It’s not what you know but how you ask the question. If you want to conceal the bigger picture, only offer snapshots of that part you want people to focus on.
Have you run across an article as you peruse your browser that draws your interests? If so, do you get into it and then spot some comment that gives you pause? Something is said that just doesn’t gel with what you know about it and you can’t leave it alone and move on. You have to research not only the claim made but the information you possess that it’s in conflict with. No? Okay then, I’m the oddball here.
You see, there are some things I know well and then there are those things I know just well enough about to get me in trouble. So I can’t let something pass that conflicts with my base of knowledge. I have to know if what I hold to be valid is in need of tweaking, or if someone else is deficient with the facts, at least to the level we can claim certain information as factual.
As the intro to this piece suggests, we don’t always want to know the facts and most certainly those that threaten those traditional views we hold near and dear. But many of us like to think we are open to change if our world views can be challenged with logic, reason and critical thinking. This of course automatically excludes tin-foil, cap-wearing zealots of ideologies who when presented with verifiable, physical evidence experience deep-seated denial and appear as if their heads may explode.
I feel I can speak somewhat authoritatively about certain subjects even though I don’t possess recognized legitimate credentials. I have a BA in Sociology with a Political Science minor so outside of that I don’t have any recognized certificates that give my opinions on others topics much credibility. And even though I received my undergraduate degree over thirty years ago, I have maintained my interests in sociological and political science topics over all of this time. Sans any serious research, I do what most academics do to stay up with the changes that impact their disciplines. I review the current literature.
Not necessarily peer-reviewed literature either but those posts and articles that come from sources that will identify their findings vis-a-vis peer-reviewed studies, where that exists. When I do read on topics that are written by people who are more passionate than they are informed, I’m skeptical and look for them to verify their claims by sources who ARE more informed by linking their findings to credible research.
But here’s the kicker as some of you may be aware. Not all that you read in presumed serious pieces are open-ended, allowing readers to draw their own conclusion. I too often find those who present themselves as credible sources can be lazy with the evidence they provide to justify a certain view. In many cases it’s often an error of omission where a source will simply ignore information and data from other valid sources. This can suggest that they have more of an agenda to promote than objectively informing the general public. This is a sleight-of-hand practice used I believe to convince people who have little or no critical thinking skills which, sad to say, is perhaps the vast majority of people.
So where is all of this taking us? Well you might have surmised that as I was searching my browser there was an article that piqued my interests in which I feel somewhat authoritatively knowledgeable about. And lo and behold, it appeared to have a few lazy facts, leading me to devote some time to gather and present what I feel is a clearer picture regarding High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).
Now those of you who have decided to stay with me this far will likely have one of three subconscious reactions about HFCS:
It’s a substance in our food we need to avoid.
It’s a substance in our food we need not fear.
In all likelihood, type 3 people will never get past my title before going back to their Google search for “pot pipes”. So let’s move on to the other two types.
“If you can get a buzz from it man, I’ll smoke it”
I put myself firmly in category number one. So when I see information that would appeal to those in type #2 I have to find out why that is. More often than not it is simply the redundant claim that high fructose corn syrup is a sweetener that is not unlike other sweeteners and thus those who rage against its use are simply “alarmists” as one #2 type put it.
The typical argument put out by the type 2 people follows the talking points of the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) whose product is not only the source of HFCS but whose membership includes some of the biggest corporate outfits in the Agribusiness industry. Names like Archers-Daniels-Midland (ADM) and Cargill, Inc. who tell consumers that high fructose corn syrup is basically the same as sugar. No need to become overwrought they imply. Buy it, consume it and move on.
In putting this post together I found that CRA is about as insidious on the web as HFCS is in our food supply. They are everywhere there is any mention of sweeteners either as a reference or in the form of a Google ad (paid ads that come onto the site matching the topic of the site). I find it amusing that their website calls itself “SweetSurprise.com”. This observation was also noticed by David Brighand in his piece on HFCS, asserting that CRA is “trying hard to dispel the truth [that] HFCS is not a positive nutritional addition to anyone’s diet.”
BEWARE of the Pusher
The goal of CRA and those who support them is not unlike the climate deniers who create straw man arguments to cast doubt on the climate science and leave a relatively uninformed public confused and thus less of a threat to take necessary action. Most of the sources I find who defend the view that HFCS is a relatively safe by-product either fail to have conclusive peer-review science behind their claims, cherry-pick the data that does discuss HFCS’s place in the food chain or are always ready to muddy the water about the correlation between HFCS’s introduction into the food chain and the rise in obesity rates.
High fructose corn syrup is indeed similar in chemical composition as other sugars and as a single factor is not responsible for the increase of obesity in this country. But if the argument were solely based on these simple obvious facts there would be no real ruckus raised about HFCS as a viable substitute for sugar.
HFCS is NOT natural as the industry and their supporters claim. They are for all intents and purposes made in a lab. The definition of “natural” is something existing in or formed by nature; based on the state of things in nature; constituted by nature. “Nature” is defined as the material world, especially as surrounding humankind and existing independently of human activities. On the website sponsored by the Corn Refiners Association in their myth vs. fact link the claim is made that “high fructose corn syrup … meets the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s requirements for use of the term “natural.” That’s just simply not true.
The website, FoodNavigator-USA.com in their article, Natural will remain undefined, says FDA tells us that the FDA “has no plans in the near future to establish a definition of the term ‘natural’, saying it has other priorities for its limited resources.” This was a disappointment to the Sara Lee Corp. and the Sugar Association who petitioned the FDA to make such a definition. Sara Lee of courses uses HFCS in most of their products and the Sugar Association wants the public to view their product “as the ideal ‘natural’ sweetener source.”
But you would expect deceit and even a certain degree of fraud from the industries that benefit from HFCS. Their influence even seems to carry over to other websites that provide food and nutrition information. In my brief search for such websites I wanted to find one that gave the greatest appearance of having some credibility in their findings. One in particular that I found seem to fit what I was looking for.
It was a piece written by an Erin Johansson entitled “Top 20 Myths and Facts About High Fructose Corn Syrup” and posted on the Master of Public health.org website that claims to “provide prospective public health practitioners with up-to-date information about accredited online degree programs across the United States.” A rather dubious posting for this site and one without knowing what it is Ms Johansson actually does. For all we know she could be on the payroll for the Corn Refiners Association.
Sadly, Ms. Johansson’s piece is discredited early in her discussion of myth vs. facts about HFCS, not much different from those talking points put out by the Corn Refiners Association. In her first “myth” labeled HFCS is less healthy than sugar, she states that “Five papers found that there was no evidence to suggest high fructose corn syrup is any different from table sugar”. When you click on this link you come to a web page written by my #2 type I mentioned earlier in this post who refers to doubters like me as “alarmists”.
In that article written by an anonymous individual for sweetsscam.com I found numerous exaggerations and falsehoods. One of the first I found was the author’s reference to someone named Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The author cites Mr. Jacobson as an authority supporting HFCS’s harmless properties and as one who “is an unlikely defender of HFCS.”
With such a reference I can see where people like Ms. Johansson might fall victim to the proposals this piece makes but a quick google search here found that Mr. Jacobson is a lone wolf. The Center for Science in the Public Interest(CSPI) is not a science organization but a special interest advocacy group for public policy. Though originally associated with a person I find highly credible – Ralph Nader – that association quickly dissolved when the two Nader lawyers working with Mr. Jacobson left him after they likely figured out his narrow self-interests that “engaged in deceptive practices”.
So what about the five papers Ms. Johansson referenced in her article? Other than some passing mention of five studies examining high fructose corn syrup, the anonymous author simply states that “taken together, the five papers found that there was no evidence to suggest high fructose corn syrup is any different from table sugar.” That’s it. Even though I’m not disputing that HFCS and other sugars are almost chemically similar, Ms. Johansson’s source provides no real reference concerning this or where you can find them and see what they actually say. Like I said – lazy.
I could go on and on about the discrepancies and distortions made by those who defend the use of HFCS in our food system but as usual I have already exceeded my self-imposed word limit; an occupational hazard of the verbose. So let me just wrap it up here with a list of points that debunk the arguments made by the corporate monied interests who are the only winners in this product’s success.
HFCS is NOT a natural product SOURCE
- Because of the way that HFCS is processed in the body, it is said to limit the secretion of the hormone leptin, which signals the body that we’ve had enough to eat. Without the proper signal to stop eating, we consume more than necessary. SOURCE
- Insulin resistance is also caused by the way HFCS is processed in the body. SOURCE
- HFCS is sweeter than most sugars. Because of this, our taste buds adjust to sweeter and sweeter products, causing cravings for more sugar and leading to an unhealthy diet. SOURCE
- Mercury has been found in HFCS. Part of the production process often uses mercury-grade caustic soda. Mercury was recently found in 9 out of 20 samples from 3 different manufacturers. SOURCE
- The corn used to make HFCS is mostly genetically modified varieties. Genetically modified food presents a whole other set of problems … . SOURCE
- A warning about fructose. As I mentioned, there is no dispute that HFCS and other sugars are similar in compound formation – a combination of fructose and glucose. This doesn’t make HFCS “safe”. It simply puts it into a category that is already bad for human health when ingested in excess. A team of investigators at the USDA, led by Dr. Meira Field informs us that “every cell in the body can metabolize glucose. However, all fructose must be metabolized in the liver. The livers of the rats on the high fructose diet looked like the livers of alcoholics, plugged with fat and cirrhotic.” SOURCE
- There’s a growing body of scientific literature that indicates HFCS consumption may result in negative health consequences distinct from and more deleterious than natural sugar. SOURCE
- The corn from which HFCS comes from is cheaper than cane sugar because it is subsidized by U.S. taxpayers. It also requires more energy to produce HFCS than other sweeteners so there is an increased carbon foot print in play here that is further enhanced by the use of synthetic fertilizers to grow the corn. SOURCE
- More crop land is used today to grow corn than any other food commodity, reducing the supply of fruits and vegetables needed in a well-balanced diet for us and our children SOURCE
Now that you know, the next smarty pants that tries to tell you HFCS won’t hurt you, tell them you have some shocking news for them and then stand back to see if their head really does explode. You may want to protect yourself first from getting splattered with small brains parts and blood.
Conveying critical thinking points can be hazardous