Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Josh Carples: High Fructose Corn Syrup... not a fan

  I admit it. I have a sweet tooth. It’s true. Sometimes you just want some gummy bears or a Snickers. It happens.

  Luckily, it seems most of these products, while still not found in the health food aisle, are sweetened with sugar rather than High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).

  I’m not a fan of HFCS, and it seems that a lot of other people are not either. If they were, there would be no TV ads sponsored by this country’s corn lobby touting the similarities of HFCS to regular sugar. Have you seen the ads? In the PR world, ads are usually judged by effectiveness, and these, I would say, are very ineffective.

  They generally show someone serving another person a product – drink, Popsicle, etc. – and the recipient saying, “You know that has high fructose corn syrup, right?” followed by the other person saying, “Yeah… so?” and then the recipient not knowing a thing about it and looking aloof. Because, of course, no one knows about HFCS because the only websites on the whole internet are Facebook, Twitter and porn, right?

  So in an attempt to give their sweetener a better reputation, they make it look like anyone who doesn’t want the stuff is stupid while trying to get the FDA’s OK to rename it simply “corn sugar.” And why not rename it “corn sugar” since apparently, they think everyone is stupid anyway?

  Yes, the Mayo Clinic is correct when it says, “It’s prudent to consume any added sugar only in moderation.” No arguments there. Many of this country’s health problems seem to stem from people eating too much sugar in whatever form they can. Supersize it! Biggie Size it! Gotta Have It size!

  So it’s safe in moderation. The problem with that argument is that it is found in almost everything. How can you moderate your intake of this substance when it is found even in items that seem healthy – many wheat breads, for instance, and sometimes in children’s vitamins.

  But there is also a Princeton University study that gave equal caloric intakes to rats – one group with cane sugar, the other with HFCS. Were the results the same? Well, here is a headline for you:

  “A sweet problem: Princeton researchers find that high-fructose corn syrup prompts considerably more weight gain.“

  According to the Princeton story, “Rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same.

  “In addition to causing significant weight gain in lab animals, long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup also led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen, and a rise in circulating blood fats called triglycerides.”

  So what do we do? Get the government involved? Get the FDA to ban the substance? Well, I think government intervention, at least so far as banning, may be a bit drastic at this point. But I do think it’s important for consumers to be educated and informed. I do think it’s important to weigh the sources – a Princeton study versus corn lobby advertisements.

  Other viable alternatives could be buying fresh produce and preparing meals yourself, finding healthier alternatives at restaurants (don’t forget portion size!) and maybe even having tax subsidies for businesses to offer produce to underserved communities.

  And, as a consumer, it’s important to read the labels and know what you’re really buying.

  So while the corn lobby is willing to spend millions of dollars re-branding their sweetener with advertising, I humbly request your patience as I may spend a little more time in the grocery store aisles reading the labels.

  About the author: Josh Carples is the managing editor of the Capital City Free Press.

Copyright © Capital City Free Press

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