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Corn Refiners Association Ad Aims to Capitalize on Consumer Ignorance

Posted Mar 29 2010 12:00am

In September 2008, the Corn Refiners Association launched a series of United States television advertisements that make the following claims about High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) in an attempt to keep consumers from boycotting their product:

  • HFCS is made from corn
  • HFCS is natural (changed from previously-stated: doesn’t have artificial ingredients)
  • HFCS has the same calories as sugar or honey
  • HFCS is nutritionally the same as sugar
  • HFCS is fine in moderation

The following advertisement has been recently televised and caught my attention with their tactic to play on consumers’ lack of knowledge about the science behind their product. The Ad portrays those, who actually consider what they put in their mouths, to look ridiculous for thinking that HFCS is not a health food.

Whether we like the Ad, or even the product, HFCS has certainly found an abundant presence in American products.

Corn syrup is processed to convert its glucose into fructose, then it is mixed with pure corn syrup (100% glucose) to produce the desired sweetness. Keywords here are “processed” and “sweetness.”

In 1977, a system of sugar tariffs and sugar quotas imposed in the U.S. significantly increased the cost of imported sugar and U.S. producers sought cheaper sources. High-fructose corn syrup, derived from corn, is more economical because the domestic U.S. and Canadian prices of sugar are twice the global price, and the price of corn is kept low through government subsidies paid to growers. Since the mid 1990s, the United States federal government has subsidized corn growers by $40 billion.

HFCS is also easier to blend and transport because it is a liquid. So corn is a cheap, abundant, convenient crop making it the ideal sweetener in a nation where we drink sugar like it’s water – literally! As a result, HFCS was rapidly introduced to many processed foods and soft drinks in the U.S. from about 1975 to 1985.

Today, HFCS remains an extremely common sweetener and preservative in processed foods, baked goods, and sweet beverages such as soda and juice.

So what is all the fuss about? One concern is found in a March 18, 2010 press release entitled “ High Fructose Corn Syrup Linked to Liver Scarring ” issued by Duke University. The Corn Refiners Association addresses this claim on their website by stating, “Duke University incorrectly singled out high fructose corn syrup as being responsible for scarring in the liver and other liver diseases, when the underlying study for the release reviewed dietary intake of fructose containing beverages – not high fructose corn syrup.”

In another common quarrel, critics call HFCS a toxic chemical concoction which contributes to weight gain by affecting normal appetite functions. Others dispute these claims and maintain that HFCS is comparable to table sugar.

Studies by The American Medical Association suggest it appears unlikely that HFCS contributes more to obesity or other conditions than sucrose, but calls for further independent research on the subject.

As far as I’m concerned these nitty gritty details are not the big issue. We know that HFCS is a highly processed additive and sweetener that our body does not require to function. In fact, our bodies would function much more efficiently if we’d drastically reduce processed foods and sweeteners in our diet. Even if a product comes from a natural source, such as corn or honey, that doesn’t mean it is good for us – especially not in excessive amounts.

Dr. Neal Barnard , a clinical researcher, author, and health advocate who specializes in diabetes research recently spoke at the American Dietetic Association’s Food and Nutrition Conference Expo . He mentioned that American’s are eating about 30 pounds more total sugar than they did 40 years ago with the largest increase seen in HFCS. Meanwhile, the prevalence of type 2 Diabetes is increasing rapidly in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control , one in three children born in 2000 will get type 2 diabetes.

If we, as a nation, intend to reduce the growing epidemic of diseases, such as Diabetes, we must not focus on how much of one type of sugar we are ingesting – we must focus on the overall nutrient content of foods eaten daily. We must get away from the synthetic food substances, and get back to basic plant foods that have been consumed for thousands of years.

Scouring the grocery store for soda made from cane sugar instead of HFCS is NOT the answer. All sugar has 15 calories in 1 teaspoon, and too much is detrimental to our health!

Instead make your life a lot easier and healthier by avoiding processed foods and dramatically increasing your consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Other steps to take include:

  • Replacing sweetened beverages with water
  • Make freshly squeezed fruit juice from real fruit
  • Replace desserts with fresh or frozen fruit smoothies, or frozen fruit whips

Educate yourself so you become a knowledgeable consumer who knows what they are ingesting, rather than depending on biased television Ads to influence your thoughts and behavior. I guarantee The Corn Refiners Association will not be there to help pay your medical bills if you become one of the 23.5 million Americans (age 20 years or older in 2007) with Type 2 Diabetes.

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