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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

The real ‘Sweet Surprise’

We’ve all seen the commercials. The first features two moms pouring juice at a child’s birthday party. Another shows a young couple sharing a Popsicle in the park. In either case, one actor mentions high fructose corn syrup as a health hazard. However, in both commercials, the concerned citizen’s only explanation is: “”you know what they say about it …”” Then, the other actor proceeds to spit out some pleasantly worded “”facts”” and set the first one straight.

Unfortunately, these ads are a direct response to recent health concerns. And anyone who knows much about nutrition realizes that the commercial claims aren’t the whole truth. Asserting that high fructose corn syrup is “”all natural”” and “”nutritionally the same as sugar”” isn’t a benevolent public service announcement. Likewise, the Web site, Sweet Surprise, wasn’t created to get the facts out to the public. In fact, it’s so deceitfully worded and blatantly biased that many critics consider these upbeat and seemingly harmless commercials to be propaganda.

According to the Wall Street Journal, these commercials are a part of a $25 million campaign by the Corn Refiners Association. Its mission is to avoid losing sales and profits by creating promotional commercials that target mothers. The association’s goal is to “”rehabilitate the reputation of the longtime sweetener”” by convincing moms that high fructose corn syrup is a perfectly healthy choice for their children.

But is it? Consider the claims that Sweet Surprise makes. Remember that the whole organization is run by the Corn Refiners Association, so we know exactly what they’re going to tell us. According to the commercials and Sweet Surprise media, high fructose corn syrup is naturally made from corn. Why does that mean it’s safe? You can also make biodiesel from corn, and I don’t see any commercials recommending that we drink it. So, just because high fructose corn syrup is made from corn somewhere along the road, doesn’t mean that it’s “”all natural.”” The Center for Science in the Public Interest concludes quite the opposite. The fact is that high fructose corn syrup can’t be found anywhere in nature. Similarly, although its ingredients are atomically similar to sugar, they are not equal. It is, plainly and simply, a manmade chemical concoction.

In fact, the chemical composition of the syrup is what really differentiates it from regular sugar. Sugar is made from 100 percent sucrose, which is nature’s way of combining glucose and fructose into a stable, bound molecule. High fructose corn syrup, on the other hand, is produced by chemically adding enzymes to corn syrup. This causes a reaction which creates glucose and fructose. So, the ratio of glucose and fructose in the syrup is volatile and manmade — simply not the way that nature intended. At the American Chemical Society conference in 2007, researchers studied this unnatural process and found that high fructose corn syrup contains “”astonishingly high”” levels of reactive compounds called carbonyls. Carbonyls are unbound molecules that are extremely reactive and are known to cause tissue damage in the human body.

The Corn Refiners Association and its associates deny these facts in their “”research.”” Instead, they have published studies that “”show no difference”” concerning the metabolism of high fructose corn syrup in comparison to real sugar. However, according to a recent report by CBS news, “”Three (out of six association studies) were sponsored by groups that stand to profit from research that promotes HFCS.”” In addition, it’s even more shocking that “”two (out of the remaining three studies) were never published, so their funding sources are unclear.”” Seriously? There is clearly bias here. We can’t blindly accept studies that are getting paid to produce certain results.

Although there is still some debate, research performed by independent companies usually determines that high fructose corn syrup is a health hazard. At the Harvard School of Public Health, a recent study found that beverages containing the syrup were associated with a substantially increased risk of weight gain, obesity and future development of diabetes. And there are countless other studies that have drawn similar conclusions for years. It is because of research like this that the CRA started its Sweet Surprise campaign in the first place.

But don’t be fooled by the propaganda, Wildcats. The college-aged generation consumes 500 to 1000 calories worth of added sweeteners per day. And most of them come from the unhealthy, unstable compounds in high fructose corn syrup. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition warns us that it’s in nearly 40 percent of our foods, especially soft drinks and processed snacks. It’s time that we do research and find the real facts on our own. Should we really continue to buy and consume unsafe products that compromise our health? Corn companies may profit from feeding us these dangerous compounds, but there’s nothing “”sweet”” to the real surprise: diabetes, heart attacks and obesity down the road.

— Miranda Butler is a creative writing sophomore. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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