The Corn Refiners Association has petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration asking that manufacturers have the option of using “corn sugar” as an alternate ingredient name for high fructose corn syrup on product labels because “corn sugar” more accurately describes the composition of the ingredient.
The CRA wants to clear up consumer confusion about high fructose corn syrup by requesting that the FDA give food and beverage manufacturers approval to call high fructose corn syrup what it is: corn sugar. Consumers want to know what is in their foods and to have ingredient names that are clearly understood. “Corn sugar” accomplishes these objectives succinctly and simply. Most importantly, the term corn sugar enables consumers to readily identify added sugars in the diet.
As many dietitians agree, all sugars should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced lifestyle.
Very well. But HFCS is an established name. Research has been published regarding the effects of HFCS. A change of name -- I feel -- consigns this research to a past label, while there is no change in product, to the benefit of the Corn Refiners. A recent bit of critical research conducted at Princeton demonstrated:
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.
Thus, I was (almost) surprised when I saw this Corn Refiners commercial wherein a spokeswoman states: "whether it's corn sugar or cane sugar, your body can't tell the difference. Sugar is sugar."
This prompted me to write a letter to the Corn Refiners (emailed today):
The other night, I saw a television commercial sponsored by the Corn Refiners Association in which a spokeswoman declares confidently and absolutely that "your body can't tell the difference" between HFCS and table sugar (sucrose). As I'm sure you're aware, Princeton ran study that demonstrated that rats grew fatter on HFCS than rats on sucrose, even when the caloric count was the same. The Princeton study was immediately unfairly maligned by nutritionist journalists who accused the study of not accounting for certain variables that were, in fact, accounted for in the publication of the study itself [http://www.grist.org/article/hfcs-study-authors-defend-work-against-attacks] (an error made in good faith, no doubt, and far be it from anybody to impugn the respectable name of the Corn Lobby by suggesting they might have played any role in this). Glucose and fructose metabolize differently, as Elizabeth Parks, associate professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas explained to the New York Times,
"In humans, triglycerides, which are a type of fat in the blood, are mostly formed in the liver. Dr. Parks said the liver acts like "a traffic cop" who coordinates how the body uses dietary sugars. When the liver encounters glucose, it decides whether the body needs to store it, burn it for energy or turn it into triglycerides.
But when fructose enters the body, it bypasses the process and ends up being quickly
converted to body fat.
"It's basically sneaking into the rock concert through the fence," Dr. Parks said. "It's a less-controlled movement of fructose through these pathways that causes it to contribute to greater triglyceride synthesis. The bottom line of this study is that fructose very quickly gets made into fat in the body."
How is it then that your advertising can declare as an item of fact that "sugar is sugar", and that one's body "doesn't know the difference"? What is meant by the statement that "your body doesn't know the difference"? Is this to state on absolute authority that HFCS with utter certainty does NOT metabolize differently from sucrose? Is this to say that all debate may be dismissed, and the Princeton study may be disregarded as total error?
Thank you in advance for your prompt reply.
I received a form reply back:
We appreciate your contacting us and value your questions and comments. While we regret that we cannot reply to all of the questions submitted due to the volume received, each submission is reviewed and taken into consideration.
Responses to many frequently asked questions and comments will soon be available on our SweetSurprise.com website. No personal information will be included if some or all of your question or comment is selected for publication.
Corn Refiners Association
Ironically, it was a critical comment of my first HFCS article (and just as surely as the Corn Refiners certainly have nothing to do with baseless criticisms of the Princeton study, I also won't suggest that it was merely an angry shill, but rather one of surely many High Fructose Corn Syrup enthusiasts, who commented):
The term "sugar" is general term which describes a large family of mono and poly carbohydrates. What is commonly referred to as "sugar" is a carbohydrate dimer comprised of one molecule of fructose and one molecule of glucose bound together at the 2 and 1 positions, respectively, with a glycosidic bond. Alternatively consider chitin, a glycopolymer of N-acetylglucosamine molecules. Chitin is the main component of the exoskeletons of lobsters, crabs and other arthropods. Cellulose is simply a chain of glucose molecules bound together with a 1-6 beta glycosidic bond and is the principle component of wood and other ruffage. While these examples may not fit the colloquial definition of sugar, from a biochemical perspective, they are in fact sugars. Cellulose is the most common sugar on the planet and if a method were developed to efficiently hydrolyze the glycosidic bond, the term “food shortage” could quite possibly disappear from the vernacular. Despite the fact the chitin is comprised of a glucose derivative, it still is considered a sugar.
The commenter went on to add, So, Mr. Mesner, what is it about high fructose corn syrup disqualifies it from this broad definition?
As I never once suggested HFCS is not a sugar, the question is senseless. But it does suggest a better question: given this broad definition, what are we to make of the statement "sugar is sugar" stated in the commercial?
All this leads me to believe that it just may not be in my (or your) best interests to trust the Corn Refiners regarding information about this product.
If you feel as I do -- that a re-naming of High-Fructose Corn Syrup would be a deceptive sleight-of-hand -- please sign this petition, and pass it along.
A new site, thesugardiet.com, acts as a resource for people who wish to avoid:
-- High fructose corn syrup, crystalline fructose, corn syrup
-- Sorbitol, erythritol, xylitol, mannitol, lactitol and maltitol
-- Saccharin, aspartame, sucralose, neotame, acesulfame potassium