Like spinach and other foods known for their health benefits, milled corn products are rich in antioxidants, and the milling process makes the antioxidants more readily available for the human body to absorb, according to Purdue University researchers.
Dr. Mario Ferruzzi and colleagues from Purdue’s Department of Food Science concluded that corn-based food products are good dietary sources of antioxidant carotenoids, the yellow and orange plant pigments associated with diets that reduce chronic diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease, and macular degeneration. As a result, milled yellow corn products should be included in the category of antioxidant foods that also includes tomatoes, carrots, and spinach.
In some cases, the milling process makes the antioxidants in corn even more accessible after digestion than the antioxidants in vegetables better known for their health benefits.
“This study demonstrates that consumers of all ages can feel good about eating milled corn products, knowing that they provide essential nutrients to keep the body healthy,” said Judi Adams, president of the Grain Foods Council.
The scientists looked at corn’s performance in a wide variety of milled forms, including breads, porridge, extruded and puffed products.
Almost 200 million bushels or 1½ percent of the U.S. corn crop, are milled into corn meal, grits, corn flour, corn flakes, and other products each year. Their most widely recognized use is probably in corn flakes and other breakfast cereals, but milled products also play an important role in baked goods like breads and muffins, tortillas, and many snack foods, including chips and puffed snacks. In fact, snack foods use more corn than potatoes in the U.S.
Ferruzzi’s research was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in October, 2008 (see http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf8018613).
Many myths have been circulated regarding the effects of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) on health. Fortunately, sound science has been able to disprove the myths surrounding this natural sweetener which is nearly identical to table sugar.
So why is HFCS used instead on sugar? High fructose corn syrup is used in foods and beverages because of the many benefits it offers. In addition to providing sweetness at a level equivalent to sugar, HFCS enhances fruit and spice flavors in foods such as yogurt and spaghetti sauces, gives chewy breakfast bars their soft texture and also protects freshness. High fructose corn syrup keeps products fresh by maintaining consistent moisture.
Because HFCS is found in so many foods and beverages, many have suggested that it is uniquely responsible for people becoming obese. There is no scientific evidence to suggest this is true. In fact, a study published December 2008 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, draws these conclusions about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS):
There is no evidence that the common fructose-glucose sweeteners (such as HFCS) cause metabolic upset, especially when fed as the sole carbohydrate source. The HFCS-obesity hypothesis is not supported in the United States nor worldwide.
Compared with pure glucose, fructose is thought to be associated with insufficient secretion of insulin and leptin and suppression of ghrelin. However, when HFCS is compared with sucrose, the more commonly consumed sweetener, such differences are not apparent, and appetite and energy intake do not differ in the short-term. Additional, previous studies also conclude the same findings.
Obesity results from an imbalance of calories consumed and calories burned. U.S. Department of Agriculture data shows that per capita consumption of high fructose corn syrup is actually on the decline, yet obesity and diabetes rates continue to rise. In fact, obesity rates are rising in other countries, including Mexico, Australia and Europe, even though the use of high fructose corn syrup outside of the United States is limited. Around the world, high fructose corn syrup accounts for about 8% of caloric sweeteners consumed.
Corn & Our Food
Today, there are billions of hungry people in the world, and the numbers are only growing. Food consumption is on the rise in developing countries. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations reported that this trend will continue over the next 30 years. But they also report that there is more food per capita today on a global scale than ever before. American farmers have continued to be the world's top exporters of corn - satisfying the demands of customers around the world.
New production technologies offer great promise for increasing productivity to meet the growing demands of world consumers. For decades, corn growers have worked for continuous improvement and greater efficiency.
Growers have invested significant advances in corn production technology that have lead to major increases in bushels produced, and, at the same time, reduced corn acres under cultivation.
Unfortunately, there are still starving people in the world, but it is not for a lack of food, but getting the food where it needs to be due to lack of infrastructure and access to capital, political unrest and other factors.
Here in America, we are fortunate to spend a smaller percentage of our income on food than almost any other developed nation. According to USDA, just 14 cents of every consumer dollar is attributed to the actual costs of food inputs. Labor, energy and marketing costs consume the balance of our food costs.
The price of corn does have a small affect on the food items that contain corn (corn-syrup sweetened foods and beverages, cereals, corn meal products and snack foods) but most of the price increase is from other factors. For example, a standard 20 oz. box of corn flakes contains approximately 10 ounces of corn, or about 1/90th of a bushel. Even when corn is priced at $6 per bushel, that's less than a dime's worth of corn in the cereal.
Corn is a more significant ingredient for meat, dairy and egg production. Still, corn represents a relatively small share of these products in terms of the retail price consumers pay. Corn’s affect on the cost of feeding livestock is lessened when we consider the impact of distillers grains, an important coproduct of ethanol production. Distillers grains availability will displace more than 1.1 billion bushels of corn in livestock rations this marketing year, providing an efficient, high-quality, and high-value feed product for livestock producers, both in the United States and abroad.
While corn farmers also need an adequate price to meet their increasing production costs, acute surges in grain prices are most often caused by the speculation of investors who never see a kernel of corn.
Imagine feeding an additional two billion people in the next two decades. That's the task that faces farmers around the world. And biotechnology will help corn growers meet that struggling demand.
Biotechnology offers corn growers a unique solution: increasing yields while decreasing water and fertilizer rates. It provides improved pest control practices that are more environmentally friendly, including drastic reductions in the need for pesticides. In fact, biotechnology provides farmers with a wider variety of crop production options that are safer for humans, animals and the environment.
The introduction of herbicide-tolerant corn hybrids didn't just improve weed control and create higher yields. It allowed farmers to use significantly fewer pesticides and make fewer trips across the field. It adds up to big savings in equipment, fuel and labor-related costs: $8 to $13 per acre for a corn farmer.
Advanced fertilizers are part of the biotech movement as well. A new generation of crop fertilizers provides more nutrition to each plant, with less waste and runoff.
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These days, corn farmers don't need to increase acreage to meet growing demands. The advanced production power of U.S. agriculture ensures a growing supply of corn that will continue to satisfy demand for domestic use and exports. It's estimated we can grow more than 17 billion bushels on 83 million acres by 2020 - surpassing the 2010 harvest by more than 4.6 billion bushels.
What is sustainability? Simply put, producing more with less.
According to Field to Market: The Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, the American corn farmers reduced their impact on several environmental factors comparing 1987 to 2007:
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