This Health News Brought to You By Citizens for Sugar

When it comes to picking winners and losers in the food industry, I prefer the whims of the free market.  Give people information, let them decide how healthy or unhealthy they want to be.  Who am I to say a marathon runner can’t indulge in a 1,000-calorie sodium-laden burger?  Or that a right-winger like myself can’t buy organic when it suits her mood and wallet?

This morning I noticed that several news sites (Yahoo, Sacramento Bee, several local TV stations) reposted a press release from “Citizens for Health” titled “Americans Consuming Less Sugar as Obesity Rate Soars.”  From the press release:

Statistics released by the United States Department of Agriculture show that per capita consumption of natural sugar has dropped significantly in the last 40 years, from almost 100 pounds per person in 1968, to less than 67 pounds per person in 2011, while the nation’s obesity rate has risen dramatically in the same time period.

“Real sugar has been in our food supply for over a hundred years, suggesting that something other than sugar consumption is behind this recent jump in obesity,” said Jim Turner, chair of the consumer advocacy group Citizens for Health.

Now you might be confused to see the chair of a group called “Citizens for Health” defending sugar.  It doesn’t take much digging to learn that the group has received more than half its funding from the Sugar Association.  It then comes to no surprise who “Citizens for Health” blames for growing obesity. 

“So the question is, what’s making Americans so fat?,” asked Turner. “We strongly suspect that High Fructose Corn Syrup is responsible for our obesity epidemic.”

In 1970, per capita consumption of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) was less than one pound per year. By 1980 it had reached 19 pounds per person per year, and by 1999 the average American consumed close to 64 pounds of the industrial sweetener. A cheap substitute for real sugar (real sugar is made from sugar cane or sugar beets), High Fructose Corn Syrup is chemically derived from an intensive enzyme process. It can be found in thousands of supermarket products and in almost every major soda and sports drink brand. The Corn Refiners Association reported that 19 billion pounds of the man-made sweetener was shipped in 2011.

“If you consume sugar, do so in moderation. Avoid HFCS completely,” Turner added.

This just in from Pepsi: Avoid Coke at all costs!  For your health, obvi. 

I have no problem with an industry lobbying for their own interests, but this news release takes two different sets of statistics and correlates them.  Since the press release’s thesis fits the media’s narrative that high fructose corn syrup is evil simply because it’s produced, they’ll report the findings with no mention that Citizens for Health is actually Citizens for Sugar.  Interestingly, the media is always singing the praises of science and claiming those on the right are anti-science.  However, when it comes to producing cheaper or longer-lasting products “chemical” and “science” become dirty words.  Once again, the media wants to pick winners and losers in the food industry and have no problem providing cover for big business interests when it suits their needs.

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