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So I'm still out here in Seattle, in the home of my father-in-law, Clay, who previously worked in the vending industry. He and I have differing political views that make our conversations rousing and fun.

Today, he slides a couple of printouts across my desk (well, technically, it's his desk; his house, his desk) from foodnavigator.com in which Dr. Barry Popkin has "revoked" a theory that HFCS was tied to the rise in obesity. The 2004 article catalyzed a consumer backlash against HFCS that's still under way.

I presume the printouts (gotta work with him on the printer reflex) were an update of one of our conversations, about the soda tax that has been suggested by President Obama and others. I am for it, entirely, completely, even though I don't have an answer to Clay's question, "What else will people drink? Will that be any better?"

Even though it's a decent question, my position is still that cans of carbonated sugar water, especially at the levels they're consumed in America, are bad for health, both individually and collectively. Raise taxes on them (and use the money to help pay for the ill health that results from those sales) and their consumption will go down, just like tobacco-tax increases led to less smoking.

The article he pointed to, "Sweetening the perception of HFCS," was classic industry-speak. Corn Refiners Association President Audrae Erickson says "our industry is very pleased" that the University of North Carolina professor acknowledged that HFCS isn't worse than any kind of sugar. HFCS has been losing market share to sugar.

I'm glad — well, I guess I don't care — that Erickson is pleased with this, but I can't imagine she'd be chortling if she were reacting to Popkin's full thrust in "Fructose in the Firing Line," the article that prompted this folo. Here's an excerpt:

This is not to say that Popkin is letting high fructose corn syrup off the hook – just that he is also eyeing other fructose-containing sweeteners, like sugar.

He says that there is an extremely clear link between consumption of beverages sweetened with nutritive sweeteners, like HFCS and sugar, and health problems – including obesity, heart disease and diabetes. [my emphasis]

“The idea is very simple, that essentially in America – and the rest of the world – when you consume any caloric beverage, particularly sugar-sweetened beverage, [including corn-based sugar] you don’t reduce your food intake.”

Popkin has done a huge amount of research in this area and his work has demonstrated that the proportion of energy that Americans obtain from soft drinks has more than doubled from the late seventies to the early part of this decade.


So, HFCS "advocates," the message isn't, "HFCS isn't so bad." It's "HFCS is no worse than the others, but they're all bad."

Woo hoo! Let's have a party. Sodas all around!

Author and wellness innovator Michael Prager helps smart companies
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