The latest in the sugar wars

Did you start your morning with a little high fructose corn syrup? If not, better hurry because soon you may need to settle for that old fashioned substance called cane sugar. 

Sarah Gilbert has a piece in Daily Finance about the latest in the battle over high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). For a long time, manufacturers of soda and processed food insisted HFCS was the same as sugar. But evidence is slowly mounting that shows HFCS may not have the same effects as sugar after all:

New findings published this month in the journal Cancer Research by University of California Los Angeles researchers could further sour the public’s sentiment toward the super-sweet, super-cheap syrup and reduce its use even further. HFCS is 55% fructose and 42% glucose. The study found that pancreatic tumor cells metabolized fructose differently than glucose and that the cancer cells “readily metabolized fructose to increase proliferation.” In other words, as the headline reads, “Cancer cells slurp up fructose.”

As Gilbert points out, this flies in the face of the Corn Refiner’s Association, which came out in 2008 with ads criticizing consumers’ weariness of HFCS. And no wonder — the Corn Refiner’s Association has a lot to lose. Corn subsidies totaled $73.8 billion from 1995 to 2009, according to Glibert’s article.

But change is around the corner. Brands like Hunt’s, Gatorade, and Starbucks are reformulating some of their products and more will follow. It will just take some time:

…Switching away from corn sweeteners won’t be easy. Cheap corn is, after all, the basis of many processed foods. It’s not just the HFCS, of course. Corn is the source of oil for salad dressing and frying, of coloring for sodas, juices and yogurts, of livestock feed that makes $1 hamburgers possible.

“Over time, consumers will change their diets as they are taught the real cost of food,” Shanahan says.


Zoe Romanowsky is writer, consultant, and coach. Her articles have appeared in "Catholic Digest," "Faith & Family," "National Catholic Register," "Our Sunday Visitor," "Urbanite," "Baltimore Eats," and Zo

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