It is found in virtually all processed foods. You name it – sodas, juices, candies, syrups, pasta sauces, cookies, cakes, energy bars, baked goods, canned goods, salad dressing, breakfast cereals, yogurt, ketchup, frozen foods, baby formula, etc.

Because HFCS is not recognized by the body as sugar, leptin, an appetite regulating hormone is never released, so our brain does not know we have eaten and are full. We do not feel satisfied and continue to eat. Unfortunately the foods we keep eating often contain more HFCS and other sugar leading to a variety of diseases including heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes. The excess calories from sugar turn to fat and contribute to our growing obesity epidemic.

If Not For You, For Your Children

All my years as a nutritionist I’ve warned people to get the sugar out. This high fructose corn syrup is one of the worst forms of sugar. It is one of the key factors driving our obesity epidemic and causing the diseases that are rampaging through our population.
As parents we have the responsibility to protect and nourish our children. Feeding them foods containing HFCS is putting them on the fast track to disease. We are already experiencing this through the rise in childhood obesity and diabetes. not to mention mercury-associated nervous disorders. Oh my. There are many reasons to avoid HFCS and now you can add mercury to the top of the list.

Gittleman, Ann Louise. Get the Sugar Out: 501 Simple Ways to Cut the Sugar Out of Any Diet. New York: Random House, 2008.

Alerts & Outbreaks – Common Food Sweetener Found to Contain Mercury | Health News. Hajek, Heather. Common Food Sweetener Found to Contain Mercury, 28 January 2009.

The Environmental Health article can be found at Environmental Health | Full text | Mercury from chlor-alkali plants: measured concentrations in food product sugar.
Wallinga, David, Sorensen, Janella, Mottl, Pooja, and Yablon, Brian. Not So Sweet: Missing Mercury and High Fructose Corn Syrup. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2009.

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Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty books including The Fat Flush Plan series and her latest book, Radical Metabolism. She’s been rewriting the rules of nutrition for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of diet, detox and women’s health issues. 

For a FREE daily dose of tips and strategies for maintaining healthy weight, conquering insomnia, and much more…check out my Radical Health Tips.

I’d like to meet and greet you on my Facebook groups, so won’t you check us out at the Radical Metabolism RevolutionFat Flush Nation, or my Inner Circle!


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