Monsanto, Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, Syngenta, Dow, Dupont, and Bayer Cropscience are all producers or giant users of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Some of them are suing a sugar industry trade group for saying hurtful things about them and their products.
These are the same tactics the fledgling agribusiness used in defending the tobacco industry's 1950s' claims that smoking unfiltered Lucky Strike cigarettes would cure a cough.
The HFCS industry was outraged last May when the FDA turned down their request to call their product "corn sugar," saying that first of all it was a syrup not a sugar at all and secondly, the term "corn sugar" was patented 30 years ago by the dextrose industry. It might have been the last straw for Audrae Erikson, former president of the Corn Refiners Association who resigned last month.
Audrae was a great shill for the corn industry, combing the Internet for anyone with a negative comment. A few years ago I wrote a column questioning the health benefits of HCFS and got a 500 politely worded email explaining that her scientists could beat up not only my scientists, but me too, if I continued with the error of my ways. Oh yes, she added that I was stupid and pig-headed, softening the tone by using scientific terms.
Audrae may have jumped a sinking ship. There's growing science and a serious possibility that HCFS is at the root of not one, but two nation-wide epidemics that each promise to dwarf the lies and damage done to the nation's health by the tobacco industry.
Back in 1977, thanks mainly to the corn lobby, tariffs and quotas were placed on American sugar production. The result is that sugar in America costs twice what it does in Europe. Through a tortured, expensive process, HCFS comes out cheaper than sugar and in many industries, has replaced it.
More and more science is linking HFCS to the growing national rate of obesity. Obesity rates had remained stable for several generations, then began spiking about 30 years ago. Three out of 10 Americans are obese today and the fourth is gaining on them quickly. It just might not be a coincidence that Coke and Pepsi among others switched from sugar to HFCS around 1985 and HCFS began to flood the market, appearing in places where even real sugar had never dared to go.
Glucose and fructose are very similar molecules, but fructose prompts the pancreas to produce less insulin than glucose. Insulin is the chemical that tells us when we're full and produces that satisfied feeling after a meal. It also lowers the reward we get from eating past that satisfied point. Another hormone produced in the stomach is ghrelin. It tells us when we're hungry. Glucose reduces ghrelin levels in the body, fructose hardly at all. Fructose makes the body feel like it needs more food, all the time.
It just gets worse. Insulin regulates the body's metabolism, allowing cells in the liver, muscles and fat tissue to absorb excess glucose out of the blood stream. Excess glucose causes the toxicity of untreated diabetes.
Obesity and diabetes may someday be laid to rest and it might just be as simple as banning high fructose corn syrup.
Forgive me Audrae!