You heard right. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has taken a beating lately due to its unhealthy effects—so much that the Corn Refiners Association (the makers of HFCS) wants to give it an alias. They want to call it “corn sugar.” The name may be changing, but the adverse effects of HFCS are still the same, so be on the lookout. High fructose corn syrup by any other name is still corn syrup—no matter what anyone says.
The Corn Refiners Association claims that corn syrup is the same as sugar, but it’s not. For example, Princeton researchers found that the consumption of HFCS caused tested animals to gain significantly more weight than the animals that consumed the same amount of regular table sugar. What may be even more astounding, however, is that the amount of HFCS in the study was much less than the amount found in one can of soda.
"Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn't true, at least under the conditions of our tests," said psychology professor Bart Hoebel.
By now you probably already know that HFCS has been implicated in obesity, diabetes and in cancer cell proliferation. (Cancer cells gobble up high fructose corn syrup faster than they do regular sugar.) But that’s not all. HFCS also puts a heavy burden on the liver, is made from corn (which is often genetically-modified or GM), and is linked to heart disease and metabolic syndrome.
To top it all off, past studies have also found that at least half of commercial HFCS contains high levels of toxic mercury due to its extensive chemical refining. That could be problematic, too, since HFCS intakes can be high. On average, Americans consume about 12 teaspoons per day of HFCS, but teens and other high consumers can take in 80% more HFCS than average.
Dr. David Wallinga, of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, who co-authored two revealing studies about HFCS says, "Mercury is toxic in all its forms. Given how much high-fructose corn syrup is consumed by children, it could be a significant additional source of mercury never before considered. We are calling for immediate changes by the industry and the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply."
The first study co-authored by Wallinga, published in Environmental Health, states that researchers found detectable levels of mercury in nine of 20 samples of commercial HFCS, although a Corn Refiners Association representative refutes this.
The second study found that nearly one in three of 55 brand-name foods contained mercury and was found most commonly in HFCS-containing dairy products, dressings and condiments.
So, what’s in a name? Plenty.
The name change may take a while to finalize and requires approval by the FDA, but the Corn Refiner’s Association is busy crafting its marketing for “corn sugar.” The new slogan claims that "whether it's corn sugar or cane sugar, your body can't tell the difference. Sugar is sugar."