Food nannies fail math in effort to blame obesity on high fructose corn syrup

The food nannies at Citizens for Health (And who are the Citizens Against Health) stated today:

Statistics released by the United States Department of Agriculture show that per capita consumption of natural sugar has dropped significantly in the last 40 years, from almost 100 pounds per person in 1968, to less than 67 pounds per person in 2011, while the nation’s obesity rate has risen dramatically in the same time period.

“Real sugar has been in our food supply for over a hundred years, suggesting that something other than sugar consumption is behind this recent jump in obesity,” said Jim Turner, chair of the consumer advocacy group Citizens for Health…

In 1970, per capita consumption of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) was less than one pound per year. By 1980 it had reached 19 pounds per person per year, and by 1999 the average American consumed close to 64 pounds of the industrial sweetener. A cheap substitute for real sugar (real sugar is made from sugar cane or sugar beets), High Fructose Corn Syrup is chemically derived from an intensive enzyme process. It can be found in thousands of supermarket products and in almost every major soda and sports drink brand. The Corn Refiners Association reported that 19 billion pounds of the man-made sweetener was shipped in 2011.

So in 1968, Americans consumed 100 lbs. of sugar on average. Now they’re eating less sugar (only 67 lbs.) but have added about 64 Lbs. of HFCS — or 131 lbs. of total added sweetener.

But of course, by weight, HFCS has about 47% of the calories of sugar. So on a sugar-equivalency basis, Americans are only eating 97 pounds of added sweetener (67 lbs. of sugar and 30 lbs. of sugar-equivalent from HFCS).

So how does eating less sweetener lead to an obesity epidemic?

Read the Citizen Health media release.

15 thoughts on “Food nannies fail math in effort to blame obesity on high fructose corn syrup”

  1. Despite attempts to link High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) to obesity, the American Medical Association concludes this ingredient is not a unique contributor to this public health issue: Furthermore, it’s interesting to note that HFCS, which is a combination of the simple sugars glucose and fructose, is so similar in structure to table sugar that our bodies process the two in essentially the same way. Quite simply, sugars are sugars and should be consumed in moderation, like all foods and beverages, as explained in more detail in this New York Times article: – Maureen at American Beverage Association

  2. Howdy David
    I actually thought that HCFS and “natural” sugar were the same thing, but you’re right and I was a bit off there.
    Oddly enough, though, my comment doesn’t actually claim HCFS and “natural” sugar are the same. My real points were that both kinds of sugar have to be refined out of the source, meaning they are both or neither “natural”, and that there’s no evidence that HCFS or sucrose is better or worse for health or weight management.
    There’s a note below that, without sugar subsidies in the US, the price of cane or beet sugar would fall below that of HCFS, is important. Rent-seeking policies are pushing up the cost of foodstuffs, distorting the corn market by making HCFS more attractive than it might be, and depriving farmers in poor areas of the money they could earn in the US market.
    But I live in an area with a lot of sugar beet production, so I’d better be careful or I’ll be beat.

  3. If the artificial price controls were removed from regular sugar it would come down in price to the point that HFCS would simply no longer be used. The only reason it is so popular is that sugar is twice the world market price in the US.

    That said, if I drink a HFCS sweetened drink before bed I will be up several times in the night. The same drink with real sugar, almost never get up in the night.

  4. Actually, HFCS is… High Fructose (usually 55% fructose.) “Natural” Sugar is 0% fructose. Clearly these are different. The argument you claim is obvious (that it is not more harmful) is one that nutritionists discussed, and it is still being debated. You may be right, but you made some misleading claims, and you imply that they are the same.

  5. I don’t doubt some folks have problems with HFCS, but for the rest of us, the glucose:fructose ratios in sucrose or HFCS are essentially the same, so substitution of one for the other shouldn’t have any different affect based on calories. My guess is that if HFCS were to disappear, the usage rate of sucrose would increase to make up for it.

  6. Like Myron, I avoid HFCS because it has a negative effect on one of my health problems. Contrary to Gone With the Wind’s theory, this is not because I think this is true. I actually backtracked the increase in symptoms to the HFCS. I had never even considered there might be a connection, nor did I have any objections to HFCS in general. That being said, I do not think banning HFCS is necessary or any food nannies need to get involved. I just avoid the stuff.

    There is one thing that most people do not consider with HFCS and that is how it affects people with corn allergies. I have had two friends who could not buy regular sodas and many other drinks and foods due to the corn syrup in them. Again, people do adapt and this may not be extremely common. If it is, then we will see more of Pepsi Throwback and the likes. Let the market deal with it.

  7. The real villain here might be screen time. How much time is spent sedentary watching TV, surfing the internet on a computer or touchpad device or interacting with a phone? Living too large in the virtual world may be the enemy of our health in the real world.

  8. It is entirely possible that cutting back on HFCS would make you think you feel better. Simple psychology; you put attention and faith into an effort you believe will make you feel better and your mind thinks that indeed you feel better. Itr would work in reverse too. That is if you thought eating more HFCS in place of sugar would reduce the symptoms of Crohns then indeed your mind would percieve that to be true. If you took simple table sugar and added about 30% water by wieght and heated it slightly to make a sugar syrup what you would have would be the equivalent of HFCS. HFCS is just sugar in a syrup form. The whole HFCS derangement syndrome is because of the phrase “high fructose” In the 50’s when corn syrup began to be actively marketed the “foodies” thought fructose was a good thing since after all it is the sugar found in fruits and that is natuural don’tcha know so it must be good. So an ad executive came up with the name High Fructose Corn Syrup to help sell the corn “sugar”. Who knew that later the foodies would declare fructose would be bad for you (except if it is still in the fruit you eat and then it is somehow magically good for you). But for the perpetually scared HFCS is scary and that is the end of the story. The mind is closed, don’t bother me with the facts… My suggestion is they rename it to Low Fructose Corn Syrup and maybe the foodies will like it again.

  9. “Natural” sugar is refined from cane and beets by an industrial process. HFCS sugar is refined from corn. There’s no reason to believe that the HFCS sugar is more or less harmful than cane or beet sugar.
    Individuals like Myron may well be sensitive to HFCS for some reason and should adapt their diets accordingly. That’s no reason for a blanket condemnation of a valuable product, nor does Myron make one.
    The biggest reason for the obesity epidemic is changing the definition of obese. The threshhold is on a point of the statistical curve where a small change in the threshhold moves a lot of people into or out of the obese range.
    It’s possible that actual average BMI has increased also over that time. I’m not at all sure about that. BMI is a good scouting measure for a population but that’s all it is.

  10. I have Crohn’s. The one thing I have noticed when I cut back on HFCS products and replaced them with sugar sweetened products is I felt better. My stomach and gut didn’t hurt the way it did with the HFCS. But I weigh the same.

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