Thursday, November 6, 2003
CAUTION: Lemonade Could Be Hazardous to Your Health
By ROGER M. GRACE
When I was growing up in the “Ike Era,” a common sight on street corners in residential areas was the lemonade stand. The ingredients of the brew didn’t vary from stand to stand, only the proportions. There was the juice of lemons, flecks of pulp, a few seeds invariably included, sugar, water, and ice.
It has, alas, been many years since I’ve spotted a lemonade stand.
I did, however, recently glug down a glass of lemonade—or, at least, that’s what the product was labeled. So different was the content of the bottle of Country Time lemonade from what I imbibed as a kid that I was impelled to read the ingredients. Here’s what I found:
“Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup and/or Sugar, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Sorbate (To Preserve Freshness), Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Glycerol Ester Of Wood Rosin, Natural Flavor, Yellow 5, Ascorbyl Palmitate (Preserves Freshness).”
Funny. I didn’t see any reference to lemon juice.
Lemonade, necessarily, needs a sweetener. When I was young, that meant adding sugar.
“High Fructose Corn Syrup” is something relatively new. Catching on quickly, it’s in most sweetened beverages these days. Nonetheless, this ubiquitous substance is controversial because, as the name indicates, it contains fructose.
Dr. Andrew Weil, a medical doctor, host of specials on PBS, and author of eight books, advises:
“The body doesn’t handle large amounts of fructose well. You can maintain life with intravenous glucose, but not with intravenous fructose; severe derangement of liver function results. There’s also evidence that a high intake of fructose elevates levels of circulating fats, (serum triglycerides), increasing the risk of heart disease. I never use fructose in my home.
“High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a recent invention of the food industry, made by an enzyme-mediated process. Old-fashioned corn syrup is less sweet and contains mostly glucose....
“HFCS contains 14 percent fructose. Never before in history have so many people been consuming so much fructose, and I am concerned about its possible disruptive effects on metabolism. I’d advise you not to buy products made with HFCS....”
A Los Angeles Times article on March 24 said:
“Unlike glucose, fructose is almost entirely metabolized in the liver. When fructose reaches the liver, says Dr. William J. Whelan, a biochemist at the University of Miami School of Medicine, ‘the liver goes bananas and stops everything else to metabolize the fructose.’ ”
Yellow 5, or tartrazine, also creates possible heath dangers. Dr. Weil has said of it:
“It may…cause allergies and hyperactivity in children. The FDA has estimated that 50,000 to 100,000 Americans are sensitive to tartrazine and suffer reactions like swelling, asthma or contact dermatitis.”
It’s been banned in Norway and Austria.
Red No. 2, which had been approved by the FDA and was used in innumerable products, was banned in 1976 after a five-year inquiry. It causes cancer. Health Research Group, which instituted the proceedings which led to that ban, is now clamoring for a like proscription against use of Yellow 5.
Glycerol ester of wood rosin is derived from the stumps of pine trees. In citrus drinks, it adjusts density. While the FDA does approve use of wood rosins as an additive, there is tucked in a 2002 report by it a notation that “[w]ood rosin contains small quantities of other organic materials that are present in the solvent extract of pine stumps and are incompletely removed by refining.”
I suppose the theory is that whatever’s in a pine stump can’t be bad for you.
The other ingredients in the lemonade are thought to be either beneficial or harmless (though some reports as to possible effects of the preservatives potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate, while inconclusive, are disquieting.)
I came across information on the product on the website of Dr Pepper/Seven Up, Inc., which manufactures ready-to-drink Country Time lemonade (as opposed to the powdered version that’s made by Kraft). The website says: “More than one-third of all lemonade consumed in the United States is Country Time®. It continues to be America’s leading lemonade.”
Grrrrr. That junk is no doubt consumed in far greater quantities in a single year nowadays than all the lemonade served at corner stands during the entirety of the 1940s and ’50s.
Maybe somebody could make a fortune by competing with Country Time with a new formula for lemonade — comprised of lemon juice, flecks of pulp, sugar, and water. Period. Of course, the consumer would have to add his or her own ice—and seeds.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company
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