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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: Bad Parents
By Solandri on 8/20/2013 4:28:32 PM , Rating: 3
HFCS is "high-fructose" which can be as high as 90% fructose where as natural sugar (cane sugar, table sugar, etc) and juice sugars are mostly, if not entirely, sucrose. HFCS is processed differently by the body. The industry claims to use HFCS-55 in soft drinks (55% fructose) and HFCS-42 in bakes goods and foods, but most lab studies show HFCS-90 is used in almost everything because it is cheapest to produce (less corn syrup is blended with "rear" sugar)

Whoa, slow down there. This is something I see pretty frequently. People dislike something, so when choosing a rationale to explain it, they pick the worst one possible. Even if it contradicts their conclusion.

Natural corn syrup is mostly glucose. It's converted into HFCS by a process (which costs money) which converts some of that glucose into fructose. (The reason they do this is because fructose is nearly twice as sweet as glucose, but more on that later.) So you have it backwards - HFCS-90 is actually the most expensive product (it's made by processing corn syrup to make HFCS-42, then further processing the HFCS-42).

So assuming equal amounts of sugar, using HFCS-90 in soft drinks would be more expensive than using HFCS-55 or HFCS-42. The only reason you'd use HFCS-90 instead of HFCS-55 is because fructose is sweeter than glucose. That means you can use less of it while maintaining the same amount of sweetness. Yes that means you could save money by using less HFCS-90 than HFCS-55 to get the same amount of sweetness, but that would decrease the sugar content of the drink thus making it healthier. And indeed that's exactly what they do in diet soft drinks that don't use sugar substitutes. These use HFCS-90 to provide the same sweetness with less sugar (fewer calories).

So (1) there is no cost-incentive (if you aim for the same amount of sugar) to use HFCS-90 instead of HFCS-55, and in fact it's cheaper to use HFCS-55. And (2) if they did use HFCS-90 instead of HFCS-55 (aiming for the same amount of sweetness), they'd essentially be producing diet soda which would be less fattening for the people drinking it. Without a doubt they'd take advantage of this to lower the calories listed on the FDA label for the drink. So the reason you give for use of HFCS-90 instead of HFCS-55 simply doesn't make sense.

"Natural" sugar is sucrose (glucose and fructose are natural too, but I guess some people like to refer to just sucrose as natural). It's a disaccharide - basically two simpler sugar molecules (monosaccharides) glued together. Your body cannot use raw sucrose. It must first break it down into its constituent monosaccharides. In sucrose's case, the two monosaccharides are... (drumroll) ... glucose and fructose. So sucrose becomes 50% glucose, 50% fructose in your body.

For comparison:

"Natural" sugar = 50% fructose, 50% glucose
HFCS-42 = 42% fructose, 58% glucose
HFCS-55 = 55% fructose, 45% glucose

Note: The "high fructose" in HFCS simply refers to the fact that it contains more fructose than regular corn syrup (which is nearly all glucose). It does not mean it is predominantly fructose or has substantially more fructose than regular table sugar after it's been broken down in your body.

While that could be true when comparing a favorable blend of HFCS to a high-fructose juice like orange juice, you have left "manufacturing" out of the equation.

That's certainly a valid possibility.

HFCS is highly chlorinated during production with synthetic agents. Sucralose (Splenda) is highly chlorinated as well. Chlorine is a toxin to the body.

Chlorine is necessary for our survival. The sodium channels which allow our nerves to transmit signals rely on shuffling sodium and potassium ions across cellular membranes. The other half of the ion is chlorine. We get it from table salt (sodium chloride).

While concentrated elemental chlorine is dangerous and harmful, it's a far stretch to then conclude that any chlorine must therefore be bad and our bodies cannot handle it. Drinking water and swimming pool water is chlorinated because the harm from the chlorine is less than the harm from potential pathogens the chlorine kills.

The true danger of HFCS is how we use it in honey production. There has been a world-wide bee epidemic for nearly a decade, coincidentally, right about the time HFCS was used as a sucrose replacement for honey bees.

Scientists have been trying to figure out the cause of colony collapse disorder for close to a decade now. They have not reached any conclusions. It's irresponsible and alarmist to imply CCD is caused by HFCS when no such link has been conclusively established.

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