Iowa Public Television


Is High Fructose Corn Syrup Tied to Obesity?

posted on March 26, 2004

According to the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, in Atlanta, 60% of the U.S. adult population is overweight, and nearly 40 million of those people are considered obese.

With obesity rates reaching epidemic proportions, policy makers and researchers alike are actively waging the battle of the bulge.

This week, the fingers were pointed at high fructose corn syrup as the cause of American obesity.

Is High Fructose Corn Syrup Tied to Obesity? Using consumption data supplied by USDA, a team of scientists from Louisiana State University and the University of North Carolina concluded that increased consumption of dietary sweeteners coincided with Americans getting heavier. According to the researchers, data gathered between 1967 and 2000 showed the increase in the use of high-fructose corn syrup, "coincided with the epidemic of obesity" in the US.

High-fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, has been used in processed foods since the late 1970s as a replacement for more expensive natural sugars. Last year, over 500 million bushels of corn were processed into 23.7 billion pounds of the sweetener for use in food and beverages.

The new study was immediately assailed by a diverse set of groups.

Ironically, the first to caution the public from jumping to conclusions was the team of University scientists who wrote the study. They stated their research did not provide a definitive link between HFCS and obesity.

The Corn Refiners Association, which has been promoting the virtues of HFCS for several years, stated some of the assertions in the paper were factually incorrect. An official with the CRA, stated that proportionally, the ratio of sugars in the American diet has not increased considerably but what has increased is total caloric intake coupled with a lack of exercise. She also pointed to studies showing higher rates of obesity in Mexican and European populations where little or no HFCS is used.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, usually one of the first consumer advocacy groups to point out flaws in the food industry, questioned the conclusions of the study as well. The group stated there is no nutritional difference in soft drinks sweetened with sugar or HFCS and the problem has more to do with container size and mass distribution of soft drinks.

Tags: agriculture corn food news nutrition obesity sugar USDA