Sunday, February 4, 2007

High Costs of Cheap Corn Syrup

I watch few movies and even less television. It generally doesn't cross my mind to sit for that long. But that's the kind of thing that makes me stand out in unfavorable ways amongst a lot of younger trainers who incessantly quote movie lines. I never know what anyone is laughing at and in my weaker moments I assume me.

Every now and then I decide to cultivate my pop culture education. Yesiree, I decide, I'm going to stop being lazy about this. I'll park my butt on the couch and I won't move until I've done lots of watching. This was my inspiration when I rented 'Akira', one of the Japanese animation films that people cooler than me watch.

It oozed. Even the oozing substances oozed some sort of substance. I have no idea why people want to watch various forms of animated ooze unless animating ooze is somehow very challenging to, um, animators. The only way I could feel some sense of horror at the fictitious destruction of make-pretend Neo-Tokyo, other than the horror of sitting for that long to watch ooze, was to pretend that that substance was High Fructose Corn Syrup.

We really are being overrun by the ooze of high fructose corn syrup but most folks are happy to bathe in pools of it. We've drunk the Kool-Aid of manufacturers that make Pepsi, Coke, iced tea and even fruit juice and we've decided to embrace this substance as harmless, empty calories. In reality, High Fructose Corn Syrup really is oozing - out of our pores, out of our foods, and out of the food industry. Whether it's harmless is the wrong question when we should be asking how it's useful other than to address a major corn surplus that occurs because our government subsides it's costs and encourages it's growth.

Though I'm sure we'd like to imagine that High Fructose Corn Syrup is a product squeezed on the farm from freshly harvested corn cobs in a quaint process that dates back to the early days of farming, it's really more of the FemBot of sugars requiring multiple steps to achieve an end product. Three different enzymes, two of which are already genetically modified, are used to break down corn starch into fructose and glucose. The result is tinkered with further through a process of liquid chromatography to bring the concentration of Fructose to 90% and then the original slurry is blended back in to bring the final mixture to 55%. Wasn't quite the romantic folksy tradition of townsfolk coming together to stomp corn cobs, was it?

And with flashbacks to the 'eat butter, no margarine, no butter' flip-flop, Linda Forristal, explains some recent research in an article on Weston A. Price Foundation's site, "Sucrose is composed of glucose and fructose. When sugar is given to rats in high amounts, the rats develop multiple health problems, especially when the rats were deficient in certain nutrients, such as copper. The researchers wanted to know whether it was the fructose or the glucose moiety that was causing the problems. So they repeated their studies with two groups of rats, one given high amounts of glucose and one given high amounts of fructose. The glucose group was unaffected but the fructose group had disastrous results. The male rats did not reach adulthood. They had anemia, high cholesterol and heart hypertrophy--that means that their hearts enlarged until they exploded. They also had delayed testicular development. Dr. Field explains that fructose in combination with copper deficiency in the growing animal interferes with collagen production. (Copper deficiency, by the way, is widespread in America.) In a nutshell, the little bodies of the rats just fell apart. The females were not so affected, but they were unable to produce live young."

Um, I'd call "unable to produce live young" affected.

PubMed went further in outlining the harmful affects of High Fructose Corn Syrup in one study which said, "fructose is a potent reducing sugar that promotes the formation of toxic advanced glycation end-products, which appear to play a role in the aging process; in the pathogenesis of the vascular, renal, and ocular complications of diabetes; and in the development of atherosclerosis. Fructose has also been implicated as the main cause of symptoms in some patients with chronic diarrhea or other functional bowel disturbances. In addition, excessive fructose consumption may be responsible in part for the increasing prevalence of obesity, diabetes mellitus, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Although the long-term effects of fructose consumption have not been adequately studied in humans, the available evidence suggests it may be more harmful than is generally recognized. The extent to which a person might be adversely affected by dietary fructose depends both on the amount consumed and on individual tolerance. With a few exceptions, the relatively small amounts of fructose that occur naturally in fruits and vegetables are unlikely to have deleterious effects, and this review is not meant to discourage the consumption of these healthful foods.

The fact is, your body has a natural governor in regards to consuming mass amounts of fructose in it's natural form. Frankly you'd be uncomfortably full or suffer some digestion disturbance before you could consume harmful levels. Whenever we engineer foods in scary ways, we override the bodies built-in systems to guard against toxic levels and the impact of that override is still poorly understood.