My High-Fructose Corn Syrup Theory

I’ve had people actually laugh at this one so I thought I’d present it first. Laughable? We’ll see.

A quick disclaimer, to hopefully lend some credibility: I am in no way a dietician. But this doesn’t require me to be. I know what I know and know what I see, and I’m systematic and dogmatic in my approach. I’m consistent but adaptable, too. That’s almost defining “scientific,” so although I may make some attempts at jokes, what I describe is serious and based on science, fact, a rigid interpretation of history, and what I know to be true as someone who’s no longer a spring chicken.

As if Americans’ diets aren’t horrible enough, along with a total lack of exercise, we’re being almost force-fed crap that is terrible for our health, at least n the form of this ingredient. What the ingredient’s in and what we choose to eat are two separate things, remember.

This isn’t to guilt or blubber-shame anyone. It’s also not to give anyone a free ride and an opt-out of responsibility. You must watch what you consume and how you burn it off. Simple as that. McDonalds isn’t going to do it for you, nor is your city council member. It’s on you. Some people question if you can’t take care of yourself, then what should you be ever be trusted to take care of? Not kids and pets, for sure. Unfortunately for lots of overweight kids and pets. If you see an out-of-shape dog, chances are good the owner is also that out of shape. Look for it.

No one should be surprised by the fact most Americans don’t eat even remotely close to the appropriate amount of fruits and vegetables, at all. No one should be surprised by any of this, so far. When Discover Card is using “I Like Big Butts” as their tag in their commercials, fat has been normalized in this country. As has weird “jingle” choices for financial companies.

Also, I think it’s important to note that in these very studies, they refer to high fructose corn syrup as “sugar,” which is not the same thing. That makes you wonder. It makes me wonder, at least.

Alright, Musgrove, enough yappity yap. What’s the theory?

Glad you finally asked. It all stems from back in 1957 when HFCS was invented. But it wasn’t until the 1970’s that the government unleashed this atomic fat bomb on America itself. In fact, several of these theories about the most destructive outcomes germinated in the 1970s. Go figure. That’s where some people will already be rolling eyes and clicking away to find a safe space with GIFs of kittens and bunnies. But remember that attitude is to blame as much as anything in life.

So with those marshmallows gone, here’s the deal.

Farmers were incentivized to grow more corn. Tariffs were placed to keep sugar prices high, on top of the subsidies to drive prices low. Full-court press! Corn subsidies had farmers growing so much corn it was rotting in silos, yet they were still being given huge subsidies to keep growing more. There was an oversupply of corn, to put it mildly. Corn became ultra-cheap as a result. (Interestingly, it’s not so cheap anymore by the cob, raw, at the grocery store.)

Plain corn syrup itself was nothing new. There’s light and dark that are used for baking. Many of us grew up with the glass jars of it in our mom’s if not grandmother’s kitchen. (That was a sexist comment these days, no? As if most chefs aren’t men or something.) That’s a different ingredient than HFCS, just FYI. And to use a bunch of acronyms. NBD. But that kind of corn syrup is 100% glucose which is a simple sugar. Our bodies are made to deal with simple sugars. But once that corn syrup is changed into high fructose corn syrup, problems begin. The sugars in, say, an orange and all fruits I can think of, are simple sugars and don’t slowly wreak havoc on our bodies.

But food scientists figured out a way to use all this cheap corn in innovative ways (high margins and profits for a product already being subsidized by the government? Win-win-win-and more win!) And HFCS began appearing everywhere. It was cheap stuff and a substitute for taxed, refined sugar. Anything “refined” isn’t good for you, as far as food goes. Young ladies are a different story. But refined grains and sugars are not healthy. Neither is saturated fat, too much salt, and quite a few other high-risk dietary habits we have among us. Nothing’s healthy in excess. Moderation for most things is key. But flat-out avoidance is a pretty smart strategy, too. Putting butter on a rare steak and salting it heavily with a giant loaf of buttered white bread is asking for it, for example.

But compared to the prices of white refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup was/is cheap. Especially when there are tariffs on beet and cane sugar, the direct competition. These are some nice, and unique, protections, don’t you think? There may be some other financial benefits as well, such as costs for transporting it or something. I’ll research that but I can’t think of or see any with what I know about logistics. And I minored in logistics and supply chain in graduate business school. So I know a little. But The government essentially pays to have HFCS injected into all our foods if you connect the dots.

HFCS literally was in everything there was if it had been handled by man. Bread, drinks, ice cream, pasta sauces, cookies, and crackers…you name it. And don’t think fast food places, which also were phenomenons that exploded from the 1970s as people began driving and exploring America.

HFCS is used in almost every packaged food and soft drink American consumers see today.,and%20made%20it%20into%20fructose.

I’m old enough to remember when Coca-Cola, my biggest vice in life, switched from real sugar to HFCS. The taste is different. Real sugar has a cleaner taste. I buy Coke from Mexico that has pure cane sugar in them every now and then. They’re also in glass bottles which are superior. Talking about Coca-Cola, not cocaine, here. I just want to be explicit about that, so no one starts emailing me about who my dealer is.

The fact that Mexico gets cane sugar in their Cokes, and Americans get HFCS supports my theory as well, mind you. Mexico had no such subsidies. This whole thing was botched from the beginning, and politicians have continued to double down on it. Not to be confused with the KFC “Double Down” heart-attack sandwich which Americans see no problem of ingesting. And it’s had terrible consequences on Americans. And they whistle not past the graveyard, but straight into it and rolling right into a big fat grave.

Double Down on heart attacks and strokes!

My theory entails our bodies just not being able to absorb and/or know-how to process unnatural HFCS and it makes our metabolism go crazy. Even if that’s for a temporary time, which is another poor side effect. Crashing and burning energy levels. Full of energy and pep one second and the next, out like a toddler.

Decades of having this in our diets along with the exponentially increasing number of outlets making snacks, drinks, and all sorts of unhealthy foods prolific. Every gas station that once was that: a gas station, is now a trough of sin. Lottery, condoms, booze, smokes, and a mile of Slurpee flavors chock full of HFCS. And the delicious 3 month-old hot dogs and hot dog buns? HFCS. It’s endless.

high-fructose corn syrup went from 1% of sweeteners in the U.S. in the 1970s to 42% by 2004. From 1977 to 1978, the average American consumed about 37 grams of fructose per day. In 2008, this jumped to 54.7 grams, about 10.2% of total daily calories. The number was even higher in teenagers, at 72.8 grams per day.

I read labels religiously and I like to think I know what I’m looking at and what to look for depending on what I’m looking at by now. I grocery shop a lot because I like to have fresh food on hand and I have a market right down the road so I’m there about every other day. And lately, fortunately, there seems to be an anti-HFCS sentiment in the retail food world. It’s a response.

Manufacturers are putting the very fact on their labels if they can, that it contains NO HFCS. Why?

Because they know it’s crap and bad for humans. It leads to high triglycerides, obesity, high uric acid, and diabetes. And have been feeding it to Americans for generations on the down-low. General Mills et al. are the biggest to blame if there’s going to be more blame placed here. They set the health of their customers below their revenues. That’s dangerous on several financial and ethical levels. But it’s a lot more reassuring when you have not only the blessing of the US Government but subsidization by taxpayer money to do it. Double-ouch. However, notice they did it until it was more marketable to put HEALTH over price points. Competing on price is always a bad idea anyway, except for the consumer. Terrible for businesses.

Now they’re flipping around and marketing their products by being HFCS-free. Something I’ve noticed is that in many cases, the switch hasn’t increased the retail prices much, if at all. I purposely seek out the model of food I’m considering that doesn’t have HFCS, even if it costs more. And it normally doesn’t. And more and more of the manufacturer brands and labels are getting on the “No-HFCS” bandwagon.

To summarize after all this evidence (that I will hotlink below for resources on this): Carter gets in office. He’s a peanut farmer and relied heavily on the farmers and manufacturers of machinery and automakers and unions for election. Payback time. Farmers were eating it because of high petroleum prices and stagflation (sound familiar? Brace yourself for some good old-fashioned 1970’s stagflation around the corner compliments of JR Biden Jr. I think the guy was even in office back when Carter was in office to think of it.)

So he promises subsidies to farmers. Corn is a high-margin, high-yield crop. And suddenly America is the land of the corn. Or “maize” as we call it. To reference an obscure 1970’s commercial for margarine. (How good of a memory is that!?) Margarine is ANOTHER product that resulted in this “maize-craize” whose dietary benefits are dubious. My mom used it because it was the thing to do back in the 70s but there’s NO way I’d use it. As I already pointed out: the more refined, the worse it is for your body(and mind, and possibly spirit). Margarine (and oleo, as it was in the 70s) is obviously refined. The name is totally made up.

Corn’s rotting in silos and can’t even sell it as feed. So what do we do? Pay farmers to grow more!

There’s a glut of corn in America. Businesses and scientists get to work and come up with high-fructose corn syrup as an FDA-approved ingredient in everything including car tires.

Americans get cozy with Regan -era economics and peacetime (goodbye Cold War) and few worries, and as a result, start getting fat as they relax at home with a cabinet full of HFCS. And they stop for gas when out and get a Mt. Dew and pack of Twinkies or bag of Doritos. And then when coming back, stop at McDonald’s for McNuggets(the sauces for these abominations to nature are nothing but HFCS), cheeseburgers with “special sauce” and a pound of salty french fries with ketchup that has – what else? – HFCS in it.

50+ years of this diet and look at us now in the mirror. Our butts won’t even fit in one. That’s not disparaging to those overweight. It’s to point out that that should be a red flag that your heart is working too hard as are some other organs. And your muscles are probably being underworked. But remember this if nothing else: food is fuel and controls weight. Exercise is for keeping your body tuned up and controls fitness. If you try to run or stair climb your way to skinniness, you’ll never do it (healthily). You just won’t be as winded carrying that mass around.

Something that became evident quickly when I was researching this was that there are two very staunch camps on the “Is HFCS worse for you than real sugar?” debate. Big sugar money says it is. Team Corn/HFCS says “no way” and that the whole idea, despite what both ample empirical and scientific evidence plainly says, is silly.

Diet’s something I believe we’re taught as children and we learn, no surprise, from what we see. Especially at that age. But for most it’s something we never outgrow in one way or another. We covet what we see, for example. As in “I never knew I HAD to have that new Tesla until I saw the ad for it” or “my neighbor got one.”

So is my theory truly laughable? Poke some holes in it if you can.


Another result of the excess of corn led to putting corn in our gasoline. Here’s why that is dumb as well:

This dates back to as recently as the 2005 Renewable Fuel Standard. The amount of land used for growing corn as a result just of this was an increase of 26%. We face environmental consequences of growing all this corn as well.
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