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But study does not appear to clearly indicate whether it's part of a broader caloric problem

In 2011 and 2012 the U.S. federal government paid$7.3B USD in corn subsidies, most of which went in the pockets of "big corn" -- Cargill, Inc., Archer Daniels Midland Comp. (ADM), Gavilon, and ConAgra Foods, Inc. (CAG).  These corporations control roughly 60 percent of the market according to a 2007 National Farmer's Union (NFU) report [PDF], and have deep ties to top federal politicians (for example Gavilon co-owner George Soros donated $5M USD to President Obama and fellow pro-corn Democrats in the last election cycle).  

In addition to lining the pockets of big corn these subsidies have served to make corn syrup cheap, in turn propagating the sugary foods and beverages that use it such as pop/soda/coke.

I. Study Ties Sugary Pop to Violent Children

Researchers at Columbia University have performed a statistical analysis of data on 3,000 5-year-old children enrolled in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a study that's tracking both mothers and children in 20 large U.S. cities.

While much of the study -- including the Child Behavior Checklist -- focuses on psychological and sociological content, part of the study also focuses on diet, inquiring about soft drinking consumption.  This in turn offers some interesting opportunities to see if there's really a link between corn syrup and child misbehavior, which corn syrup's critics have long alleged.

The study found that 43 percent of children consumed one or more soft drink serving a day, while 4 percent consumed 4 servings or more a day.  A clear correlation was found between "aggression, withdrawal, and attention problems (i.e. ADHD)" and soft drink consumption.

But soft drinks are cheap; simple logic would suggest poverty would both predispose kids to behavior issues and to heavy consumption of cheaper foods.  But the Columbia team claims that even with "sociodemographic factors, maternal depression, intimate partner violence, and paternal incarceration" removed, there's still a clear correlation between "any soft drink consumption was associated with increased aggressive behavior."

Children who drank 4 or more soft drinks a day were found to be twice as likely to exhibit violent behavior -- breaking toys, getting in fights with peers, and physically attacking adults.

II. Is the High Fructose Corn Syrup or the Higher Caloric Intake in General to Blame?

Dr. Shakira Suglia, ScD, the study's first author comments, "We found that the child's aggressive behavior score increased with every increase in soft drinks servings per day."

The conclusions are controversial, given recent efforts by certain state and city governments (including Mayor Michael Bloomberg's New York City regime) to regulate soft drink consumption.

Soft drink ban
Some, like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have pushed to restrict or ban soft drinks to curb public obesity and related health issues. [Image Source: AP]

The compelling question is whether the authors overlooked some correlation or greater overarching trend.  Despite the inarguable criticism over big corn and government handouts, the case against high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is sketchier from a scientific perspective.  No sweeter than table sugar, and with a similar caloric profile it does not appear HFCS is significantly different from its more expensive traditional brethren.

On the flip side both sucrose and corn syrup consumption has risen sharply over the last couple decades as obesity in America has also spiked.  A technical paper [abstract] arguably sponsored by big corn (from the White Technical Research food and beverage industry consulting firm) raises this interesting chicken or egg dilemma in a recent 2008 paper in defense of HFCS.  While undeniably biased the paper does show data indicating that HFCS consumption has only risen roughly proportionally with the increase in overall calories.

Thus while there appears to be a clear link between HFCS and child misbehavior, it remains to be seen if the true correlation is between caloric intake and misbehavior.  If that was a case, it would still be an indictment of gov't subsidizing of corporate farming of high caloric foods (e.g. oil and sugar crops), but would provide a more rational scientific explanation for this otherwise confusing conclusion.

The paper on Dr. Suglia, et al.'s work was published [abstract] in The Journal of Pediatrics.

Sources: The Journal of Pediatrics [abstract], Elsevier/Columbia Univ. [press release]



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RE: A little young for soda
By Nfarce on 8/19/2013 5:27:13 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly. I just read an article this morning that fruit juices (even OJ) we give kids is no better than sodas. This is because the fibers in the fruit are destroyed, which helps the liver metabolize the vitamins and nutrients and regulate sucrose intake. It effectively pushes sugar right into the system just like soda. Drinking a glass of apple juice does not equal the health benefits of eating a couple of apples.


RE: A little young for soda
By Ammohunt on 8/19/2013 10:59:47 PM , Rating: 2
I am with you my wife and I are fat people but we encourage good eating habits with our kids. One thing they always have access to is fresh fruit they are fruit eating monkeys that shun candy and the like.


RE: A little young for soda
By lagomorpha on 8/20/2013 9:00:52 AM , Rating: 2
Fruit is loaded with sugar. A medium apple or banana is around 100 calories, pretty much all sugar. The only thing fruit has over soda or candy is that it has a bit of vitamins and fiber along with all the sugar.

Not to sound too harsh but if you encourage your kids to be fruit eating monkeys they may as well be shoveling down candy with vitamins and fiber supplements. It's not going to keep them thin and healthy.

Vegetables on the other hand are much more filling and nutritious with much fewer calories. One medium apple has more calories than an entire bag of baby carrots provided you can get your kids to eat them without dipping them in ranch.


RE: A little young for soda
By ammaross on 8/20/2013 10:24:34 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
A medium apple or banana is around 100 calories, pretty much all sugar. The only thing fruit has over soda or candy is that it has a bit of vitamins and fiber along with all the sugar.


A mini-size Kit Kat (not even fun-size) is 42 calories. You get a LOT more content per calorie out of a banana.


RE: A little young for soda
By Reclaimer77 on 8/20/2013 11:04:31 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
Not to sound too harsh but if you encourage your kids to be fruit eating monkeys they may as well be shoveling down candy with vitamins and fiber supplements. It's not going to keep them thin and healthy.


Are you some kind of idiot?

The heath benefits of fruit have been established LONG ago, maybe you should look them up.

Sure fruits have sugar. Fruits also have essential-

Ah you know what, fuck it. Why am I going to sit here and break down the obvious? If you're stupid enough to think eating fruit could in any way be unhealthy, there's no point.


RE: A little young for soda
By chripuck on 8/20/2013 12:09:56 PM , Rating: 2
Not to mention the obvious "try to get a 3 year old to eat green beans/broccolli etc."

I'm sure he's a model parent and has his kids eating asparagus at lunch...


RE: A little young for soda
By lagomorpha on 8/22/2013 8:38:04 AM , Rating: 2
I didn't mean to imply that you shouldn't ever let your kids eat fruit, but if they're "fruit eating monkeys" don't be surprised when they end up as fat as their parents. It's better than candy certainly but shouldn't be viewed as "it's fruit so they can eat as much as they want".

Also IME it's not that hard to get kids to eat carrots.


RE: A little young for soda
By Ammohunt on 8/20/2013 3:16:30 PM , Rating: 2
The main idea is to cut down on the amount of processed food in our diets not cut calorie count. i believe children that are active (like my kids) should be allowed to consume as many healthy calories as they want and for kids snacking there is nothing better than fruit.

Ultimately my belief is a varied diet coupled with moderation is the key to healthy living; skip the vitamin supplements entirely. Keep in mind i said my wife and i are fat people not unhealthy people.


RE: A little young for soda
By ClownPuncher on 8/20/2013 2:33:16 PM , Rating: 2
Make your own fresh squeezed juice. It tastes 100x better than pasteurized crap and you get all of the nutrition. Plus, a bag of oranges is cheap.


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