Corn Syrup: 15 Minutes of Blame?

How did we ever live without high fructose corn syrup? Before the corn industry created this corn starch-based sweetener back in the 1970's, food manufacturers had to rely on plain old ordinary sugar to sweeten their products.

But corn syrup is cheaper than sugar, thanks largely to USDA farm subsidies, so the food industry ditched the sugar for the syrup. The USDA's own figures show that our consumption of high fructose corn syrup has risen 250 percent in the past fifteen years, with a corresponding decline in sugar consumption.

Our weight has shot up, too; cause and effect? Is excess consumption of high fructose corn syrup partly to blame for the obesity epidemic? High fructose corn syrup is also associated with a higher risk of diabetes, according to an analysis of agriculture records in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Some studies have suggested that sodas sweetened with high fructose corn syrup fail to signal our bodies when we're full, possibly even stimulating our appetite, and other studies indicate that our bodies process high fructose corn syrup in a way that leads to greater fat storage as well.

High fructose corn syrup gets added to nearly everything we eat these days. You'd expect to find sweeteners in cakes, cookies, and soda, but high fructose corn syrup also turns up in breads, crackers, hot dogs, pasta sauce, ketchup, frozen dinners and even dog food.

In 1970, Americans consumed about half a pound of high fructose corn syrup per year. By 1997, we ate, on average, 62.5 pounds of high fructose corn syrup a year. That's more than a pound a week! And that was more than ten years ago; if anything, we currently consume even more high fructose corn syrup.

High fructose corn syrup is clearly a boon to manufacturers because it's a cheap way to sweeten their products. It's an industrial ingredient. Nobody cooks with it at home, because you can't find it in the sweetener aisle at the supermarket, even if you wanted to. And who would want to?

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