Drama Trumps Data in Corn Sugar Debate
Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that getting people’s attention requires a bit of theatrics. Case in point, the unscientific demonizing of sugar produced from corn.
Being an American corn farmer, I am proud of the products I help bring to market. I know corn to be a natural, wholesome and useful grain. It is key to feeding a growing world population, supplying our nation with renewable fuel and keeping our rural economy strong. I like to think of myself as a reasonable person capable of overriding emotion with good common sense. It is because of my understanding of what makes sense that I am dismayed by activists, lawyers, marketers and non-scientists who wish to misinform the public and categorize high fructose corn syrup as a risk-related product.
Foremost among the misconstrued messages being fed to the public is that HFCS is bad for your health. It has been erroneously blamed as the cause of obesity (as if it causes people to make poor diet decisions!), inhibit the body’s feeling of fullness and mess with the liver.
HFCS is a commercially produced sweetener that contains fructose and glucose in about equal parts, just like cane sugar. Scientific studies continue to confirm that HFCS metabolizes the same and has the same nutritional value. However, many consumers are understandably confused by the term HFCS. Last month, the Corn Refiners Association decided it was time to take action on current labeling practices and petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to allow manufactures to use a clearer and more straight forward alternative, “corn sugar,” a name that more accurately describes the ingredient.
There is no direct correlation between the increased use of HFCS and obesity rates. Yes, obesity and the use of corn sugar have risen in the United States at the same time, but this does not mean one caused the other. We could just as easily show that video games produce obesity.
HFCS does not hinder the body’s hunger and fullness responses. HFCS has both glucose and fructose, and there have been multiple science-based peer-reviewed studies that show there is no difference in either hunger or full responses between sucrose and corn sugar. HFCS is no different than sucrose when metabolized in the body. Sucrose is broken down into glucose and fructose in the stomach and small intestine, and from there it’s absorbed. Fructose makes its way to the liver, and it doesn’t matter where it originally came from.
It is no surprise that negative or controversial messages are more memorable than positive ones. Food activists use emotional triggers to reach the brain faster than rational thoughts, and it works. They bank on their hope that the general public will take the easy way out and just rely on emotions. However, I think the more people realize that the HFCS Chicken Littles are just pushing the right buttons, the more they will learn the real truth and science behind corn sugar.
Sugar is sugar, whether it comes from corn, fruit, cane, honey, milk or vegetables. To prevent obesity one must balance one’s calories consumed with calories burned. So be healthy, happy and well informed. And enjoy all that’s sweet about life.
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