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High Fructose Corn Syrup IS Bad for Your Kidney, Liver and the Planet (but can be Funny Too)!

The original SHAMEFUL ad that was showing during the spring and early summer. Really.

Anyone with even a modicum of concern about what they eat (or what their family eats) has cut out high fructose corn syrup.

WHY is HFCS so bad for us? Mainly, because it’s processed, and processed foods are what are making us fat, by sneaking ingredients into our bodies that our bodies never evolved to digest. Michael Pollan has recommended eating foods with no more than a handful of ingredients and avoiding any ingredients our grandparents wouldn’t recognize; HFCS has never existed before human beings manufactured it for cheap sweetener. And it’s really cheap, meaning companies can easily add it to thousands of products that never even had sugar or sweetener in them to begin with (like potato chips)! In addition:

-High Fructose Corn Syrup is typically made from genetically-modified corn.

-HFCS has been linked to higher levels of kidney damage according to this study and to fatty liver disease in this study.

-Some HFCS has also been found to contain detectable levels of mercury (17 out of 55 products containing HFCS tested high on the charts for mercury). There are NO safe levels of mercury for women of childbearing age or children.

-It’s bad for our environment. “Most corn is grown as a monoculture, meaning that the land is used solely for corn, not rotated among crops. This maximizes yields, but at a price: It depletes soil nutrients, requiring more pesticides and fertilizer while weakening topsoil.”

-It is suggested that diabetics avoid it because they body doesn’t process it like sugar (glucose) which can wreak havoc on blood sugar levels. Diabetics already have watch their diet and check their sugar levels with tools like a continuous blood glucose monitor, HFCS should really be avoided.

-HFCS makes us fat. Long story short is that fructose, the sugar in HFCS, doesn’t stimulate leptin, a hormone which tells your body it’s full. So you’ve consumed a bunch of processed sugar-like calories, but your body doesn’t get the message, leading you to eat more calories. Fructose is also “an unregulated source of “acetyl CoA,” or the starting material for fatty acid synthesis. This, coupled with unstimulated leptin levels, is like opening the flood gates of fat deposition.”

But instead of responding appropriately to a cause of ill health and obesity, the corn industry has decided to try to justify it! You are on the WRONG side of history, folks. The people that are pushing HFCS as OK are in the same book as those folks who fought smoking bans for all those years. Shameful.

If you hear of scientific reports that say that HFCS is ok, check who’s behind that research (as the Mayo Clinic points out here). The food industry is rife with ‘reports’ put out by food manufacturers themselves, and as we saw with the tobacco industry reports saying smoking is ‘ok in moderation’ (the same claim HFCS folks are making here) I trust that data as far as I can throw it.

And while the evidence about HFCS and how unhealthy it is continues to mount, some comedians have taken the situation into their own hands. This is an hilarious parody of the Corn Refiner’s ad above.


And the HILARIOUS rebuttals. Gotta love a great satire. The second and third are priceless!

Starre Vartan is founder and editor-in-chief of Eco-Chick.com and the author of the Eco-Chick Guide to Life. She's also a freelance science and environment writer who has published in National Geographic, CNN, Scientific American, Mental Floss, Pacific Standard, the NRDC, and many more. She lives on an island in Puget Sound with her partner and black cat. She was a geologist in her first career, and still picks up rocks wherever she goes.