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Monday, March 22, 2010

The Problem With High Fructose Corn Syrup

A new study out from Princeton University lends new evidence that High Fructose Corn Syrup leads to inordinate weight gain.

A Princeton University research team has demonstrated that all sweeteners are not equal when it comes to weight gain: Rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same.

In addition to causing significant weight gain in lab animals, long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup also led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen, and a rise in circulating blood fats called triglycerides. The researchers say the work sheds light on the factors contributing to obesity trends in the United States.

"Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn't true, at least under the conditions of our tests," said psychology professor Bart Hoebel, who specializes in the neuroscience of appetite, weight and sugar addiction. "When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they're becoming obese -- every single one, across the board. Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don't see this; they don't all gain extra weight."

And, of course, what is the solution that is given to us? Here, just take these medications. Lose weight. Eat less. Exercise more.

What bothers me is that there is this meme all throughout the American culture that states that everything is personal responsibility. Further, that business interests have no responsibility to provide healthy foods -- or any other products -- that are safe for use by the ultimate consumer or user. We have been heading back -- for many years now -- to the rule that had been abandoned because of its inequities and harshness: caveat emptor.

The rule had been abandoned long ago because it was decided that sellers were in a far better position to know the hidden dangers in their products. Eventually, the legal theory of products liability came to be.

In the United States today, we are facing an obesity epidemic. While I try to eat only organic food, sometimes it is not available. And what about when I decide to go out to eat? Do I have the choices to eat and drink foods that don't contain this additive? It is not just in Coca-Cola and other soft drinks; it is in ketchup and candy and even "healthy" fruit drinks.

We are told that we don't exercise enough. OK, that's true enough. But what about the community's / society's responsibility to provide parks and streets which make exercise available? The point I am making here has to do with how our cities are predominantly designed for cars as opposed to walking.

Doesn't anyone recognize that the obligation to provide healthy choices is more than just a personal responsibility, but also a -- for lack of a better word -- a corporate one?


Dink said...

"Animals with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained 48 percent more weight than those eating a normal diet. In humans, this would be equivalent to a 200-pound man gaining 96 pounds."

Just super.

And I totally understand your dilemma when eating out; its impossible to avoid the stuff.

Ay ay ay. Personal responsibility vs. corporate responsibility vs. government responsibility. Some days it all seems impossible.

Debra said...

I sympathize, Okie, believe me.
I am somewhat of a nutto, but for at least seven or eight years now, there has not been a cookie in the house...
Corn syrup ? I can't even get it over here.
When I was back in the States a few years ago, I was really amazed, not at the junk food, but at the fact that most American "food" that I saw WAS JUNK.
It's not the same thing...
As though many people in the American culture really HATED FOOD. Or thought that eating was one of those tiresome, necessary things that you HAD to do to stay alive. Why not pop pills to get those calories, LIKE ALL THE OTHER PILLS, right ? (No, I'm not THAT kind of pill, dink.. ;-))
I don't see that as a particularly HEALTHY attitude, now... Not at all.
My brother eats reconstituted, freeze dried vegetarian food that looks and tastes like something you would eat 10,000 miles above the planet, in orbit. ????!!!!! :-(

OkieLawyer said...

I was really amazed, not at the junk food, but at the fact that most American "food" that I saw WAS JUNK.

That is one of my points: that Americans, by and large, are not given healthy choices on a societal level. The typical food that you can buy at your Wal-Mart Supercenter is filled with not just HFCS, but all kinds of other chemicals to "enhance" its taste, look and feel. Not to mention all of the "genetically modified" issues.

While I can't prove it, I have always wondered if foods weren't modified to make you more hungry. Think about it: if there are drugs to make you less hungry are there ingredients that can have the opposite effect? Why is it that restaurants serve such huge portions? One explanation is that it makes the restaurant more profitable.

Then there is the layout of our cities: they are not conducive to walking or other exercise (think: you have to drive to the gym that you have to pay an annual membership for -- after all, it has to have a profit motive and it has to be your personal responsibility to get to that profit center). There are some exceptions -- and I have been to them. But it is just that: they are the exception, not the rule.

Debra said...

Okie, I hope you read my LAST post.
I will be continuing on this theme.
Our society is organized around ideas that are formulated in language. And these ideas definitely have implications...
It's really breathtakingly logical how it all hangs together.
That DOESN'T MEAN that chance and free will do not exist.
But it DOES mean that they exist in places where you have not necessarily been looking for them, or seeing them.
I suspect that Thai agrees with me on this one.
Right, Thai ??

Dink said...

"Think about it: if there are drugs to make you less hungry are there ingredients that can have the opposite effect?"

Certainly. But what repeatedly blows me away is that this stuff that is total biohazard doesn't even need to be a secret.

Like cigarettes. There isn't an American smoker out there who doesn't know its bad for them. The container itself tells you that you'll die. They've been shown lung cancer slides in grade school. "But It Feels/Tastes Good" trumps all. I suspect that if we put HFCS warning labels on products it will have the same lack of results.

On a side note, I've spoken to people who didn't migrate to the US until they were adults. They say crazy things like "I don't crave desserts" and "Cake is too sweet for me" and "I'm full". Madness.

It seems to me that there was a "sucraholic" movement a while back, but I haven't heard anything recently.

Debra said...

Dink, you know the problem with the hygienist take on everything ?
It's like.. having big mommies and daddies everywhere to protect you and tell you what you should do FOR YOUR OWN GOOD, it kind of gives you this HORRIBLE TEMPTATION TO TELL EVERYBODY TO BUZZ OFF, and go smoke your cigarette quietly some place.
The problem with the human species is that adults are grown up children.
Don't you remember how much you hated having Mommy tell you to pick up your room ?
How you felt sometimes that you would have liked to...
Never mind. You get the idea.
Now.... if the social body REALLY WANTED to take care of the problem of smoking there would perhaps be more... EFFICIENT, PSYCHOLOGICALLY INTELLIGENT ways of doing this.
But.. that would take all the FUN out of the punishment gig...
And, oops, almost forgot the FUN out of the educational gig, too. The power of thinking you know what's best for EVERYBODY and telling them what to do.

Thai said...

And I don't think it is a corporate responsibility, that is for sure. Corporations exist in my opinion for one purpose. To the extent we all all sorts of other purposes on them we do start treating them more and more like individuals as opposed to legal shells created for particular economic tasks.

Is it a social responsibility?

Yes, but I think Dr. John's abortion comment is spot on as well as it cannot exist both ways.

... And it is definitely not fair to say that a lot of people are not trying to do a lot on this. The reality is most other people don;t listen because they do not want to.

Thai said...

sorry, typo

I meant to say "to the extent we add onto corporations all these additional purposes and responsibilities, we are turning them into full fledged individuals with full rights of person-hood under the law."

Bizarro world indeed.

Okie thinks like a lawyer. And at a fundamental level, lawyers are hunters looking for prey. And like any good hunter, if you are looking for prey (money), you go where it is located- namely corporations.

So without trying to be mean, I think there is a little of Okie's favorite Upton Sinclair statement in this post

"it is hard to get someone to understand something when his job depends on his not understanding it".

Debra said...

But Thai..
We ALREADY HAVE turned corporations into full fledged individuals. Hell, they were probably created with the idea that they WOULD be full fledged individuals.
And, um, Thai...
Your comment on the lines that Okie sees things from the standpoint of a hunter looking for prey, does that mean that... you don't see YOURSELF as a hunter looking for prey ??
Dangerous assumption in my book. (I certainly am quite aware of my predatory nature...)
Very dangerous indeed.
Okie has the advantage/disadvantage of belonging to a profession where it is extremely obvious what part predation plays in it.
The rest of us have to make considerable use of our neurons to pick up on where predation surfaces in OUR career choices/lives.
It looked pretty obvious in jp's motivations, now, didn't it?

OkieLawyer said...

Re: predation

OK Thai, is it not predatory for corporations to sell us food (or other products) that are unhealthy for us for profit?

Was it not predatory to develop a product that becomes addictive and enhance that addictive quality in a product that is likely to one day kill you (cigarettes)?

But the point of my post wasn't to advocate opening up the courtroom doors to a whole host of litigation. It was that (besides personally) Americans are fat and getting fatter. On a societal level, our weight has been ramping up since HFCS was introduced. This study lends a great deal of evidence to the idea that HCFS is one of the "proximate causes" of weight gain in the U.S. Which then lead to many other health risks and conditions (high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, etc.), which leads to more complications for health care providers and health care spending (good for you, not for the rest of society).

So, would healthier food -- mandated by law -- be another one of those "zero sum" outcomes you always talk about?

Thai said...

You're right

I think these guys are total predators and we need to fine them! (or better yet put them in jail...)

It is not the individual who is responsible, it is the corporation

Thai said...

Okie, look at the mouse the JAMA cat brought in just 2 days ago.

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