Fever for the flavor of the fructose

You're fat. Your parents are fat. Even your cats and dogs are fat. Well, maybe not you and your loved ones, but if we look at obesity in this country in a statistical manner, there is a big chance that you are.

It has been proven by simply observing people dining at your favorite mall's food court, waiting in line at an amusement park, or at the last Laker game you scored tickets to. This country is in the middle of an obesity epidemic, and this is not revelatory news. However, exactly how we got to this point and whether or not we can ever go back is.

There are many theories roaming the research world, a big one being that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is the main contributor to what led us down the path of destructive health.

According to "Understanding Nutrition," the textbook used to educate Santa Monica College students in the field of nutrition, HFCS is "a syrup made from cornstarch that has been treated with an enzyme that converts some of the glucose to the sweeter fructose made especially for use in processed foods" hence the name, "high fructose corn syrup."

Companies that use HFCS as a top ingredient for their products (such as sodas, ice cream, baked goods, fruit juices, candy and cereals) have been fighting to keep the reputation of HFCS clean since research found a correlation between the spike in obesity and the increased use of the ingredient in common foods.  

Despite these enduring allegations, the research that has been done on HFCS thus far does not provide enough evidence to support these claims, keeping the relationship between HFCS and obesity as a simple correlation.

Advertising campaigns, founded by the Corn Refiners Association, have kicked off, defending the product by claiming that "the human body cannot tell the difference between high fructose corn syrup and sugar" causing much confusion and questioning amongst the public. Their website, http://www.sweetsurprise.com, states that glucose and fructose levels in HFCS are identical at 50 percent each, rebutting the claims of most advocates against HFCS.

"Understanding Nutrition" declares that there is nothing wrong with consuming sugars, even HFCS. The problems that arise in regards to this staple sweetener occur when consumption levels grow to magnificent levels, as they have in the last two decades. Consuming empty calories, or calories with no nutrient value, contributes to an endless list of health complications.

The highly acclaimed documentaries "Food, Inc." and "King Corn" unveiled the manufacturing techniques and issues surrounding the industry of corn. HFCS is used very commonly due to its cheap and massive production rates, with 30 percent of all the land in the United States used to plant and grow inedible corn that must be processed to be consumed.

"I believe the advertisements promoting the safety of HFCS are trustworthy in that, at this time there is not a lot of evidence that an intake of HFCS is harmful to health, other than an excess intake contributing to weight gain," says Professor Deborah Novak, MS, RD, a nutrition expert and professor at Santa Monica College. "There is no reason to be afraid of HFCS, but rather for overall health, better to choose foods that are more nutrient dense, which typically do not contain HFCS."

Though there seems to be two schools of thought surrounding this topic, as with most major dilemmas, the fact that we are in a state of unhealth is evident. Above all dietary stigmas and fads, one belief seems to overcome all barriers in the world of nutrition: eat your fresh fruits and veggies to be healthy and happy.