On March 22, Science Daily reported
, "A Princeton University research team has demonstrated that all sweeteners are not equal when it comes to weight gain: 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."
The Corn Refiners Association disagreed, but by September they were petitioning the Food and Drug Administration to allow them to re-name HFCS something a bit more natural sounding: "corn sugar". While this seems a transparent ploy to confuse consumers back into buying product they've now come to recognize and are increasingly rejecting for health and environmental reasons, a spokesperson for the Washington-based Corn Refiners Association told the New York Times
that the opposite is true:
"Clearly the name is confusing consumers," said Audrae Erickson... "Research shows that 'corn sugar' better communicates the amount of calories, the level of fructose and the sweetness in this ingredient."
The Princeton report, of course, wasn't the first bad press that High Fructose Corn Syrup had received. Ingestion of this disturbingly ubiquitous ingredient has long been a suspected agent in growing US health and obesity problems. According to the Mayo Clinic website
: Research studies have yielded mixed results about the possible adverse effects of consuming high-fructose corn syrup. Although high-fructose corn syrup is chemically similar to table sugar (sucrose), concerns have been raised because of how high-fructose corn syrup is processed. Some believe that your body reacts differently to high-fructose corn syrup than it does to other types of sugar. But research about high-fructose corn syrup is evolving.
In June of 2008, the Journal of Hepatology
strongly suggested a link between consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in sodas and fatty liver disease.
Also that summer, The New York Times reported
on a study published in The Journal of Nutrition: In humans, triglycerides, which are a type of fat in the blood, are mostly formed in the liver. Dr. Parks said the liver acts like %u201Ca traffic cop%u201D who coordinates how the body uses dietary sugars. When the liver encounters glucose, it decides whether the body needs to store it, burn it for energy or turn it into triglycerides.
But when fructose enters the body, it bypasses the process and ends up being quickly converted to body fat.
Essentially saying: High Fructose Corn Syrup makes you fatter.
A more circumspect NY Times article concluded
: Many scientists hypothesize that high-fructose corn syrup has contributed to rising obesity rates, although others say there is no solid evidence to support the theory. The corn refiners agree, dedicating a Web site to the %u201Csweet surprise%u201D of high-fructose corn syrup.
But we do know that foods made with high-fructose corn syrup are heavily processed and typically lack any meaningful nutritional value. And while the jury is out on the real effect high-fructose corn syrup has on obesity, we do know it%u2019s a threat to the health of the planet.
The environmental argument against High Fructose Corn Syrup should be well-known to readers of author Michael Pollan who was quoted in a Washington Post article
: Most corn is grown as a monoculture, meaning that the land is used solely for corn, not rotated among crops. This maximizes yields, but at a price: It depletes soil nutrients, requiring more pesticides and fertilizer while weakening topsoil.
"The environmental footprint of HFCS is deep and wide," writes Pollan, a prominent critic of industrial agriculture. "Look no farther than the dead zone in the Gulf [of Mexico], an area the size of New Jersey where virtually nothing will live because it has been starved of oxygen by the fertilizer runoff coming down the Mississippi from the Corn Belt. Then there is the atrazine in the water in farm country -- a nasty herbicide that, at concentrations as little as 0.1 part per billion, has been shown to turn male frogs into hermaphrodites."
The article ends diplomatically enough: The bottom line: The more fuel, energy and chemicals that go into processing a food, the less nutritious that food probably is. So steering clear of high-fructose corn syrup can't be bad for your health -- or the planet.
So if "confusion" is all that the Corn Refiners Association is truly concerned about, I say keep the name, "High Fructose Corn Syrup", as it is. It's the name consumers recognize, it's the name all the research up to now has referenced. Indeed, re-naming the product now could only cause for confusion, not alleviate it. Allowing a lobbying interest to re-name a product in what could be construed as a cheap sleight-of-hand maneuver contrived to circumvent previous negative press would contrast heavily with the Food & Drug Administration's stated mission. Tell the FDA that you're not amused by the Corn Refiner's Association's attempts to sell you an old, dubious product under a different name.
We the undersigned implore the Food & Drug Administration to please uphold your mission in protecting consumer safety and ability to make informed decisions regarding what they ingest. While many people may be aware of current research indicating possible negative effects correlated with the intake of High-Fructose Corn Syrup, it will take many years before the majority of concerned consumers will be aware that the Corn Refiner's Association has managed to hide the product under the cheap sleight-of-hand of a name shuffle. It will be virtually impossible to make informed dietary decisions knowing that maligned or prove-ably unhealthy ingredients may be re-titled at will. We feel that while the Corn Refiner's Association claims they wish to re-name High-Fructose Corn Syrup to avoid confusion, re-naming this widely recognized ingredient could only create confusion to their benefit. Please do not allow High-Fructose Corn Syrup to be re-named.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter...