If you can’t convince them, confuse them. – Harry Truman
The current media debate about the benefits (or lack of harm) of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in our diet misses the obvious. The average American increased their consumption of HFCS (mostly from sugar sweetened drinks and processed food) from zero to more than 60 pounds per person per year.
During that time period, obesity rates have more than tripled and diabetes incidence has increased more than seven fold. Not perhaps the only cause, but a fact that cannot be ignored.
Doubt and confusion are the currency of deception, and they sow the seeds of complacency. These are used skillfully through massive print and television advertising campaigns by the Corn Refiners Association’s attempt to dispel the “myth” that HFCS is harmful and assert through the opinion of “medical and nutrition experts” that it is no different than cane sugar. It is a “natural” product that is a healthy part of our diet when used in moderation.
The Lengths the Corn Industry Will Go To
The goal of the corn industry is to call into question any claim of harm from consuming high fructose corn syrup, and to confuse and deflect by calling their product natural “corn sugar.” That’s like calling tobacco in cigarettes natural herbal medicine.
In the ad, the father tells us:
“Like any parent I have questions about the food my daughter eats–-like high fructose corn syrup. So I started looking for answers from medical and nutrition experts, and what I discovered whether it’s corn sugar or cane sugar your body can’t tell the difference. Sugar is sugar. Knowing that makes me feel better about what she eats and that’s one less thing to worry about.”
Physicians are also targeted directly. I received a 12-page color glossy monograph from the Corn Refiners Association reviewing the “science” that HFCS was safe and no different than cane sugar. I assume the other 700,000 physicians in America received the same propaganda at who knows what cost.
In addition to this, I received a special “personal” letter from the Corn Refiner’s Association outlining every mention of the problems with HFCS in our diet–whether in print, blogs, books, radio or television. They warned me of the errors of my ways and put me on “notice.” For what I am not sure. To think they are tracking this (and me) that closely gives me an Orwellian chill.
New websites like www.sweetsurprise.com and www.cornsugar.com help “set us straight” about HFCS with quotes from professors of nutrition and medicine and thought leaders from Harvard and other stellar institutions.
Why is the corn industry spending millions on misinformation campaigns to convince consumers and health care professionals of the safety of their product? Could it be that the food industry comprises 17 percent of our economy?
But are these twisted sweet lies or a sweet surprise, as the Corn Refiners Association websites claim?
What the Science Says About HFCS
Let’s examine the science and insert some common sense into the conversation. These facts may indeed come as a sweet surprise. The ads suggest getting your nutrition advice from your doctor (who, unfortunately, probably knows less about nutrition than most grandmothers).
Having studied this for over a decade, and having read, interviewed or personally talked with most of the “medical and nutrition experts” used to bolster the claim that “corn sugar” and cane sugar are essentially the same, quite a different picture emerges and the role of HFCS in promoting obesity, disease and death across the globe becomes clear.
At lunch with Dr. Bruce Ames, one of the foremost nutritional scientists in the world, and Dr. Jeffrey Bland, a nutritional biochemist, a student of Linus Pauling and I reviewed the existing science, and Dr. Ames shared shocking new evidence from his research center on how HFCS can trigger body-wide inflammation and obesity.
Here are five reasons you should stay way from any product containing high fructose corn syrup and why it may kill you:
1. Sugar in any form causes obesity and disease when consumed in pharmacologic doses.
Cane sugar and high fructose corn syrup are indeed both harmful when consumed in pharmacologic doses of 140 pounds per person per year.When one 20 ounce HFCS sweetened soda, sports drink, or tea has 17 teaspoons of sugar (and the average teenager often consumes two drinks a day) we are conducting a largely uncontrolled experiment on the human species.Our hunter gatherer ancestors consumed the equivalent of 20 teaspoons per year, not per day. In this sense, I would agree with the corn industry that sugar is sugar. Quantity matters. But there are some important differences.