Cheering for Sugar in the High-Fructose War

Maressa Brown

high fructose corn syrupYou know those commercials where the woman is having a picnic with her man and eating a chemical-laden Popsicle and he says, "You know what they SAY about high-fructose corn syrup!" And she's all, "What? What do they say? That it's the same thing as ... sugar?!" Then if you look really closely at the bottom of that commercial, you'll see it's paid for by The Corn Refiners Association. They want you to believe that their product -- high-fructose corn syrup, or HFCS -- is natural. It is anything but. HFCS is manufactured from corn syrup (primarily glucose), which undergoes "enzymatic processing" to increase the fructose content and is then mixed with glucose.

It's no wonder a group of sugar farmers and refiners has filed a lawsuit against several corn processors and their lobbying group for their effort to rebrand high-fructose corn syrup as "corn sugar." They want to put a stop to that creepy campaign you're sure to have encountered by now that markets HFCS as a natural product.

It sounds kinda like a junior high popularity contest. "We're, like, the real volleyball team, but the intramural team just says they are!" or some such ... As juvenile as it sounds at first glimpse, though, I gotta say I'm totally on Team Sugar. Who would have thought I'd ever go to bat for the sugar people, cuz it's not like they're innocent either. But they sure beat the corn people, as far as I'm concerned.

It's clear from research that the corn industry is outright lying to us. They want us to believe that their product has the same effect on our bodies as regular sugar, and that is simply not the case. HFCS is made of roughly 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose. Research from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centers shows that our bodies make fat from fructose more readily than other kinds of sugar. Their studies showed that after eating fructose, the liver boosts fat storage. Other evidence finds that unlike glucose, fructose doesn't trigger the process by which the body tells us it's full. And in men, HFCS appears to elevate triglycerides, which increase the risk of heart disease.

Awesome. So, in other words, HFCS is definitely contributing to our country's obesity epidemic.

Not that regular sugar is all that great for us, but at least it really IS what it says it is. And being that it's not made in a lab, our bodies know what to do with it.

As Inder Mathur, President and CEO of Western Sugar Cooperative, says:

This suit is about false advertising, pure and simple. If consumers are concerned about your product, then you should improve it or explain its benefits, not try to deceive people about its name or distort scientific facts.

Amen. Here's hoping the sugar farmers take the corn industry's campaign down.

How do you feel about HFCS?


Image via Richard Bitting/Flickr

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