HFCS Takes a Couple of Hits

Sidewalk outside of the Strange Adventures comic book store

Childhood Obesity News was looking at how the debate between Big Corn and Big Sugar became a battle of dueling experts, with one side claiming that the human body can’t tell the difference between corn sugar and cane/beet sugar, and a large number of dissenters pointing out all kinds of differences, and all claiming to have science in their corner.

Late in 2012, yet another study came out, this one presented by a collaborative team from the University of Southern California and University of Oxford. It was published in Global Public Health, and Leslie Ridgeway writes:

The study reports that countries that use HFCS in their food supply had a 20 percent higher prevalence of diabetes than countries that did not use HFCS. The analysis also revealed that HFCS’s association with the ‘significantly increased prevalence of diabetes’ occurred independent of total sugar intake and obesity levels… Countries with higher use of HFCS had an average prevalence of type 2 diabetes of 8 percent compared to 6.7 percent in countries not using HFCS.

Another study promptly followed on the heels of that one. University of Southern California assistant professor Kathleen Page, whose undergraduate degree was in exercise science, went on to focus on the role of the central nervous system in energy balance and appetite regulation. In collaboration with Yale University, Dr. Page proved to the satisfaction of many that glucose and fructose are processed differently by the human brain. She wrote:

We saw that fructose did not cause feelings of fullness, whereas the participants reported an increase in feelings of fullness after the glucose drink.

USC’s news department said:

The researchers found that the glucose drink suppressed activity in the hypothalamus and other brain regions that regulate appetite, motivation and reward processing, while the fructose drink did not. The different responses to fructose were associated with reduced levels of the hormone insulin, which sends signals to the brain that a person has had enough to eat.

There are other differences between traditional cane/beet sugar and the more recently contrived substance whose manufacturers would like us to call it “corn sugar.” But in the end, not enough differences to make a real difference. When it comes to addictiveness, sugar and HFCS seem to be running about neck-and-neck. Yet the glucose vs. fructose debate continues to be an arena of dueling experts and, increasingly, of dueling dollars.

Michael Machine of Mother Jones wrote:

[…] [A] Bloomberg investigative reporter revealed that The Sugar Association has recently paid $300,000 to the phony consumer group, Citizens for Health, to launch petitions and other sponsored activities to stir-up baseless consumer concerns about high fructose corn syrup.

“Examiner” Barbara Stanley wrote:

Also, the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) is alleged to have initiated, funded and controlled the advertising to combat negative ad campaigns and publicity which would have made the public aware that HFCS is linked to diabetes and obesity.

What a lot of time, energy, and emotion spent on the (big-picture-wise) negligible differences between different kinds of sweetener. They all turn out to be undesirable for one reason or another. In this particular combat zone, there are no good guys.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “USC, Oxford researchers find high fructose corn syrup-global prevalence of diabetes link,” EurekAlert, 11/27/12
Source: “Does fructose add up to weight gain?,” USC News, 01/15/13
Source: “Are High-Fructose Corn Syrup Makers in Denial?,” Mother Jones, 11/01/12
Source: “Federal court to decide if corn syrup can be marketed as corn sugar,” Examiner.com, 03/21/12
Image by Jason Carter.

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