Fun With Advertising

My sister sent me this ad a little while ago:

HFCS1

She sent it because it made her think of me, as one of my pet peeves is people getting nutrition advice from people who have no idea what they are talking about – like from people working in a supplement store1. And this was my (highly artistic) response:

HFCS2

Because, rather unsurprisingly, the “Sweet Surprise” website is run by the Corn Refiner’s Association, a trade association representing the corn refining industry.  According to this website, they’ll all in a lather over people thinking that high fructose corn syrup has more calories or a different sweetness level or different simple sugar building blocks than table sugar.  Because, you know, this is a very important misunderstanding that must be corrected for people to live a healthy life! </sarcasm>

Of course, it totally ignores the fact that even if high fructose corn syrup has the same number of calories as table sugar and both are made up of glucose & fructose building blocks… well, no one considers table sugar to be healthy anyway!  I don’t know of any health professionals saying “be sure to include lots of added table sugar to your meals!”

I should point out that, despite my little joke above, when I looked at the site they do, in fact, have a video clip of a registered dietitian/PhD.  Her message is that high fructose corn syrup doesn’t contribute to obesity more than any other caloric sweetener. There are also clips of other people with MDs and PhDs saying basically the same thing.  But, really, is saying “Our product isn’t worse than other products that aren’t particularly good for you” that compelling of a pitch?

  1. Just today I was having brunch with a friend and she was telling me about a boot camp she was going to where they gave out a “healthy” meal plan that was full of processed foods! []

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  • I would have replaced “marketers” with “shills,” but you got it on the money.

    What of the recent widely-publicized studies implying that HFCS is indeed worse for you than regular refined cane sugar (and to which this ad presumably responds)? Do they indicate anything about why that might be?

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  • I didn’t explore the site fully, but everything I did see was them saying “HFCS isn’t worse than sugar!!!!!” and talking how poor misunderstood HFCS isn’t pure fructose.

    I wonder how many people (a) actually go to this site and (b) are convinced by it.

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  • According Wikipedia, which isn’t gospel, but it’s good enough for me and it’s referenced if you want to go getting picky, HFCS is produced via “enzymatic action”, whatever that is (I know what an enzyme is, but don’t know the specifics of this particular “action”), that coverts corn syrup in it’s natural state of 100% glucose to either 55% fructose, 45% glucose (used in soda), or 42% fructose, 58% glucose (used in basically everything else). This compares to sucrose, aka regular cane sugar which is 50/50 glucose/fructose, kind of. Where it breaks down for me is that sucrose is a bonded molecule that is broken down into it’s two, equally numbered components by your stomach as opposed to HFCS which SOUNDS like just a solution of fructose and glucose. Even though Wikipedia says that sucrose is easily broken down, some work is still more than no work, which is what would have to be done by your body before it could digest the glucose in the HFCS. If there’s no breaking down process then your blood sugar spikes faster and makes your pancreas create insulin faster which wears it out and leads to diabetes and weight gain. That’s my guess, but it all depends on how much faster your body gets glucose from HFCS as opposed to sucrose, which is marginal at most I’m guessing. Which would make it marginally, at most worse than sugar, at which point, who cares? Like you said, don’t eat sweet stuff, it’s bad for you regardless.

    HFCS is only used because it’s cheaper. Your average Wal-Mart shopper will complain loudly about HFCS until there’s an alternative that costs 30% more, then decide it’s not a big enough deal to them and keep buying the cheap one.

    Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, dietary or otherwise, but my wife is a pharmacist, so we’ve talked about things like this a couple times.

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