Junk Science Gives High Fructose Corn Syrup a Black Eye

Prairie Gleanings

The New York Times dug a little further and got both sides of the story. Apparently there's a fight going on between the sugar and corn folks.

Published on: November 28, 2012

This had me screaming at the television last night. Our local news picked up the story and just ran a blanket summary.

It went something like this: “High-fructose corn syrup has been linked to a higher incidence of type 2 diabetes. According to a new study, type 2 diabetes is 20% more common in countries that use high-fructose corn syrup, such as the U.S.” And, on to the next story.

Before even digging into the matter, I yelled, “Correlation does not equal causation!” This is a basic scientific principle. Yet, the folks at the University of Southern California seem to be pretty good at ignoring it.

After a little news search, I see the New York Times dug a little deeper than the fine folks at St. Louis’ KSDK. Here’s a quote from the initial rote coverage of the release.

"HFCS appears to pose a serious public health problem on a global scale," says principal study author Michael I. Goran, MD, professor of preventive medicine , director of the Childhood Obesity Research Center, and co-director of the Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute at the Keck School of Medicine at USC in a release. "The study adds to a growing body of scientific literature that indicates HFCS consumption may result in negative health consequences distinct from and more deleterious than natural sugar."

The Times actually looked at the corn industry’s side of the thing. And, oh, what! There’s a feud going on between the Corn Refiners Association and The Sugar Association? This topic is highly political? Crazy!

The Times article notes in the lead that the study was “under attack” before it was even released. Even more impressive is the quote they received from Goran.

“We’re not saying that high-fructose corn syrup causes diabetes or that it is the only factor or even the only dietary factor with a relation to diabetes,” says Goran. “But it does support a growing body of evidence linking high-fructose corn syrup and diabetes.”

Sounds like someone is back peddling a bit. The Times also notes this isn’t the first HFCS-critical “research” published by Goran. He and the Corn Refiners have traded barbs previously.

Here’s my gripe: a good number of St. Louisans probably now believe HFCS will cause type 2 diabetes. Unless they realized this is highly controversial, they’re probably in the grocery stores now looking for “natural sugar” on labels. KSDK did us a real disservice. With Monsanto and the National Corn Growers Association both headquartered in St. Louis, you would have thought they’d researched this a bit more.

Now, how many cities across the U.S. saw the same one-sided news coverage?