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High Fructose Corn Syrup and its Impact on American Society

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a sugar substitute used in processed food products that has several effects on American society and culture. In recent years, high fructose corn syrup has been under public scrutiny due to its contribution to poor health. However, HFCS is extremely cheap creating a debate which essentially pits good health against economic benefits. The consumption and production of high fructose corn syrup results in a variety of significant negative consequences including obesity related diseases, a decrease in food and drink quality, and poor well-being of farmers. On the contrary, positive consequences include preservation of food and reduction in consumer spending.

The health effects of high fructose corn syrup are extremely negative and contributing greatly to America’s problem with obesity. These negative effects are probably the most prevalent issue regarding HFCS. It is no secrets that Americans generally love to consume sugary foods and beverages such as soda and candy. By replacing the normal sugar within those products with high fructose corn syrup, consumers are presented with a higher risk of weight gain and obesity related diseases. A March 2010 Princeton University study found rats gained more weight eating high fructose corn syrup versus normal table sugar (The Economist 2010). The over-consumption of HFCS contributes heavily to many health epidemics such as type 2 diabetes, strokes, cancer, dementia, and obesity. Of course, normal sugar also promotes these diseases, but the 2010 Princeton study and many other studies prove the negative health impact of HFCS is far greater than the negative health impact of sugar (Hyman 2013). Therefore, corporations replacing sugar with high fructose corn syrup severely hurts the overall health of the nation. High fructose corn syrup is a toxin poisoning consumers with excess fat and increasing the risk of chronic disease.

Not only is high fructose corn syrup worse for a consumer’s health, but it also diminishes the quality of the product and leaves customers less satisfied. This idea is demonstrated through the popularity of Mexican Coca-Cola. The Mexican government does not offer subsidies regarding corn as the United States does. Therefore, Coca-Cola branches located in Mexico still use real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. A taste test conducted by the Huffington Post showed that eighty percent of tasters preferred Mexican Coca-Cola over the American version made with HFCS (Thomson 2012). This study indicates that Coca-Cola provides Americans with an inferior product. Although Mexican Coca-Cola is available for a higher price in certain American supermarkets, most consumers are deprived of the preferable, natural sugar based beverage. The reduction in quality after replacing sugar with high fructose corn syrup is a negative consequence of HFCS as a whole.

The development and popularity of high fructose corn syrup caused farmers to face new and sometimes difficult changes. The United States government placed large subsidy on corn in part due to HFCS. This resulted in farmers converting their farms, which previously developed a variety of plants and animals, into strictly corn farms. The price of corn eventually dropped due to increase in production, leaving most farmers near bankruptcy (Pollan) Also, sugar cane farmers were indirectly effected. The increase in corn production and supply caused the demand for sugar cane to decrease significantly and its farmers to struggle financially. Although there are many other factors such as GMO’s, high fructose corn syrup clearly plays a role in negatively changing the lives of farmers.

High fructose corn syrup also has a limited amount of physical positive consequences. The main benefit being that HFCS is a natural preservative and will help the foods in which it is an ingredient of last longer. Since the time table of consumption is longer, shoppers are able to make trips to markets less frequently saving time and money on gas for transportation. Although this is a minor advantage of high fructose corn syrup, it shows that the physical effect on the product is not unanimously negative.

Finally, the most highly regarded positive consequence of high fructose corn syrup is the economic relief, which seems to triumph over all other negative consequences. Government subsidies on corn enable producers such as Kraft and Pepsi to create similar food products for a fraction of the price by replacing normal sugar with HFCS. In fact, high fructose corn syrup is approximately $0.24-$0.27 cheaper per pound than normal sugar. Consequently, U.S. consumers saved over $3.4 billion buying HFCS products (Korves 2011). This alarming statistic indicates that corporations are willing to sacrifice the general population’s health and well-being in order to cut expenses and slightly increase profits. Also, it indicates that most people are unwilling to spend a few more dollars on a natural product to ensure better health. The greatest and most influential consequence of the acceptance of high fructose corn syrup is that, over time, it saves corporations and the individual person a significant amount of money.

The prevalence of high fructose corn syrup causes a variety of consequences including poor health, less prosperity of farmers, decreased food quality, and increased consumer and producer saving. Recently, high fructose corn syrup has been recognized as a problem and efforts have been made to slow its production. Many name brand products such as Gatorade and Starbucks have replaced HFCS with natural sugar. In fact, total sales of high fructose corn syrup decreased nine percent from 2007-2009 (Warner 2010). Americans must ignore the financial benefits and continue this trend to eliminate high fructose corn syrup consumption. This will cause Americans to live longer, healthier lives and reduce deaths from obesity related disease, ultimately creating a healthier overall nation.

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