Corn refineries are under fire, as makers of high-fructose corn syrup are being sued in federal court for allegedly making false advertising statements which claim that high-fructose corn syrup is a natural sugar. The plaintiffs include many key players in the American sugar industry, including American Sugar Refining Inc. The sugar companies are seeking $1.5 billion in damages from the corn refineries.
Meanwhile, the corn refiners, which include companies such as Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill, have countersued for $530 million, saying that they are being unfairly targeted by sugar producers who have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup causes serious health ailments. According to the corn companies, high-fructose corn syrup does not cause obesity or diabetes.
Most readily available scientific data shows that fructose, or fruit sugar, has negative health effects that are not caused by other forms of sugars. However, this does not necessarily prove that the health epidemics of obesity and diabetes are caused by high-fructose corn syrup alone. Most scientists believe that the excessive consumption of any type of sugar can lead to poor health.
Corn refineries have long marketed high-fructose corn syrup as a cheap alternative to traditional sugar. Many companies took notice, and they started using high-fructose corn syrup in their products. However, as the potential health problems associated with high-fructose corn syrup came to light, many companies switched back to traditional sugar.
In order to regain customers, corn refineries started referring to high-fructose corn syrup as “corn sugar”. They made the claim that “sugar is sugar” and that their product was just as safe as regular sugar. But this was short lived, as the United States Food and Drug Administration quickly stepped in, saying that the corn refineries had to refer to the product by the traditional name.
When consumed in high concentrations, fructose sugars, such as high-fructose corn syrup, damage the liver and increase the body’s production of fat. Excessive consumption can also lead to insulin resistance and diabetes. Insulin resistance in the brain has been shown to lead to impaired memory and cognition.
When similar studies were conducted using traditional sugar, or glucose, instead of fructose, the effects were still there, but they weren’t as dramatic. This largely shows that traditional sugar, while still not a healthy option, is safer than high-fructose corn syrup.
However, some people have disputed these scientific studies, saying that many of the trials were funded by the food industry. They often entered with an inherent bias to protect their respective industries. In fact, as many as 83% of studies that were funded by the food industry did not link sugar-filled beverages to weight gain. That being said, the studies that were funded independently showed more reasonable results.
There’s no denying that the corn industry is critical to the economy United States of the United States. The court could very well side with the corn refineries for the sole purpose of protecting the agricultural industry. But by now, most people should know that high-fructose corn syrup is one of the worst things that you can consume. Time will tell if the court makes the logical decision.