Thursday, September 20, 2012

Growing sugar cane with astroturf

Our current generation of food "experts" is ill with pseudo-intellectual phobias over things like non-organic crops, internationally-grown produce, genetically-modified crops, BPA, lean beef trimmings and high-fructose corn syrup.

As I wrote last year, high-fructose isn't a healthy product simply because it's sugar. There are no health benefits to replacing it with cane sugar or honey, despite what most people believe.

That myth is perpetuated on some level by hapless rubes, but there's also a sinister element behind the popularity of the misconception. As Timothy P. Carney wrote in the Washington Examiner this week:

Citizens for Health, a "natural health" nonprofit, has joined in the anti-corn-syrup fight. CFH has lobbied the FDA to require clearer labeling and enforce restrictions on fructose content. The group has also launched an anti-corn-syrup PR campaign. 
But, as always, follow the money. The Sugar Association has funded CFH's anti-corn-syrup campaign. Adam Fox, attorney for the Sugar Association, told me Friday that the Sugar Association is not directing CFH's campaign, but it is bankrolling it for "six figures" because of the two groups' "shared opposition" to corn syrup. 
This echoes a similar campaign CFH launched against artificial sweeteners last decade. The Sugar Association also funded that campaign, as Andy Briscoe, CEO of the Sugar Association, testified in a court deposition in 2007.

It's ironic that the rank and file anti-corn syrup food elitists, many of whom are Earthy-crunchy power-to-the-people types, have become pawns in a corporate propaganda campaign.


  1. Since I wrote a piece about HFCS earlier this year, I have been presented with studies which indicate to me that any statements beyond "The evidence is not yet in" are irresponsible. My primary source is a former biochem professor who seems to read more scientific papers than anyone I've ever known.

    Beyond that, the fact that Gatorade uses sucrose indicates to me some sort of superiority in the way the body metabolizes it versus HFCS. After all, there is hardly a company in the world which does more vigorous or serious sport related research than Gatorade.

    As to BPA, there are conflicting studies and reports on what it does to women, babies, and the population at large. Once again, the irresponsible position is to stake an absolute claim one way or the other. Science does not build itself upon individuals studies, but rather upon bodies of evidence.

    For the "lean beef trimmings", also known as pink slime, I think that boils down to a yuck-factor for most people. It sounds gross and the process behind it is unpleasant. That doesn't mean it isn't fine to consume.

    1. There are links backing up the the stance on corn syrup in the post from last year. Without any specific citations, you are simply making an argument from authority.

      As for BPA, no one said an individual study proves anything. The majority opinion within the scientific community is that BPA used in containers is expelled from the body naturally before it can cause any harm.

  2. I don't think you know what an argument from authority is. My source is someone who is an authority in biochemistry who strongly leans towards the idea that the body metabolizes HFCS differently than sucrose, and I trust her, but she also routinely presents her sources. They were sources to which I have no access because of absurdly high pay walls. But if you want citations, look at the bottom of the Wikipedia page. You will consistently find original papers and review articles which say the evidence is not in, but there are indicators which have not been resolved. Some papers will (rightly) raise issue with methodology from other studies, but a search of PubMed will find you papers that get around those complaints. For instance, this study does not use unrealistic doses of HFCS:

    You are, at best, ignorant about BPA. At worst, you are misleading. There is a difference between *who* is taking in the substance; your blanket statement does not work. Furthermore, the NIH, among other organizations, still have concerns. You are hardly accurate to imply that majority opinion indicates that BPA is safe.

    As for the citations to actual papers, try this:

  3. That second link is not correct. This one is:

  4. MUCH better! Great read followed by a few interesting counterpoints.

  5. "I don't think you know what an argument from authority is. My source is someone who is an authority in biochemistry..."

    That's exactly what an argument from authority looks like.

    Both of your links simply say the chemical in question cause health problems in certain doses. In the first case, it simply shows that sugar is bad for you. It does not show it is worse than honey, which is what I declared.

    The second shows BPA is harmful, but it does not overturn the evidence that shows that BPA levels in products can cause harm.

    I can offer two further links to demonstrate. Neither are single studies, but reviews of the literature by prominent, well respected skeptics who are medical doctors.

  6. You know what would cut down on corn syrup use?

    An end to government farm subsidies, specifically those of a corn like nature.

    With fructose simply being a simpler sugar than sucrose I can't find anything out there indicating that one is better or worse than the other. Especially considering that sucrose is processed in the body down to 50/50 fructose/glucose while corn syrup seems to be 55/45 fructose to glucose. I also note that fructose is much sweeter tasting than sucrose, something that means people need to use less of it to attain the same level of sweetness.

  7. Nate, another thing that would cut down on corn syrup use is if we removed the sugar tariffs that allow American sugar cane producers to drive up prices. Both sides are fat with government favors.

  8. Thank you for the condescension, Abner, but this is exactly the way I respond every single time.

    "That's exactly what an argument from authority looks like."

    I don't know if FOX is hiring, but you'll want to use their website to submit up your application.

    "Both of your links simply say the chemical in question cause health problems in certain doses."

    And I'm sure you'll honestly take note of the fact that one of the major complaints against many studies, as I already pointed out, is the unrealistic dosage used. The study I gave you uses better quantities.

    "In the first case, it simply shows that sugar is bad for you."

    You cannot use the word sugar in a conversation like this without being more specific. The very thing in question is how different types of sugars are metabolized. In this case, we're talking about a specific mode of fructose. You probably mean granulated sucrose.

    "It does not show it is worse than honey, which is what I declared."

    It also doesn't show that it's worse than lettuce. So what? It shows a metabolic change for the worse.

    "The second shows BPA is harmful, but it does not overturn the evidence that shows that BPA levels in products can cause harm."

    First, that study looks at the toxicity of BPA at a different level than most other studies; it addresses DNA methylation whereas I haven't seen others do that. Second, it is exactly this sort of evidence which leads to questions over the safety of particular molecules and products. As I said, declaring BPA safe at this point is, at best, irresponsible.

    To your first link, I am not contending that HFCS is necessarily bad to consume versus other forms of sugar. I am contending that there is evidence which says it is metabolized differently and that may have health implications. I lean towards your end of this argument, but I'm not willing to leap. (Incidentally, my citation of a biochemistry professor's in-class review of materials and her subsequent opinion, is exactly the same, logically, as your link to Novella.)

    To the BPA link, I've already made my general case, so I don't think I need to add anything.

    To your detailed responses, I honestly appreciate them.

  9. Of course it is metabolized differently , sucrose is broken down into fructose and glucose, in similar proportions to what HFCS starts out being.

  10. It isn't that simple. Exactly where in the process (and in which process) the molecule enters appears to make a difference. It isn't a conga line where anyone can jump in at any time and it doesn't matter.

  11. The first thing everyone should know about toxicity is dosage. It's one thing to show that BPA levels sustained in the body cause damage, either in high or low amounts. It's another to say that BPA in products actually gets into the body and stays there long enough to do damage. It's well understood that it does not.

    I'm not sure what your obsession is with Fox News. I don't have cable TV and thus do not watch it. Should I attribute your statements about wanting to give socialism a try (your words, not mine) to MSNBC or youthful inexperience?

    You clearly made an argument from authority. I shared links with proper citations, which was their strength. You declared something was valid because an unnamed authority figure declared it, and during a failed attempt to defend your argument from authority you declared the person is an authority.

    As the responce argument from my post from last year said, the levels of fructose the cane sugar lobbyists are citing are equal in HFCS, cane sugar and honey. It's like I'm saying cutting yourself with a knife made of steel, silver or chromium does the same amount of damage, and you're showing me a study that steel knives can hurt people.

  12. I want to go back to your comment about honey because I think it illustrates how you are confused. The study I cited, as well as others, showed that HFCS has certain effects on the body which are negative. The study did not use honey as a control, but I'm not sure why it would. It was looking at the methylation of DNA by HFCS. Honey, just like lettuce or Kool-Aid, is irrelevant.

    As to the levels of HFCS versus sucrose, this goes to what I said to Nate. The fact that a molecule contains the same constituents as another molecule does not mean that they are, therefore, the same. More importantly, it does not mean that they are metabolized the same. You are contending exactly the opposite of this: You are saying that because HFCS and sucrose contain comparable levels of fructose and glucose, we should consider them as equal as far as metabolism is concerned. You are plainly wrong.

    As to the FOX News quip, your quote-mining and selective reading reminded me greatly of Sean Hannity and a few of his pals. That I acknowledged that my former professor is an authority does not mean I was making an argument from authority. All I did was tell you that she has sown doubt in my mind over HFCS. I then went on to mention another reason for my doubt. You took this to mean that I was relying on my professor to make an argument. I was not and you are, once again, plainly wrong.

  13. But again, the only difference between your Novella link and my former professor is that Novella used his authority to write his thoughts down whereas my professor spoke her thoughts.

  14. M-Hawk, you make a strong point about molecular structure have unique effects. I was under the impression it was simply the fructose levels they were concerned about, but you've shown that is not the case. I'm convinced you're right about that.

    However, when the study is referenced to show that HFCS should be replaced with something like cane sugar or honey, then the results should be compared to the alternative.

    As for the other issues, I think anyone that rereads the above lines will see who meant what.