Sugar Takes On High Fructose Corn Syrup In High Stakes Legal Battle To See Which Is Most Unhealthy
March 28, 2012
By Tony Isaacs
“This is pretty funny. Evil Vs. Evil. Who will win? Maybe the judge will rule against both. One can only hope.” –KTRN
In what has all the appearances of the pot calling the kettle black, two of the unhealthiest and most widely consumed items in the American diet are headed to court to decide which one is more evil. Big Sugar is taking on Big Corn and their High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) in a landmark battle scheduled to go before a Los Angeles federal judge this week.
Sugar producers are accusing their corn industry rivals of false advertising by casting HFCS as “nutritionally the same as table sugar” and claiming that “your body can’t tell the difference.” The sugar group contends that HFCS is far less healthy than table sugar and is demanding that the Corn Refiners Association ads be halted as well as demanding payment of unspecified monetary damages.
Medical research on the metabolic effects of consuming sugar versus high fructose corn syrup has consistently indicated heightened risks from the liquid sweetener, said Michael I. Goran, director of the Child Obesity Research Center at USC’s Keck School of Medicine.
“There’s definitely a difference in metabolic fate and outcome of fructose ingestion relative to glucose,” Goran said, noting that HFCS contains more fructose, as its name implies. “So the more you tip the scale toward fructose, the more those negative effects kick in.”
A battle between unhealthy giants to see which is worse
High fructose corn syrup was invented in 1957. It took another 20 years to develop a low-cost production method for HFCS. After tariffs that drove up the cost of imported cane and beet sugars, and federal subsidies that drove down the cost of corn, HFCS usage quickly exploded. In 1972, the average American consumed about 1.2 pounds of the HFCS. By 1999, average consumption had ballooned to over 63 pounds.
The reason that food makers have flocked to HFCS in recent decades is because it is cheaper to make, helps stabilize foods, allows for better browning of baked goods and provides a more concentrated sweetness than the same amount of sugar.
In the last ten years, HFCS usage has plummeted by more than 20% as consumers have grown increasingly wary of the sweetener which has been blamed for America’s large and expanding obesity epidemic and a wide array of other health problems, including liver damage, diabetes, heart problems and even mercury consumption. About a decade ago, the surgeon general first expressed alarm over the rapid and ubiquitous spread of the sweetener in processed foods and concerns about HFCS have mounted ever since.