Food Babe is almost a running joke, low hanging fruit to be poked at and made fun of. So I will indulge in a bit of this with my response to her new article entitled The Ingredients In This Popular Snack Might Surprise You. Food Babe is here to warn us about the danger we all knew was lurking on our food shelves, yes that is correct, Fig Newtons.
Let us relay her story in order to understand how she came to this horrible conclusion:
I was shopping the other day minding my own business and I saw a product that I had to share with you right away. When I shop I like to look at ingredient lists, especially on old products I used to eat and buy. When I saw the ingredients for “Made with real fruit, 100% whole grain Fig Newtons” my jaw dropped open. These little suckers were a staple in my household growing up and made countless appearances in my lunch box as a child. I couldn’t believe how many toxic processed chemicals they contained!
See, she was minding her own damn business when suddenly the grotesque and horrifying feeling washed over her; those Fig Newtons of her childhood were now not only toxic, but had CHEMICALS in them. I mean its not like everything is a chemical or anything. However I'll pretend to understand what she is saying and continue on. So what are these toxic chemicals?
Whole Grain Wheat Flour – Don’t let the words “whole grain” fool you into believing it’s healthy. A serving of 2 bars only contains 3 grams of fiber, and much of that probably comes from the figs, not the whole grain.
I'm just going to say right here, that is not toxic nor is anything to be worried about. Deceptive marketing? Maybe, but it surely is not proof of the Fig Newton's wrath. I'm sure she'll have better examples.
Sugar - You’ll eat 13 grams of sugar (more than 3 teaspoons) in just 2 small fig newtons. How many of us stop at just 2 cookies?
Here is the thing, the common fig's (Ficus carica) fruit contains 47.9 grams of sugars. That is more than a Fig Newton or even a Coke. Likewise many other fruits contain sugar levels comparable to 13 grams of sugar.
High Fructose Corn Syrup – This chemically refined sugar has been shown to cause more weight gain than regular sugar. Even when eaten in moderation, it’s said to be a major cause of heart disease, cancer, dementia and liver failure. Some high fructose corn syrup is even contaminated with mercury.
First, I must draw your attention to the weasel wording that Food Babe has inserted into this paragraph. You should always be wary when someone says, "it's said to be" or, "some [insert product x] shown to be y", etc. The problem with these statements is that it is basically like rumor or hearsay; no specific point is being made because it is wishy washy.
Now, onto my main point. Sugar is sugar. To elaborate, sucrose which we are all familiar with as "table sugar" is a disaccharide (essentially two monosaccharides, or basic carbohydrates, joined together) of 50% fructose and 50% glucose. When consumed sucrose rapidly breaks, roughly, evenly into fructose and glucose molecules. Now let us look at the so called HFCS. The most common mixture of HFCS is called HFCS 55:45. This mixture, accounting for water and the like, breaks down to roughly 55% fructose and 42% glucose. In effect, the only difference between table sugar ("real sugar") and HFCS is about a 5% fructose difference. How does fructose behave? It behaves just like any other sugar. There is no credible evidence that fructose or HFCS causes "heart disease, cancer, dementia, and liver failure."
Oh and that claim that the syrup is contaminated with mercury? It was a preliminary study that found some small amounts of mercury due to a specific industrial practice that is being phased out. More research is obviously needed, but no one has come down with mercury poisoning from eating Fig Newtons.
Soybean Oil – This cheap oil is high in omega 6 fatty acids, which cause inflammation in the body.Inflammation raises your blood pressure, and can promote the growth of cancer cells.
Well the American Heart Association disagrees with her, saying omega 6 fatty acids are cardioprotective and additionally The American Cancer Society has listed some preliminary studies which suggest the oppposite of what Food Babe is claiming.
She continues on and then she reaches the holy grail:
Genetically Modified Ingredients - These cookies are packed with ingredients that are known to be genetically modified (GMO). Their parent company, Mondelez International, contributed nearly $400K to block GMO labels in California and Washington state. The consumption of GMOs has been linked to health disorders, such as kidney and liver disorders and allergies. Even if you grew up eating Fig Newtons, GMOs were introduced to our food supply only 20 years ago and their use has skyrocketed in recent years. Mondelez admits they use GMOs in the United States, but not in other countries – how is that fair?
Well holy shit, of course it boils down to GMOs. First of all I would like to to make it clear that the studies showing health disorders she is is hinting at (Seralini et. al) have been soundly debunked and in fact have been retracted Likewise, she has the gall to pretend we have not studied this technology. The fact is: WE HAVE. There are thousands of studies that have been performed. I would like to direct you to the Genetic Literacy Project's wonderful list of over 2,000 studies demonstrating the safety of GMOs and in addition you can download a spreadsheet of the studies here.
So to conclude, just because you don't understand or cannot pronounce the chemicals names on an ingredient list that does not make it inherently unsafe. The true toxicity is the stupidity of people who are willingly ignorant and refuse to educate themselves and their brothers and sisters. Food Babe is about clickbait and bullshit, she is not about helping you make an informed decision about your health or well being.
Be safe, be well, be educated.
Image courtesy of Evan-Amos from Wikimedia Commons. This image was released under the public domain.