The group is spending $20 million to $30 million on the campaign, including running full-page ads in more than a dozen major newspapers, claiming that the product is no worse for you than sugar. The ad, which features a stalk of corn, carries the headline: 'And Now a Little Food for Thought.'
The Corn Refiners Association "has been trying to counter the bad publicity around HFCS since 2004," but concluded it "could no longer afford to rely on simple grass-roots marketing tactics such as talking with nutritionists and doctors."
Meanwhile, in June a nearly $5 billion merger of Corn Products International and Bunge Ltd. signaled that corn manufacturers mean business. Revenues were expected to increase 29 percent in 2008 to reach $4 billion. If you come across one of these ads in your local paper, now you’ll know better. HFCS is finally getting the reputation it deserves, and although most processed foods and sodas still contain it, even companies like Kraft are now touting foods that are HFCS-free.
Not surprisingly, the Corn Refiners Association is running these ads in response to the increasing public perception of the dangers of HFCS.
In a sense, it’s a good thing because it means the word is out about just how bad HFCS really is. On the other hand, most people are not as in-tune to the real motives of these associations as you are. Hopefully we can get the word out about what these ads are really about: money.
Since the 1970s, the consumption of HFCS in the United States has skyrocketed. Consumption of beverages containing fructose alone rose 135 percent between 1977 and 2001. That is until about 2003. According to the Corn Refiners Association statistics, the per capita consumption in the United States actually went down from 2 ounces daily in 2000 to 1.8 ounces a day in 2005. Please don’t misconstrue; this is still far too much corn syrup to be consuming in a day. But the trend is declining for the first time in over three decades. That’s a really good sign for the health of the community, but a bad one for the financial health of the companies that sell HFCS.
“And Now a Little Food for Thought”
If you see this headline from the Corn Growers Association, it will be intended to make you think HFCS is good for you. Well, I’d like to give you a little food for thought of my own.
Part of what makes HFCS such an unhealthy product is that it is metabolized to fat in your body far more rapidly than any other sugar, and, because most fructose is consumed in liquid form (soda), its negative metabolic effects are significantly magnified.
- Metabolic Syndrome
- An increase in triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels
- Liver disease
To add even more fuel to the fire, HFCS is almost always made from genetically modified corn, which is fraught with its own well documented side effects and health concerns.
GMO corn will radically increase your risk of developing corn food allergies. You can bet dimes to dollars on this one and become very wealthy if someone is crazy enough to disagree with you and take you up on this bet.
The problem with corn allergies are that once you have a corn allergy from GMO corn you will have an allergy to even healthy organic corn products.
On top of that, if you read through the Organic Consumers Association article linked to above, you get a feel for just how bad corn crops are for your waistline and the environment. On average, Americans eat over 14 tablespoons of sugar every day, and a growing portion of that is in the form of corn syrup. Aside from contributing to obesity, the more than 76 million acres of corn grown each year in the United States is hurting the land. Each year:
- Corn crops are sprayed with 162 million pounds of chemical pesticides
- Producing, packaging and transporting these pesticides contributes nearly 3 billion pounds of greenhouse gases to the environment each year
- About 18 billion pounds of synthetic fertilizers are used on corn crops every year, contributing 35 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions
The Corn Growers Association wants you to believe that HFCS has the "same natural sweeteners as table sugar and honey." But don’t fall for it. HFCS is highly processed and does not exist anywhere in nature.
The good news is that avoiding the largest source of HFCS, soda, is one of the easiest things you can do to improve your health. Right off the bat, you can eliminate all soda and sugary drinks from your life.
This dangerous sweetener is also in many processed foods and fruit juices, so to avoid it completely you need to focus your diet on whole foods. And if you do purchase any processed foods, make sure you read the label … and put it back on the shelf if it lists high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient.
However, like most areas in life, you want to choose your poisons carefully. I spent several years researching artificial sweeteners for my book Sweet Deception. Even though HFCS is clearly something you want to avoid, it is not as bad as artificial sweeteners, which damage your health even more rapidly than HFCS.
So ideally avoid ALL sodas, but if you have a choice between soda sweetened with HFCS or artificial sweeteners, choose HFCS. The best and safest sweetener (although illegal to use according to the FDA) would be the herb Stevia.