HFCS: We're as bad as sugar!

The question of whether high fructose corn syrup is a particularly noxious substance is being fought on many fronts, including currently in a Los Angeles courtroom. Corn refiners are fighting mightily not to be demonized, and regularly send out missives stating their case to anyone who will listen.

Their newsletter landed on my e-doorstep this morning, and it was amusing enough for me to relate it to you.

A couple of stories promote research that bolsters their cause, which is to be expected, but which is also annoying because food processers often ridicule research — and researchers — when they don't like the findings. (The miscreants at the Center for Consumer Freedom (no link, intentionally) are particularly offensive about it, but they are by no means alone.) Barring obvious and egregious conflicts of interest (oh, wait, that's the industry assocations), you either accept science or you don't.

Another piece reports that labels promoting "real sugar" — industry's attempt to capture the anti-HFCS market — don't work. Fair eough.

But the piece I most wanted to mention riffs on a Yahoo health blogger Lisa Collier Cool's "busting" five food myths. The one the refiners cite, of course, is that HFCS is actually no worse than sugar:

“In reality, both table sugar and HFCS are almost identical, nutritionally, with similar effects on the body’s levels of insulin, blood glucose, triglycerides, and hunger hormones. The real problem isn’t the type of sweetener we eat, but the fact that Americans are consuming way too many empty calories, a key culprit in the obesity epidemic.”

I agree with this. I'm persuaded that despite the "high fructose" in the name, the chemical composition of HFCS and table sugar are quite close. My opinion is that HFCS's appearance on the market in the 1970s does coincide with the dramatic increase in obesity, but for economic, not chemical, reasons. Because it was cheaper than other sugars, manufacturers were newly able to add it to ... practically everything, which is still where it appears today.

It is hilarious to me that the corn refiners are touting this blogger's opinion, though. In effect, they are saying, "we're not worse than the other guys, we're only just as bad!" How's that for a slogan?

The implication is that corn refiners, like the rest of the sugar-producing bloc, have no fear that refined-sugar consumption is in peril, despite clear and mounting evidence that it is unhealthful in the quantities we are now consuming it.

I wish I could say I disagree with them.

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