Our nation has an obesity problem. This should not be news to anyone.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the obesity rate among adults in the U.S. has increased nearly 50 percent from 1997 to 2012. One-third of American adults are now classified as obese (30 pounds or more over the recommended body weight for their height, age and sex) with another one-third considered to be overweight. To put it another way, just one-third of American adults are considered to be of a healthy weight.
While I agree with the Sugar Association's Dr. Charles Baker in his recent blog that we should approach the obesity epidemic armed with knowledge, it appears the only thing the Sugar Association wants to do is exonerate its product and cast blame on other sweeteners, especially high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). We've seen before how detrimental it is to the overall goal of eliminating obesity to blame one ingredient -- at various times, it was carbohydrates or certain kinds of fats. The fact is, there is not one ingredient to blame for the obesity epidemic. Demonizing one sweetener does not give consumers the information they need to make informed dietary decisions.
If you look at all of the credible science and research that's been done on sweeteners in general and HFCS in particular, you will find broad scientific consensus on the basic point that HFCS is nutritionally equivalent to sucrose (table sugar). Dr. Baker's implication to the contrary flies in the face of established scientific knowledge. Indeed, by every known metabolic process, the human body absorbs HFCS and sucrose identically. That is why the American Medical Association stated that HFCS "does not appear to contribute to obesity more than other caloric sweeteners."
So while Dr. Baker begins his piece by stating that knowledge and not hysteria should drive this debate, he proceeds to stoke hysteria through selective data mining and a dangerous misinterpretation of scientific research.
Dr. Baker's interpretation of USDA data regarding consumption rates of HFCS and sugar provides only half-truths. Contrary to the implication of Dr. Baker's article, we have always consumed more sugar than HFCS. And, sugar consumption in the U.S. has actually increased over the last 10 years while HFCS consumption has declined. But most importantly, credible research has shown there are multiple contributing factors to obesity, the most significant being that Americans are consuming more calories than they are burning off.
As in all things food related, moderation is the key. High fructose corn syrup can be part of a healthy diet. What's most important for consumers to understand is that all added sweeteners -- HFCS, table sugar, or one of the many other added sweeteners -- should be enjoyed in moderation.
Dr. Rippe is a cardiologist and graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Medical School with post graduate training at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is currently the Founder and Director of the Rippe Lifestyle Institute and Professor of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Central Florida. Dr. Rippe is regarded as one of the leading authorities on preventive cardiology, health and fitness, and healthy weight loss in the United States. His work has been featured on The Today Show, Good Morning America, PBS "BodyWatch," CBS Morning and Evening News, CNN, and in a variety of print media, including the New York Times, New York Times Magazine, L.A. Times, Wall Street Journal and many monthly publications. Dr. Rippe's research laboratory has received unrestricted educational research grants from companies and organizations that make and use both sugar and high fructose corn syrup, including the Corn Refiners Association.