Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Sticky Mess

I originally posted this on my new blog, but I decided that it would be better suited for my personal blog since it was about a school assignment, so I’m switching its location.

Last semester I took both Composition 1 and Composition 2 in the same time it would normally take one to complete just one composition course. At the end of Comp 2 we were to have completed a 7 page research paper on any topic. The catch was, it had to be a debatable, controversial topic.

I thought long and hard about it. I had briefly considered writing about abortion or gay marriage, but I decided against it, because my main argument against them is biblical, and we were to use at least eight sources. Plus I didn't want to get into something that would be an extremely "Toxic Topic" as they were called in my speech class. Other members of my class did choose those very topics, and they came off sounding very high and mighty. "I'm right, you're wrong, and there's no two ways about it."

I needed something I could really get behind, but I didn't want it to be something that was an entirely moral issue. I wanted it to be a fair and balanced research paper, and I didn't want to come off sounding like I was giving a lecture or a sermon on how one should live their life. It’s far too easy to sound preachy when you start discussing topics of morality.

Finally I had an solid idea. Something that has bugged me for years. High Fructose Corn Syrup. It is becoming more and more well known how bad this stuff is for you, yet it is still widely used and promoted as safe by the corn refining industry. I decided that this was the perfect topic for me. I would expose the truth behind deception. The corn refiners wouldn't know what hit them. If they ever read it that is, and I doubt they ever will.

After I finished, I figured I had put too much time and effort into this paper for only my teacher and classmates to get to read it, so I decided to post it here for the world to see. I will even include my sources at the end of the paper if anyone wants to follow the links and find out more.


High Fructose Corn Syrup: A Sticky Mess

By Jonathan North

High fructose corn syrup is a sweetener that has quietly been replacing sugar in almost everything you buy at the store. This is a very serious problem because recent research has suggested that it is far worse for you than sugar. High fructose corn syrup is quite likely the main reason behind the obesity epidemic that is slowly eroding the health of our nation’s citizens.

I had always assumed that high fructose corn syrup was the same product that my family poured on my mom’s homemade corn bread, Karo brand Corn Syrup. I was quite mistaken. According to Karo’s own website, it is a completely different product than the corn syrup that one can purchase at the grocery store. Karo was introduced in 1902. High fructose corn syrup came onto the scene around 70 years later. True corn syrup is only mildly sweet, and would not be an acceptable replacement for sugar.

Through their website,, corn refiners have been promoting the claim that high fructose corn syrup is a natural product. They make this claim based solely on the fact that they begin the manufacturing process with corn. Contrary to their claims, high fructose corn syrup is NOT a natural product. High fructose corn syrup does not come from corn in the same way that sugar comes from sugar cane. The process is so complicated that I am not even going to attempt to give an explanation of it on my own. The following is a direct quote from an article by Steve Gardner from The Center for Science in the Public Interest.

“It may sound as though HFCS comes from corn in the same way sugar comes from sugar cane or sugar beets. Not so. HFCS is created by a complex industrial process performed in refineries using centrifuges, hydroclones, ion-exchange columns, backed-bed reactors, and other high-tech equipment. Starch is extracted from corn and then converted by acids or enzymes to glucose. Then, some of the glucose is further converted by enzymes into fructose. HFCS has only been widely used in food since the 1980s.

The fact that chemical bonds are broken and rearranged in their production disqualifies them from being called “natural.” For instance, although a scientist might be able to produce sugar by rearranging the molecules of any number of things that contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, the result would not be “natural” sugar.”

Companies began using high fructose corn syrup in their products in the early 1970s. The main reason they made the switch from sugar to high fructose corn syrup was cost. It is much cheaper to use high fructose corn syrup than it is to use regular table sugar. (Lempert, Phil supermarketguru)

Most people would think that there is nothing wrong with eating high fructose corn syrup. After all, it is made from corn. Until I began to hear about all the different research being done on it, I myself thought nothing of it. To me it was no different than eating sugar. I was wrong.

Nutritionally sugar and high fructose corn syrup are very similar. The difference is, high fructose corn syrup is 55% fructose, while sugar is 50%. A very small difference, yes, but consider this. That is a 10% difference in your caloric intake. (Scheve, Tom recipes.howstuffworks) If you were to examine the ingredient labels on every kind of food you have in your pantry you would find that high fructose corn syrup in on over 40% of those labels. (Bray, George A, Samara Joy Nielsen, and Barry M Popkin American Journal of Clinical Nutrition) And aside from a few special cases such as Pepsi Throwback, high fructose corn syrup is the only sweetener used in non-diet soft drinks in America. Consider these factors when thinking about that 10% difference. With so many different foods containing high fructose corn syrup, those few extra calories really start adding up.

Some argue that just because it has a few more calories that does not make it worse for you than sugar. There is so far no definitive proof whether it is better or worse than sugar, but there have been quite a few studies done in recent years that point to it as being worse.

Since the 1980’s the rate of obesity in America has steadily been climbing. (Scheve, Tom recipes.howstuffworks) If you recall, this was not long after high fructose corn syrup was introduced into many commercially produced food products. Researchers have been tracking the rate of obesity along with the consumption of high fructose corn syrup and there appears to be a very strong correlation. (Bray, George A, Samara Joy Nielsen, and Barry M Popkin American Journal of Clinical Nutrition)

In a study done by researchers at Princeton University Rats were given water sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. A second group was given water sweetened with just plain table sugar. The end results was that the rats from the group given high fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than the rats that had been fed plain sugar.

According to Maura Judkis of U.S. News, in yet another study, High fructose corn syrup was found to contain trace amounts of mercury. In testing a variety of different products that all contained High Fructose Corn Syrup, David Wallinga, M.D. discovered small amounts of mercury in a large percentage of them. As is to be expected, The Corn Refiners Association is disputing these results, but a watchdog group who performed their own study came up with similar results. If this is true there are many name brands that have been found to be infected including Hershey's, Quaker, Hunt's, Manwich, Smucker's, Kraft, Nutri-Grain, and Yoplait. How many more that weren’t tested could be affected?

Considering everything that I have discussed so far, it seems evident that even if high fructose corn syrup is not the cause of obesity, it is at least a very heavy contributor.

Obesity is not the only major health problem that has been linked to high fructose corn syrup. The rising numbers of cases of diabetes has also been shown to mirror the consumption of high fructose corn syrup. Consider also this quote from

“Researchers have found new evidence that soft drinks sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) may contribute to the development of diabetes, particularly in children. In a laboratory study of commonly consumed carbonated beverages, the scientists found that drinks containing the syrup had high levels of reactive compounds that have been shown by others to have the potential to trigger cell and tissue damage that could cause the disease, which is at epidemic levels.”

By now I’m sure you are asking yourself, if high fructose corn syrup is so bad, why is it used in so many products in the United States? The answer comes back to what is frequently pointed out as the root of all evil. Money. It is far cheaper for companies to use high fructose corn syrup than sugar.

Daniel Engber, senior editor of, reports that the Corn Refiners Association has launched a 30 million dollar campaign to counter what they call the “Misinformation” that surrounds high fructose corn syrup. With so much to lose if the general public were to stop all consumption of their product, corn refiners are desperate to keep consumers from giving up products that contain high fructose corn syrup. According to Phil Lempert, the Corn Refiners Association insists that all studies that have been done on high fructose corn syrup are flawed.

Recently the corn refiners launched a website called Sweet Surprise, in which they claim that it is fine to eat any food, no matter how unhealthy, as long as you eat it in moderation. They also make the claim that there is nothing wrong with eating foods containing high fructose corn syrup, because the FDA has approved it as safe for human consumption. Bill Sertl of the website Slashfood rightly points out that the FDA also approved margarine as safe for human consumption. Margarine is now known to be filled with dangerous Trans fats, so just because the government has proclaimed something as “Safe for human consumption” does not mean that it is something that consumers should blindly accept as having nothing wrong with it. In some cultures it is considered perfectly acceptable to eat beetles, worms, rats, and other creatures that we know could potentially be dangerous to our health, or at the very least, extremely unsanitary. The people who eat these things would tell you that these animals are “Safe for human consumption.” Based on this claim alone, would you automatically add rat steaks, and beetle pate’ to your diet?

Sweet Surprise’s facts may be partially true, but they do nothing to counter the serious claims that have been leveled against their product. If it is truly safe to eat high fructose corn syrup without suffering any ill effects, the Corn Refiners Association should be sponsoring their own studies to prove this, instead of making claims that are impossible to prove.

Vanessa Druckman, editor of Technorati Women, recently wrote that the Iowa Corn Growers Association has recently begun targeting “Mommy Bloggers” in an attempt to use them as mouthpieces in support of high fructose corn syrup. She says that she was one of seven bloggers invited to a two day event filled with corn themed activities and meetings with farmers. The main goal of the meeting was to get the bloggers to spread the word that there is no difference between sugar and high fructose corn syrup. This is because the corn refiners have begun to petition the FDA for the right to change the name of high fructose corn syrup to the much more pleasant sounding “Corn Sugar”. If they are successful, the people who may be trying to avoid high fructose corn syrup would not know that the products that now say they contain corn sugar, actually have high fructose corn syrup in them.

Sarah Skidmore of the Huffington Post, Huffpost Food section, reports that the sugar industry has filed a lawsuit against the corn refiners responsible for the advertisement campaigns and the attempt to change the name of high fructose corn syrup to corn sugar. The Western Sugar Cooperative, Michigan Sugar Co. and C&H Sugar Company Inc. have all joined forces to ask the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles to put a stop to the campaign by the corn industry, marketing high-fructose corn syrup as a natural product that is equivalent to sugar. The corn industry, of course claims that the lawsuit is meritless, but 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."

So what now? Is there anything that can be done to save our country from this threat to not just its citizen’s waistlines, but their overall good health in general? At the moment, there is no real solution, other than the personal approach. Americans just need to be informed about what they are putting into their bodies, so that they can make smart choices when they traverse the isles of their grocery stores. There are so many products that contain high fructose corn syrup that it is very hard to do this, but there is a glimmer of hope. Companies are slowly but surely becoming aware of the dangers posed by high fructose corn syrup. Some companies, like Pepsi, have begun offering alternative versions of their products. Pepsi recently went back to their pre-1970’s recipe for both Pepsi cola and Mountain Dew, selling them as “Throwback” versions of their most popular beverages. These drinks contain real sugar and no high fructose corn syrup. Other products have completely given up using high fructose corn syrup, while others who have always used sugar now announce boldly on their labels that they do not contain any high fructose corn syrup.

If you have been suffering from obesity, and just can’t seem to lose the extra pounds, consider removing high fructose corn syrup from your diet. It is hard, but not impossible. With vigilance it is possible to avoid it, and as time goes on it will become easier to find healthy alternatives.

And my sources for the paper are as follows, in MLA format. :)

Parker, Hilary. “A sweet problem: Princeton researchers find that high-fructose corn syrup prompts considerably more weight gain.” News at Princeton. 22 March 2010. Princeton University. 2 April 2011 <>

The Corn Refiners Association Sweet Surprise. 2 April 2011 <>

Lempert, Phil. “Why critics say HFCS is a four letter word...that goes right to our waistlines.” Phil Lempert Supermarket Guru. 20 Sep. 2003. Phil Lempert/Consumer Insight, Inc. 2 April 2011 <>

Engber, Daniel. “Dark Sugar The decline and fall of high-fructose corn syrup.” Slate. 28 April 2009. The Slate Group, LLC. 2 April 2011 <>

Bray, George A., Samara Joy Nielsen, and Barry M Popkin. “Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. April 2004. American Society for Nutrition. 2 April 2011 <>

Gardner, Steve. “CSPI’s Litigation Project Forces Change By Two Major Food Companies.” Public Citizen. 14 Jan. 2007. Public Citizen's Consumer Justice Project. 2 April 2011 <>

“Soda Warning? High-Fructose Corn Syrup Linked To Diabetes, New Study Suggests.” ScienceDaily. 23 Aug. 2007. 2 April 2011 <>

Druckman, Vanessa. “Why We Should Celebrate the Corn Sugar Bloggers.” Technorati. 20 Oct. 2010. 2 April 2011 <>

Scheve, Tom. “How bad for you is high-fructose corn syrup?” TLC. Discovery Communications, LLC. 2 April 2011 <>

Arch Food Companies, Karo Syrup. 8 May 2011 <>

Judkis, Maura. “Mercury Found in High Fructose Corn Syrup” U.S. News. 28 Jan. 2009. U.S.News & World Report. 8 May 2011 <>

Sertl, Bill. “SNL's High-Fructose Corn Syrup Spoof Hits a Nerve” Slashfood. 14 Mar. 2011. AOL Inc. 8 May 2011 <>

Skidmore, Sarah. “'Corn Sugar' Rebranding Sparks Lawsuit: Sugar Farmers Sue Corn Processors” Huffpost Food. 28 Apr. 2011 The Inc. 8 May 2011 <>

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