Jon de Vos: For those who think dumb
May 24, 2012
Audrae Erickson, Chief Shill and President of the Corn Refiners Association, has got to be downhearted by a couple of recent studies.
A Princeton report published earlier this month adds considerable weight to the argument that, teaspoon for teaspoon, high fructose corn syrup will put more poundage on you than table sugar.
Another study from UCLA found that eating a high-fructose diet for a long period of time alters your brain’s ability to learn and remember information.
Weight gain has long been linked to HFCS, but scientists are now figuring out why. Despite Audrae’s protests, HFCS is different from table sugar in two ways. Unlike sugar, HFCS has 3 percent of a sweetening molecule called a higher saccharide. Secondly, due to the way it’s made, the fructose molecules in the HFCS are free and unbound, ready for absorption and utilization. In table sugar, fructose and glucose molecules are bound to each other and must be metabolized before it can be used.
The average American consumes 31 teaspoons of sugar daily or about 130 pounds annually, whereas a hundred years ago over the course of a year, we consumed a scant 5 pounds. More than half of today’s consumption is in the form of HFCS. It’s used everywhere and much of our intake we don’t even know about. It’s in hot dog and hamburger buns and bread because of the nice, even way it makes the crusts brown.
Sodas like Pepsi and Coke are produced with “real” sugar in almost every country in the world that makes them. Except America. Real sugar, from sugar cane or beets, is cheap in most countries. It took American ingenuity to make fake corn syrup cheaper than real sugar.
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High-fructose corn syrup has been around since 1957. The only reason it’s cheaper is because of the combination of corn subsidies and high tariffs on imported sugar thanks to agri-business giants like Archer Daniels Midland who buy congressmen like ears of corn, while harvesting $40 billion in federal subsidies in the last fifteen years.
Artificial sweeteners are no better. Studies done in different countries have conflicting information. Saccharine, one of the oldest sugar substitutes, is banned in Canada, but OK in the U.S., while cyclamates are forbidden in the U.S. but sold in Canada.
The new Princeton study is a follow-up to a 2007 St. Louis University study where rats were fed a diet high in fat and HFCS and made to lie on a tiny couch and watch American Idol for 16 weeks in an attempt to emulate the diet and lifestyle of most Americans. Within four weeks, the rats showed early signs of fatty liver disease and type II diabetes.
Dried corn is treated with chemicals to hydrate it, mashed flat and treated with enzymes that break down the starch to shorter chemical chains closer to sugar. That mash is injected with a fungus to jump-start the fermentation process. After the brew rots for a while, the molecules break down further still into glucose, but we’re not done yet.
At this point, bio-engineered micro-organisms are added to the fermented stew. These little bugs chew up the glucose and poop out a bunch of fructose. Final chemical balancing and batch of HFCS is ready to pour over ice. Oops, did we forget to strain out all the big chunks?
To listen to Audrae Erickson, you’d think she’s the real thing!
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