Wednesday, November 24, 2010

High Fructose Corn Syrup: Does your body know the difference?

The television was set to one of those annoying stations that plays endless advertising with brief interjections of "regular programming".  This was somebody else's doing, and I was prepared to shut it off when a commercial sponsored by the Corn Refiners Association came on.  This caught my interest, as I have recently written a few articles in protest of the Corn Refiner's petition to the Food & Drug Administration to change the name of High-Fructose Corn Syrup [HFCS] to "Corn Sugar".  As criticisms of this sweetener have accrued, and a growing number of consumers declare that they intentionally avoid purchase of products that use the ingredient, I feel a name change can only serve to confuse consumers into thinking they are making purchases that are HFCS-free.  President Audrae Erickson, of the Corn Refiners Association commented on my last article to raise this concern:

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 [] (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.
Douglas Mesner

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 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,, 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


  1. Hi Doug - intriguing description for this lil blog of yers here...

    I wanted to tell you that I read "Love, Sex, Fear, Death". I found it boldly informative, at times. I liked that Wylie and other contributors didn't shy from describing the community they once belonged to as "a cult". I'm a bit surprised that someone as intelligent as Wylie obviously is, actually experienced De Grimston's theological-philosophical rants "profound". I don't.

    The info specific to the slander & persecution that they (and Genesis P-Orridge) experienced was very helpful, filling in the perspective that was 'missing' from pop culture discussion for several decades - that of the group members themselves. Now I'd like to share some info on a chronic & compulsive liar whom I believe to be one of the original sources of misinformation about The Process:

    "Blaine Blaine", aka "Goldcatcher", aka "Zakatarious", has been conclusively exposed as a liar & hoaxter by Zodiac killer researchers:

    Blaine Blaine was Ed Sanders' principle source for the idea that Charles Manson was a practising & high-ranking Satanist. He is the author of the infamous "Father P. and Pussycat" fantasy, which starts on page 91 of my copy of "The Family".

    As Blaine was almost certainly also a source of various fantasies for Ted Gunderson and Maury Terry, it's conceivable that this man was personally responsible for a large portion of the whole "murderous satanic cults in America" mythos.

  2. hey bob -
    thank you very much for the info, and thanks for checking in. unfortunately, in the course of my research, sander's refused to speak to me, though i called him a few times. to me, refusal to set the record straight isn't really much less deplorable than sticking to your original fiction. i spoke to gunderson regarding maury terry's book, as he is credited in it. he immediately launched into fantasies regarding the process based on no evidence, but rather his unique understanding of how satanic cults operate. for example, when i mentioned that many former members of the process inner-circle are now running a large no-kill animal shelter, gunderson wasted no time in determining that this was so they would have animals to sacrifice in their rituals. he had no evidence of this at all, it's just what satanists do, according to him (never mind the fact that the process cannot rightly be called "satanists", nor would those who even do call themselves satanists approve of animal murder). it is my understanding that wyllie offered to debate maury terry as part of his book promotion. at least, that was the plan when i spoke to publisher adam parfrey of feral house in that time. i don't know if terry was reached or, if so, whether he replied or not, but i'm quite certain he'd have been incapable of bringing anything of interest to a dialogue. i feel it would become another scenario which we've seen play out in accusations against freemasons or lavey's church of satan: the panic-monger would create some hidden sub-set of the organisation that naive researchers like myself weren't perceptive enough to detect.
    wyllie is a very sharp guy, but time and again i've seen how that has little bearing on whether or not an individual comes to be involved in a cult. some of the most intelligent people i've met have been in cults or otherwise involved in toxic group environments, and in fact i'm helping to put together a non-profit now that will explore the phenomena of cults, cultic relationships, and toxic group environments and act as an outreach for individuals looking to separate, or dealing with the concurrent stress of having separated themselves from such an atmosphere.
    i hadn't heard of this blaine character before -- i'll check him out. thanks for the link...