Americans consumed less high-fructose corn syrup in 2011 than at any point since 1997, Bloomberg reported this week. The USDA estimates that the average American ate 131 calories worth of corn sweeteners a day this year, down 16 percent from 2007.
The decline follows several years of bad press for high-fructose corn syrup. Some have attacked it as bad-tasting, while many have argued that eating it is bad for your health. One recent study suggested that the brains of people who ate lots of fructose don’t register as satiated, while another demonstrated a correlation between high-fructose corn syrup consumption and higher rates of type 2 diabetes.
The corn industry has responded to this PR onslaught by claiming that high-fructose corn syrup had been “unfairly maligned,” and that it is no worse for human health than any other kind of sweetener. Some studies have supported this argument.
If the corn industry is right, the recent estimates on sweetener consumption contain some troubling news as well. Sugar consumption rose 8.8 percent between 2007 and 2011, indicating that some consumers just shifted from one type of sweetener to another.
In this weekend’s New York Times Magazine, Gary Taubes, the author of Good Calories, Bad Calories, has an excellent examination of the scientific research on sugars. In addition to clearing up some misconceptions (high fructose corn syrup and sugar are “effectively identical in their biological effects”), he covers the ongoing search into why sugars are not toxic after one meal, but may have something to do with malignant cancers after 1,000 meals. He writes: It very well may be true that sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, because of the unique way in which we metabolize fructose and at the levels we now consume it, cause fat to accumulate in our livers followed by insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, and so trigger the process that leads to heart disease, diabetes and obesity. They could indeed be toxic, but they take years to do their damage. It doesn’t happen overnight. Until long-term studies are done, we won’t know for sure.
( via huffingtonpost.com )