Children of the Corn Diet

In the past few decades, corn has been integrated in almost all food products on any market shelf. Whether the harm recently ascribed to corn is due to excessive consumption or genetic modification or both is a touchy subject. However, I predict some brave scientists will set the record straight, hopefully, in the near future.

Following the destruction of the entire Caribbean sugar crop by Hurricane Allen in 1980, there was a boom in high-fructose corn syrup sales mostly in the US, Canada and Japan, which caused the price of sugar/sucrose (from sugar cane) to drop globally. HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup) changed our food supply forever. It is cheap and it prolongs shelf life, so more of it is added to more foods.

Recent research names high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as the primary cause of the diabetes-obesity epidemic (AKA, metabolic syndrome) of the last three decades in the United States. Moreover, since fructose gives animals fatty liver in the lab, others try to link the consumption of large amounts of HFCS to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, now, the most common liver disease in children. Miriam Vos, MD, MSPH at Emory University School of Medicine says, one third of overweight children will have a fatty liver.

Pancakes with Corn Syrup
In October 2012, the Journal Global Public Health publishes an international study–by Michael I. Goran, PhD (Director of the Childhood Obesity Research Center) and colleagues–on high fructose corn syrup and diabetes prevalence. They find that indicators of diabetes are 20% higher in countries that use HFCS compared with those that do not. Even more, the United States has the highest per capita consumption of HFCS (about 55 pounds per year).

Is sugar/sucrose better than HFCS? May be, but not when it comes to diabetes. A recent international analysis over the past decade, by Sanjay Basu, MD, PhD and colleagues, showed a mere 0.1% increase in diabetes prevalence for every 150 total calories extra per day. Yet, if those calories came from a can of soda, diabetes prevalence increased 11 fold to 1.1%. The conclusion is simple: the perpetrator is added sugar, not the total calories from other foods.

What if I drink only diet soda, you ask? The French have bad news for you. Françoise Clavel-Chapelon (Director of Research at INSERM-University of Paris-Sud 11, at the Institute Gustave Roussy), and Guy Fagherazzi recently found that there is a higher risk of diabetes from so-called ‘diet’ or ‘light’ drinks than from ‘normal’ sweetened soft drinks.

One phrase remains with me: added sugar. What do you think?

Susan Cohen © 2014

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