Posted by Linda Bonvie
April 2, 2013
In my Google news feed yesterday, April 1st, there appeared two stories at the top of the list about high fructose corn syrup. The top story listed the “health benefits” of HFCS, the second claimed that “scientists conclude” both sugar and HFCS are basically the same stuff. Now which one do you suppose was the April Fool’s joke?
Since the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) has put out some amazingly silly things under the guise of “information,” it might be a close call. But it’s the first one, by a staff writer at The Montclarion, the student paper for New Jersey’s Montclair State University, that does say “featured in the April Fool’s Day edition” up top, right above the part that says consuming HFCS is “just like eating fruits and vegetables.”
The second item, a press release titled “Scientists Conclude No Significant Metabolic Difference Between Consuming High Fructose Corn Syrup and Sugar,” has no such “fooling you” notice. In fact, it came from a Harvard-educated cardiologist, Dr. James Rippe. So, you might ask, what’s funny about that?
Well, let’s just say it’s a kind of “insider joke.” By that, I’m referring to the fact that Dr. Rippe is an acknowledged insider with the CRA itself, and his latest findings are simply another attempt to neutralize any bad press or studies that put its pet product, HFCS, in a negative light. For, as it turns out, James Rippe, M.D, the founder of the “Rippe Lifestyle Institute,” is also an official ‘spokesdoc’ for the CRA who has consistently led the group’s efforts to equate this fructose-heavy artificial sweetener with sugar and debunk any research that comes to a contrary conclusion.
In fact, Dr. Rippe, who is fond of saying that “the scientific debate is largely over” related to HFCS and obesity, doesn’t try to conceal his ties to the CRA, noting at the bottom of the recent press release that he has “received unrestricted educational grants from the Corn Refiners Association.” But perhaps the most interesting admission he makes along these lines can be found in the “acknowledgments” section of the study itself, where he thanks his “friends and colleagues,” including two individuals from the Archer Daniels Midland Company, which happens to be one of the largest producers of … high fructose corn syrup.
The scientific evidence keeps piling up
But despite claims by Dr. Rippe and his “friends and colleagues” to the effect that any controversy regarding HFCS is over and that all concerns about it are merely Internet-generated rumors, the scientific rap sheet implicating HFCS with a variety of diseases and health issues just keeps growing.
- A study conducted in 2010 from Duke University Medical Center found that consuming high fructose beverages are harmful to the liver. They also identified a link between patients with “non-alcoholic fatty liver disease” (which can lead to liver failure and liver cancer), and even further liver damage caused by fructose consumption, which the researchers stated mostly came from drinking beverages sweetened with high fructose corn syrup.
- Another study in 2010 by UCLA researchers found that pancreatic cancer cells can effectively utilize fructose to proliferate. One of the study’s authors, Dr. Anthony Heaney, was quoted by Reuters and other news sources as saying, “I think this paper has a lot of public health implications. Hopefully, at the federal level there will be some effort to step back on the amount of high fructose corn syrup in our diets.”
- Georgia Health Sciences University researchers found in 2011 that high fructose consumption by teens can put them at risk for heart disease and diabetes, and also expressed the opinion that young people were especially apt to develop cravings for products sweetened with HFCS.
- University of California at Davis researchers in 2011 found adults who consumed high fructose corn syrup for two weeks as 25 percent of their daily calorie requirement had increased blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, indicators of increased risk for heart disease.
The fact is that “experts” like Dr. Rippe are always being engaged by industry to make products that are under a cloud, such as HFCS, appear relatively benign and harmless. But once you’re knowledgeable about what they’re up to, you don’t have to allow them to play you for a fool – whether on April 1st or any other time.