Corn Syrup Cover-Up: Sugar Never Tasted So Sour

If you find yourself in deep public relations trouble, simply change your name. Last week, the Corn Refiners Association had a sweet proposition for the FDA: they asked for permission to change the name “high fructose corn syrup” to “corn sugar.” Poor high fructose corn syrup is cast as the new villain responsible for all of our nutritional woes. According to the market research firm NPD Group, about 58 percent of Americans say they are concerned that high-fructose corn syrup poses a health risk.  Sales of high-fructose corn syrup are at an incredible 20-year low. The problem is that the name “corn sugar” is deceptive, because high-fructose corn syrup does not “naturally” come from corn.

The New York Times featured an article about this very matter in their science section last week.  The article makes the claim that HFCS is in fact, no different from cane sugar, and that the anxiety surrounding it is unnecessary and misdirected. They say the major difference is that for table sugar, the sugar from beets and cane essentially comes right out of the plants. Corn syrup, meanwhile, “is heavily processed, using enzymes to turn cornstarch into glucose and then fructose.” Another major difference is that in HFCS, the individual glucose and fructose molecules are chemically separate before you ingest them. In table sugar, these same two molecules are chemically bonded, forming a disaccharide (two-molecule sugar) that is broken apart inside the body.

The Corn Refiners Association maintains that high fructose corn syrup is made from corn, a natural grain product. They say it contains no artificial ingredients or color additives, thus meeting the FDA’s requirements for use of the term “natural.” Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, disagrees. He says “[High fructose corn syrup] is not natural. Even though glucose and fructose occur in nature, HFCS does not occur in nature. Cornstarch is converted to glucose, some of which is then converted to fructose.  We’ve said that if a substance’s molecular structure has been changed in a factory, it can’t be considered natural.” The Corn Refiners Association, when asked to speak to this issue, had no comment.

Some experts maintain that, from a health standpoint “sugar is sugar.” With regard to obesity, research suggests that whether high fructose corn syrup is natural or unnatural –or whether it’s named high fructose corn syrup or corn sugar–is beside the point.  (Although its worth mentioning that much of the research on this topic is sponsored by the food industry, most independent health experts do tend to agree with this point.)  Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup contain the same number of calories. Jacobson points out, “Consumers have been misled into thinking that high-fructose corn syrup is particularly harmful. Chemically, it’s essentially the same as sugar. The bottom line is we should be consuming a lot less of both sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.”

All of this hype over high fructose corn syrup and the subsequent public backlash points to a larger issue with regard to nutrition misinformation in the public. When we become preoccupied with a specific ingredient, we lose sight of the bigger picture. All of this focus on high-fructose corn syrup has distracted us from the fundamental issue at hand. Critics think that HFCS is uniquely harmful, stating that the emergence of high fructose corn syrup correlates with rising obesity rates. However, they are failing to consider the myriad of factors contributing to the obesity epidemic. While the health effects of over-consumption of HFCS warrants further research, the health effect of all added caloric sweeteners should not be overlooked.

The problem with high fructose corn syrup may not be exclusively in the syrup itself, but rather, in what this ingredient indicates. Everyone’s always looking to pinpoint a single food component as the culprit: first it was trans fat, now it is high fructose corn syrup. Individually, these ingredients may have negative impacts on our health, but the most crucial thing to recognize is what they have in common: they are both molecularly altered compounds that are/were ubiquitous in many of the foods we eat. We need to shift our focus from high fructose corn syrup to the food itself: where is this food coming from, how is it being processed, and most importantly, is it even food?

Going forward, as we happen upon the latest nutrition trends and additives, and facts emerge and contradict one another, one thing will remain constant: for optimal health, experts agree that the best advice is to eat real food. In other words, dine on food that comes from a farm, not a factory.

As far as the name-change goes, according to the Huffington Post, the name “corn sugar” is already taken, so the Corn Refiners Association is going to have to come up with another euphemism.

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25 Comments

  • This is truth in that the food that contains HFCS is basically “not real food” and can exist on the store shelves for years, also another concern is the way the body handles the digestion of such a product, “that is in everything you eat” and untill people are educated, kids and adults, there is and will be a problem with that product, get rid of it.

  • Hey, I grew up in Pekin, Il. on the Illinois where they processed Karo for too many years. Any homes within the pewtrid smell of the plant would have to paint their homes every two years because it would peal the paint off in huge blisters. If you saw where they made it you would want to buy it.

  • Wish I could edit the above comment. I meant to say you would NOT want it. It was processed on the Illinois River, which heavily contributed to polluting the sandy shores to replacing them with concrete rubble.

  • So long corn syrup, hello corporate welfare juice

    Faced with the declining use of High Fructose Corn Syrup, the Corn Corporate Welfare Association has petitioned the Food and Drug administration to change the name of HFCS to “corporate welfare juice.” HFCS is produced from corn by artificially treating it with enzymes to turn corn starch into syrup.

    The name change is an attempt to distract consumers from alleged health risks associated with HFCS, which have pushed its consumption to a 20-year low. Various studies have linked this sweetener to problems such as insulin resistance, diabetes, fatty liver disease, obesity, extra limbs, porcelain feet and fig brains. People with corn allergies also have problems as corn syrup has become so widely used.

    Refiners originally wanted to change HFCS’s name to the innocuous-sounding “corn sugar,” and the change is still under consideration by the FDA. The CCWA opted to change tactics as an internet petition sprang up to oppose the change, along with a Facebook page opposed to HFCS in general. The association settled on “corporate welfare juice” after rejecting other names such as “tasty poison,” “constipation solver” and “America’s high diabetes elixir.” (continued….)

    http://www.thechicagodope.com/2010/09/28/so-long-corn-syrup-hello-corporate-welfare-juice/

  • There ain’t a doctor in the world that likes HFCS and its inventor wouldn’t touch the stuff. He went to the grave laughing. CornSugar.com was all over the recently-ended International Baking Industry Expo like a rash. Fortunately, their booth was sparsely-attended. HFCS has penetrated the baking industry to a depressing scale, just as it’s penetrated the food stream.
    I agree that the best diet you can do is to eat natural whole foods, preferably organic. Beware of highly-processed foods.

  • “Poor high fructose corn syrup is cast as the new villain responsible for all of our nutritional woes.”

    This is not the responsibility of HFCS.

    It is about time people took responsibility for their actions and stop blaming an ingredient.

    If people stopped eating products that contain HFCS, these products would be adapted to consumers requirements, or removed from the shelves. HFCS exists because people want it in their foods. They tell the manufacturers this by purchasing these foods.

    People would rather stuff themselves with these products and blame the ingredient for all their woes than stop purchasing them and changing their behavior.

    HFCS does not exist in real food. It is only found in processed or pre-prepared foods. If you don’t want HFCS, stop buying the processed ‘junk’ foods. No one is forced to eat it, it is a choice made by the consumer.

    If you think it’s a bad product, don’t buy it.

    If you choose to eat this in your foods, stop complaining. No one is forcing you.

  • The problem is that it is used in so many foods. At our local grocery store only ONE brand of whole wheat bread does not contain HFCS. There are dozens of different brands of bread. The same true of many products that are not overly processed.

  • Totally agree Draymusa. Aggravating to find that all the products are too sweet and all have corn syrup. Nature Valley 100% Trail Mix bar is positioned as healthy, but has HFCS as the SECOND ingredient and if that wasn’t enough Sugar as the sixth ingredient and Fructose as the eighth. Geeze, Why?

  • You may not be, but you sure sound like you are one of the Corn Refiners Association Trolls, I’ve seen many of you around on these boards, anyone with common sense and who has read the studies knows that what you say although true, you are asking us to ptetend the ingredient is just as healthy as cane sugar, which its not, its genetically engineered….

    No, people WERE NOT EDUCATED ABOUT HFCS, people ARE buying it less and less now that they know the health problems it causes. Of all the testings done, NONE have come back normal or positive, so how is it that its not to blame for a majority of health problems? Yes, people need to eat more whole foods, but the point is also that whole foods are intentionally more expensive than their less natural counterparts, thus people buy them more.

    But the main thing is, people were not aware of what HFCS is, most probrably never heard of it till recently, I did not know what it was until about 3yrs ago, and since then I have made a concerted effort to avoid all and every product with HFCS, but you know what? The point is if people don’t know what it does to them, why would they avoid it? There is nothing wrong with junk food in moderation, and most people I know eat it in moderation, even most of the obese ones, I would not say HFCS is the sole cause of obesity, but it is a factor and it does process differently then regular sugar and has an adverse affect on the liver… So…

    It definitely should not be used, but neither should genetically modified sugar beets, but that is more the lesser of two evils at least. Its not naturally occurring therefor the body doesn’t know what to do with it.

  • I agree! It is interesting how they forgot to mention something very important about Mercury being added . That is part of the chemical process! WE ARE BEING POISONED. I wish the whole world would wake up.

  • great article but too bad it did not mention that many people want to avoid HFCS because it comes from genetically modified corn, a growing number of people are tired of Monsanto and don’t want to ingest their stew of DNA in every bite nor put another dollar in their pocket

  • Well stated! Although HFCS is harmful, it cannot be solely blamed for the obesity epidemic. We must not forget that, in addition to poor diet (most “poor diets” are laden with HFCS-packed foods), lack of exercise is also a significant factor. The bottom line? Let’s take an objective look at all components and re-evaluate our LIFESTYLES!!!

  • They are right. There are far too many people trying to make a living w/ books and lectures, appearing in the media to bash products and “raise awareness.” I use it by the bottle making fondant icing for cakes. Are bakers and candy makers really the ones who need to be controlled? Perhaps blame should first be sought in a mirror, or we need rules about chicken-littles and what a person can legally say in public. This campaign against food is sick and crazy. First it’s soda pop we don’t need, then candy, then what? What total failure parenting, to give them the idea it’s their right to go around f***ing with other people.

  • As someone battling obesity that began in early childhood I feel rage at corn growers trying to sweep the dangers of corn syrup under the rug. I love the clever marketing campaign, “Sweet Surprise.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gl9vZYj-aJ4 This video makes me want to slap a kitten. How can they blatantly lie and get away with it!

  • Yes, I came down with fig brain syndrome after ingesting 3 gallons of HFCS (or whatever it’s being called now) in a binge 2 years ago. And I’m starting to show signs of porcelain feet, although only in the 6th toe on my left foot at the present.

  • Gee, so then stop singling out soda for the cause of obesity, bloomy and others want to ban soda but not chocolate milkshakes or orange juice which are more expensive, ban gatorade, but wait what about vitamin water, its less tasty than soda and not good for you, then vitamins are to trick folks into thinking its healthy, but then you can’t say it has no nutritional value, although fruits have “natural” nutritional value.

  • What ever happened to eating a carrot? Guess what is in a carrot…. Carrots! No added sugar or (if purchased organically or home grown) preservatives. You buy it without reading the lable, you consume it uneducated as to the effects on your boby, you can’t complain.

  • HFCS is also associated with serious issues that don’t come with table sugar, such as potential mercury contamination

  • Obesity isn’t the only possible reason corn sweeteners are raising doubts and objections. The latest research in the following article found that a large percent of Caucasian adults and youth have fructose intolerance and get IBS from the stuff. The article mentions 8 different forms/products to avoid if you are intolerant. All of them have given me severe IBS in the past. I have to watch my labels like a hawk, and always take a magnifying glass with me grocery shopping so I can read even the tiniest print on labels. Beats me why there is such a war about food labelling, when I need it to keep my job! IBS can be so painful and relentless, I have lost jobs. Great to find out if I just eat fish, chicken, bok choi and collard greens cooked in water, the IBS goes away. Beware the corn syrup solids added to prepared meats adn many prepared foods. Here’s the article link:

    Read more at FYI Living:
    http://fyiliving.com/mental-health/relationships/parenting/could-fructose-be-causing-your-childs-tummy-aches/#ixzz1T9ximYPj

  • Don’t believe HFCS is the horrible ingredient that most people make it out to be. As the author of the article pointed out it has the same calories as table sugar. In general people are always looking for something to blame their health issues on. How many people will now be eating products which have high sugar content and no HFCS but getting the same number of unhealthy calories. This is a physiological game for sugar addicts who need to feel satisfied that there daily intake of sugar is justifiable because the products they are consuming are ladled “all natural” or “organic”. The big companies know this and will spend extra to label there products in any manner which will sell. Good eating comes from educating yourself and walking the walk not just talking the talk.

  • @hermess Unfortunately, if you take a look around the internet and research this ingredient you will find that it truly is a horrible ingredient. The process that creates HFCS opens us up to toxins like mercury. It’s not the calories that are the problem. It’s what’s inside and the process to create it. Real sugar is always better and more healthy, bar none.

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