HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP ADVERTISEMENTS
I think just about everyone would agree that one of our top priorities should be to ensure the health of our nation’s children. And although some of us point to a failure of personal responsibility as a component of the problem of weight gain and obesity, few can make a compelling claim that our nation’s children bear the responsibly for their own obesity and unprecedented suffering with diabetes (and other obesity-related health problems).
And what of the causes of this devastating increase in childhood obesity and childhood diabetes? Numerous recent studies have noted the striking rise in obesity related illness among kids. A disturbing, growing percentage of our nation’s youth have a condition known as “prediabetes” or impaired glucose tolerance that leads to outright diabetes.
The best evidence points to multifactorial causes. We are a more sedentary society. Our children spend more time in front of screens than out kicking balls and running through the grass. Physical education has disappeared from the school curricula. A greater fraction of the child’s meals are fast foods and prepared foods. And these same fast foods are more delicious than ever and higher in calorie content than ever. And finally, our children have exhibited a stunning increase in the consumption of carbohydrate sweets, especially table sugar (sucrose) and high fructose corn syrup, that parallels the epidemic of weight gain and obesity. As a weight loss expert having worked with so many overweight people over the years, the consumption of sweeteners stands out as accounting for a disproportionate amount of the problem of weight gain.
Scientific studies further link the consumption of high fructose corn syrup-laden beverages and increasing rates of childhood obesity.
In 1970, the average per capita consumption of soft drinks, sodas, in the United States was 28 gallons per person per year. In 2008, it was 56 gallons per person per year (of beverages usually sweetened with high fructose corn syrup). Over the same period of time, the rate of obesity (Body Mass Index greater than 30) has increased from around 5% to over 15% among children and adolescents in this country. Between 1970 and 1990, the US per capita consumption of high fructose corn syrup has increased tenfold or more than 1000%. According to a comprehensive review undertaken by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in their article published in 2006 (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 84, page 274-288), the comprehensive review of all of the clinical trials and evidence-based, peer-reviewed studies demonstrates that “the weight of epidemiologic and experimental evidence indicates that a greater consumption of sugar sweetened beverages is associated with weight gain and obesity”.
So how do we as individuals, as communities, as governments, as schools, and as corporations lead, protect and nurture our young people? How do we, as the adult stewards of our young people, prevent them from suffering the scourge of obesity, type II diabetes and its complications (blindness, amputations, stroke, kidney failure)?
My belief is that the solution lies in every community in the country, every government chamber in the country, every school in the country, every corporate boardroom, and every home. It will take all of us working on many solutions to fix a problem that is so widespread and so damaging to kids.
When tobacco was shown to cause health problems (cancer, heart disease, birth defects), initially the tobacco industry dug in and created an advertising, public relations response that tried to deny the science.
Now we see the same head-in-the-sand response by the makers of high fructose corn syrup. Instead of acknowledging the obvious role of sweeteners in fostering childhood obesity, diabetes and disease, the industry is mounting a public relations campaign to dispel the science.
Instead of stepping up and taking responsibility, the industry is putting out spin with ads like these from the corn council.
Sure, there are differences among tobacco, alcohol and sweeteners. But if we are to reduce the alarming rates of childhood diabetes, it is undeniable that we must find a way to reduce consumption of these high calorie, high carbohydrate sweeteners.
As a physician and parent, I would appreciate industry taking a leadership role in educating kids and parents about the damaging aspects of high fructose corn syrup. Imagine a responsible corn industry running ads that say that consumption of this sweetener needs to be limited in kids and overweight adults. Consuming too much of this sweetener leads to weight gain which causes real health problems for kids, like diabetes. So enjoy our delicious sweeteners, but do so in moderation, and make sure your child is staying on a healthy growth curve and not gaining weight beyond a healthy level.
I suspect it is a matter of time before governments force the Corn Council to step up and act responsibly. Based on this sad spin campaign that ignore our childrens’ health and serves only to promote more profits for the purveyors of high fructose corn syrup, it does not appear that the corn industry is prepared to act responsibly on its own.