I think I’m going to stop writing and become a lobbyist. My first mission will be to change the term ‘cancer’ to ‘happy fun stuff.’ Seems like everybody has cancer these days and it’s quite a downer. The word comes up and the mood in the room turns gloomy. It’s no fun. Maybe if we called it something else (Happy Fun Stuff!), we’d be less bothered by the reality. “This sounds like a good thing! I like being happy! And I sure like fun stuff!” Stupid, of course. Cancer is cancer. You can’t dress it up, change the name, and fool people.
Oh, wait a minute! You can! It’s happened in our pantries, fridges, and cupboards. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is now ‘corn sugar.’ “But Mike, I eat corn. And I like sugar! What’s the big deal?”
Robert H. Lustig, MD, is a University of California, San Francisco Professor of Clinical Pediatrics (with degrees from MIT & Cornell), and his presentation, “Sugar – The Bitter Truth,” shows how HFCS is basically a poison, and, like alcohol, can cause harm with chronic exposure. You probably don’t have time to watch his 90-minute talk on YouTube (that’s this faithful writer’s gig), so I’ll give you the gist (you will miss out on awesome phrases like “multi-variant linear aggression analysis”).
Dr. Lustig explains that only our livers can metabolize HFCS and it travels through there as though it were a poison, like alcohol. HFCS then causes chronically elevated insulin levels leading to fat accumulation and such things as obesity, stroke, type-2 diabetes, liver disease, asthma, depression (mood swings, anxiety), and colon cancer. Booze without the buzz! Not like eating corn on the cob after all!
“But Mike, I can drink a few beers on the weekend or have wine with dinner and not develop these problems. So what’s the problem with HFCS? I don’t eat it all the time.”
The problem is, yes, you do. I do (did). We’ve all been eating it for many years. Here’s a little test to prove it. Wait … not a test … a fun project.
Pick out 10 random food items from your cabinets and fridge. Anything in a box, can, or bottle. Don’t think about it too much; three from here, two from there, and five from over there. Perfect. Now read all the ingredients and see how many list ‘high fructose corn syrup’ or ‘corn sugar.’ Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Hmmm hmm hmmm … do de do … La tee ta …
WOW!! Crazy, huh?? How many items? Three? Seven? Nine?!?
It’s in our bread! Our mustard! Cereals! Barbecue sauce! Pretzels! Juice boxes, snack mixes, salad dressings, crackers, sports drinks. And the list goes on! I couldn’t believe the bread crumbs I purchased had HFCS! I was expecting two ingredients: bread and crumbs. Consider that most fast food choices contain it and we can see how it’s affecting our kids diets big time as well.
Avoiding HFCS isn’t so easy because it’s everywhere. And now it’s hidden as ‘corn sugar.’ Plenty of ‘natural,’ ‘low sugar,’ and ‘diet’ products contain it. When I drink a beer I know I’m drinking a beer and having 12 in one day isn’t a great idea for many reasons. But when I’m ingesting HFCS, or my kids are, I don’t realize it and that becomes the problem. We Americans consume on average over SIXTY POUNDS of HFCS per person per year! It would be nice to know when we’re doing it.
The Corn Refiner’s Association has lobbied, successfully, to change the dirty HFCS name to ‘corn sugar,’ which the FDA claims to “enable consumer’s to easily identify added sugars in the diet.”’ I’m not an MD, but I know when I’m being hustled. Once we consumers found out that HFCS was to be avoided, or at least controlled, they changed the name! Fool me once …
Dr. Stephen W. Ponder of the Children’s Diabetes & Endochrine Center at Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas calls type-2 diabetes the ‘family disease of the 21st century.’ He also makes the connection between the out of control childhood obesity rate of the last 30 years with the arrival of HFCS on supermarket shelves in 1975. Our vehicles have gotten bigger as well during the same time period to make room for those SUV-sized fast food sandwiches and their ‘little’ consumers.
Dr. Ponder explains that our food system has become convenient, pre-packaged, engineered to be tasty, enriched, refined, and, most of all, CHEAP! Better food requires more prep time, may be harder to find (especially in poorer neighborhoods), and can be more expensive than energy-dense processed foods. The young are falling victim to HFCS.
Once again we see that looking for one label, ORGANIC, means no HFCS, and no corn sugar. Call it any name you like, even Happy Fun Stuff; it’s not good for you or your children. We don’t want them to be children of the corn syrup, now we don’t want them to be children of the corn sugar.
Maybe I’ll just change my title from ‘Writer’ to ‘All-Around Good Guy and Organic Lobbyist.’ Full disclosure.