Tidbits for Political Junkies with Short Attention Spans & Hearty Appetites


Friday, March 26, 2004

More on HFCS

My post yesterday on High Fructose Corn Syrup proved to be timelier than I had imagined. Take a look at Google News right now, and you’ll see what I mean.

The precipitating event for this minor, indeed practically unnoticed, media frenzy is the forthcoming release of a commentary from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, in which “Researchers say they've found more evidence of a link between a rapid rise in obesity and a corn product used to sweeten soft drinks and food since the 1970s.” (AP.)

We should be clear, however, that the link appears to one of correlation, rather than causality – at least that’s what I can glean so far.

The interesting part, of course, is that food industry flacks are already out trying to minimize the impact of the article, long before the rest of us can find out what it actually said. Maybe they’ve all been watching the White House out in full denial mode this week, and they just wanted to join the fun.

For example, from the same AP article, we learn that Alison Kretser, a spokeswoman for the Grocery Manufacturers of America (a group whose members include Coca Cola and Sara Lee), says that “weight gain would be a problem even if the sweetener didn't exist.”

Well yes, probably. But that doesn’t mean that it's not a big part of the problem. In fairness, it’s hard to tell yet whether the heart of the problem is fructose metabolism, or simply the fact that the stuff is so cheap that it’s become easier than ever to consume way too much of it. That jury is still out. But I suspect the truth is that it’s a little of both.

Among the odder claims is one that appears in the Washington Times, from the same Alison Kretser:

"HFCS is a blend of 42 percent fructose and 58 percent glucose. Table sugar is made of 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose," Ms. Kretser said.

Well, sort of. She makes it sound as if your sack of Dixie Crystals is a blend of little glucose granules and fructose granules, which is decidedly not the case. What she fails to point out is that table sugar is a complex sugar called sucrose, and a sucrose molecule is made up of one molecule each of glucose and fructose. Since one of the key points of contention is how the stuff is broken down in the body, it strikes me as just a tad misleading to pretend that the stuff is the same. Salt is sodium chloride, but I wouldn’t use that fact to argue that pure chlorine or pure sodium is good for you.


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