Tidbits for Political Junkies with Short Attention Spans & Hearty Appetites


Thursday, March 25, 2004


I tend to scoff at anyone who tells me what not to eat. I like bacon (especially artisanal varieties such as you might find here), I use plenty of butter, and I tend to think that few things rival the joy of a freshly shucked and carefully fried oyster. So please take my word for it when I tell you that I am not some Jane Brody-ish advocate of plain steamed vegetables or “sauce on the side” I live for the sauce.

There is, however, one substance that I do my best to avoid: High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). If you’re not familiar with its evils, you might want to look here, or better yet – get yourself a copy of Greg Critser’s excellent book, Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World. In my mind, it’s as essential and eye-opening as Eric Schlosser’s far more widely-read Fast Food Nation.

Now, a more sensible journalist would have written this post before giving away his copy of the book, so I’m working from memory here – but the upshot is very clear: HFCS is demonstrably more fattening than ordinary table sugar. There’s a study cited in the book of some 570 or so schoolchildren, whose soda-drinking habits were monitored for a period of eighteen months. Three bits of information stick in my mind: one, that soda consumption increased throughout the monitoring period; two, that each can per day correlated with a measurable increase in body mass (point one-something, I don’t recall exactly); and three, that the correlation remained constant regardless of other differences in diet or exercise. Needless to say, that last bit got my attention.

The somewhat alarming thing, of course, is that the stuff is almost impossible to avoid. I could not find an example of any mass-market soft drink, including “sports drinks,” that wasn’t loaded with the stuff. It also shows up in breads, and even healthy-sounding cereal bars.

So my diet tip of the day is this: stick with water as your daytime beverage – and consider replacing that Vodka-tonic with a bourbon-and-soda, or a sensible martini.

...further reading: Michael Pollan's outstanding piece, originally published in the New York Times Magazine, "The (Agri)cultural Contradictions of Obesity."

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