HFCS is Worse than Sugar: Drop that Soda!

In a new study published by a Princeton research team, researchers conclude that high-fructose corn syrup causes more significant weight gain than similar amounts of table sugar (Interview here, more commentary here).  Indeed

A Princeton University research team has demonstrated that all sweeteners are not equal when it comes to weight gain: Rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same.

In addition to causing significant weight gain in lab animals, long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup also led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen, and a rise in circulating blood fats called triglycerides. The researchers say the work sheds light on the factors contributing to obesity trends in the United States.

“Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn’t true, at least under the conditions of our tests,” said psychology professor Bart Hoebel, who specializes in the neuroscience of appetite, weight and sugar addiction. “When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they’re becoming obese — every single one, across the board. Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don’t see this; they don’t all gain extra weight.” [Emphasis added.]

Americans have been subjected to a bombardment of corn-syrup laden products for nearly 30 years.  None of this is exactly news – go pick up copies of anything written by Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, Alice Waters, or Eric Schlosser and HFCS along with corn subsidies are public-enemy number one.

What’s important here is that we’re starting to see scientific tests prove what many of us had only suspected for awhile now: the fructose in HFCS affects bodies differently than does the sucrose and fructose in table sugar.  We should, of course, be eating less sugar on the whole, but if you’re going to intake a type of sweetener, it shouldn’t be HFCS.

The larger question is whether this will matter much to American corn subsidies and the next round of the Farm Bill? If American citizens begin to reject the ubiquity of corn in all of our foods, might there be a political sea-change on the horizon for American farmers?

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7 thoughts on “HFCS is Worse than Sugar: Drop that Soda!

  1. I find this all interesting since when you chemically break down HFCS, cane sugar and beet sugar they are all made out of the same stuff. I do agree you should drop the soda.

    • The scientists in the article claim that, while they are made of the same stuff chemically, the way fructose exists in the HFCS molecules is different than cane/beet sugar. The human body cannot digest HFCS the same way, so it adds more fat than other sugars would.

  2. When you talk corn subsidies you are talking something that has been in the past for many years. Most of the money for the “Farm bill” goes to the food stamp program. About half of what is left goes to forestry. What does make it to rural land owners is mostly for programs to promote clean water and wildlife habitat. Farmers no longer get paid to either plant or not plant corn or any other crop.
    As far as corn in all of our foods, you need to check on data from someone who is not trying to scare the American people. The largest user of corn grain is the livestock industry. What little corn that makes into your diet has been dramatically changed into elements that are used in baking or drinks. Still, drop that soda even if it no longer contains corn.

    • The stats I have seen show that direct subsidy payments for corn (2007) were ~$2.04 billion – a hefty sum! While you’re right that most corn grown in the U.S. is for livestock (which is a questionable environmental choice at best) – we are still secondary consumers of that corn via the meat we eat, and of course the HFCS the livestock corn is turned into as well.

  3. Ah, $2.4 billion, spread across how many acres and how many farms. If I got all of that it would make a difference. I’m paid about $10 per corn acre to help “keep corn prices up.” That makes it about 6 cents per bushel. I really don’t need it. I can make a living without it. It’s about 1 percent of my gross profit. I really don’t understand their formula or why I get it, but it seems to be a fact of doing business here in America.
    The problem is that the government feels sorry for us here, since they are giving so much money to oil companies, chemical companies, car companies, banks and so many more. What they give to those folks is so much more. Let’s cut out subsidies to all of those companies first.

  4. OK, so $2.4 billion is a hefty sum, but peanuts in the great government budget. I just spent some time reading the USDA’s budget (I hate Budgets) and found that the food stamp program budget for the same year was $34.79 billion out of a total budget of $92.8 billion.
    For 2009 we had a budget of $3,133.2 billion for the US government. Social security used $700 billion, Health and Human services used $739 billion, the military used $656 billion, The total department of Agriculture had a budget of $100.5 billion. For all of that I’d say $2.4 billion is a bit low to ensure we have corn to feed raw materials into our industry and livestock.

  5. Subsidies to farmers have clearly had an effect: http://artsci.wustl.edu/~anthro/articles/09harvest.html. This is so even though 71% of corn subsidies go to the top 10% of growers. http://farm.ewg.org/farm/progdetail.php?fips=00000&progcode=corn&page=conc

    The pattern of subsidies is directly linked to how much corn, soy, wheat, and cotton are grown in the U.S. This has had a direct relationship to the dropping price of sugary products and cheap fats/oils, and the rising price of vegetables and healthy foods: http://www.iatp.org/iatp/factsheets.cfm?accountID=258&refID=89968.

    While I agree that cutting out the fat in many parts of the economy is necessary, ending subsidies to giant agribusiness may be the healthiest thing we could do for our own diets.

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