High fructose corn syrup: Saving pennies, packing on the pounds

Everyone agrees on two things: Americans enjoy relatively cheap food prices, and they also have a serious problem with weight. Thank high fructose corn syrup for both of these conditions.

On the one hand, the recent discovery that there are trace amounts of mercury in many brands of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) comes as something of a surprise. After all, most people save their dietary consumption of mercury for the occasional swordfish or tuna splurge; the fact that it is finding its way into our bodies through sodas and snacks seems a little unfair. On the other hand, given the health problems associated with HFCS, the addition of mercury is just icing on the cake.

I have to admit that I'm not a fan of HFCS. A few days ago, in fact, I wrote a post in which I criticized the stuff. Having done battle with the HFCS folk before, I wasn't surprised to find a nice long missive from an industry representative tacked into the comment section. The representative pointed to various studies claiming that HFCS is no more damaging than honey or table sugar. Corn growers have bolstered this with a $30 million ad campaign and a much-hyped FDA ruling that allows food manufacturers to use the term "natural" when advertising HFCS.

I can only imagine the bribes, threats, and arm-twisting that went into producing the FDA's ruling; while there are plenty of reasons to dispute the corn-industry's numerous studies touting the all-natural status of HFCS, my personal experience with the stuff has been particularly compelling.