How Sweet It Is

Corn and corn syrupThe Corn Refiners Association (CRA) would have consumers believe that High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is just another name for sugar, yet a recent 11% drop in product sales containing HFCS shows consumers are steering clear of it. To win consumers back, the CRA announced its intention September, 2010 to rename the sweetener “corn sugar.”

Can a new name for HFCS sway consumers? Previous name changes have boosted public consumption, including the switch from “low euric arid rapeseed oil” to “canola oil,” and the renaming of “dried plums” as prunes. But in the case of High Fructose Corn Syrup, the sweetener has considerable obstacles to surmount.

New studies have been published in 2010, including Bocarsly et al. and Elliot et al., which suggest HFCS causes characteristics of obesity and insulin resistance.1, 2 Other studies, funded in part by the CRA, concluded “that HFCS does not appear to contribute to overweight and obesity any differently than do other energy sources.”  A quick read on Wikipedia leads consumers to statistics of rising fructose consumption in the U.S. since HFCS obtained GRAS status in 1976, and the question as to whether the chemical process for making HFCS can be considered “natural.”

What’s beyond doubt is that consumer confusion and distrust of HFCS has grown considerably in the last few years and is still growing today. The CRA declares on its website that “high fructose corn syrup and table sugar contain approximately the same amount of fructose, yet nearly 58 percent of respondents believed high fructose corn syrup has more fructose than other table sugar.”

Can a new name save the ingredient in the court of public opinion? All I can say is that the jury’s still out on this one.


  1. Bocarsly ME, Powell ES, Avena NM, Hoebel BG (February 2010). “High-fructose corn syrup causes characteristics of obesity in rats: Increased body weight, body fat and triglyceride levels”. Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior. doi:10.1016/j.pbb.2010.02.012. PMID 20219526.
  2. Elliott, Sharon S; Nancy L Keim, Judith S Stern, Karen Teff and Peter J Havel (April 2004). “Fructose, weight gain, and the insulin resistance syndrome1″. Am J Clin Nutr 79 (4): 537–43. PMID 15051594.
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