Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Children of the Corn

There's a commercial for bottled water on TV right now that shows kids frolicking in a swimming pool, and a voiceover goes something like: "your children don't swim in high fructose corn syrup."

The conclusion you're supposed to draw, I guess, is that your kids shouldn't eat foods with high fructose corn syrup, and should instead drink this particular brand of bottled water.

Here are some other things your children do not swim in:
  • Vegetables
  • Toothpaste
  • Looking both ways when crossing the road
  • Politeness
Yet, in my humble opinion, these should be included in every child's life.

It's such a dumb argument that I feel stupider just writing about it. But I'm sure there are millions of people out there who will see the ad and say, "oh golly, that there ad is right huh? My kids don't swim in corn syrup! And I heard on them there news program that corn syrup is doggone toxic! Honey, can you go down to the store and get some bottl- DAMMIT BRANDON GET OFF THE FUCKING SHED!"

Of course, the truth is that high fructose corn syrup is just like any other sugar and is only being used as a villainous contrast to sell a product you get for free out of taps in every modern home. Sorta the opposite of calling something "green."

In conclusion, when I have kids, I will dunk them in high fructose corn syrup.1

1 Baptmaizem?

Edit July 16: As usual, the comments here are more interesting than the post itself. Be sure to read them. Like this gem:

"Your kids don't swim in vaginas, either, but they wouldn't be here if they hadn't." --Jack (whose blog is one of my favourites, so I recommend clickity clicking on over).


Tatiana said...

Whoa. While I completely agree with you about the asinineness(?) asininity(?)of the ad, I'm afraid I'll have to respectfully disagree about the HFCS issue.

While I'm not a chemist, if you look at the linked article you provided you can see some very interesting commentary by doctors and chemists that disagree about that oversimplification of HFCS as a simple sucrose-fructose mix.

They call it a byproduct of industrial processing with introduced mercury, and what's more intersting is that the molecules are bound and not lysed until reacted on by enzymes, and HFCS sidesteps this regulatory action. The fructose ends up being immediately processed to fat by the body, and there are many reputable studies documenting the health risks.

But lets say I'm on crack, and who the hell am I to talk anyhow, but I'll stay away from HFCS simply due to the fact that the corn production is massively subsidized by the US govt, encouraging massive monoculture, top-soil loss, pestiside overuse and all the other indisputable and well documented problems that creates.

Imho, in general it's safer for one's health to stick to butter, sugar, and other non-chemically invented and altered substances.

Phronk said...

Thanks for disagreeing! I'm seriously always happy to be called on my bull. :)

But let me respectfully offer some counterpoints. I'm no chemist or food expert myself, so this is just based on some shallow research and my own experience analyzing research findings.

Re: mercury: Well, as I understand it, that's not a problem with HFCS itself, just with how it's made. And studies I've seen haven't compared it to other foods. There may be low (and probably safe) levels of mercury in many foods.

Re: molecular structure. The linked article dealt with this quite a bit. There seems to be no evidence that allowing our body to break down the bond, instead of it already being broken, has any health advantages. It's just an extra step, and after that, it's exactly the same chemicals sloshing around. But if there are good studies documenting the health risks (compared to other sweeteners), I'm totally open to being convinced. The sources I've read just seem to indicate that calories are calories, whether they come from HFCS or table sugar.

Re: government subsidies: Not sure how it is here in Canada, but apparently in the U.S. they put tarifs on imported sweeteners to encourage local farmers (which tend to be corn, due to the climate). I don't see anything wrong with that. Problems with farming practices are not specific to HFCS, and I'm not sure if having them go on in another country before importing here is any more efficient or ethical. (And when I say I'm not sure, I mean, I seriously don't know :)

I'm always skeptical of the claim that it's better to avoid "chemical" foods and stick with "natural." All foods are chemicals. Vitamins are chemicals. Snake poison is natural. Using this poorly defined, often arbitrary distinction to make eating choices, then, is IMHO not rational. I stick to the age-old advice of eating a balanced diet and burning as many calories as I take in.

Thanks again! You've forced me to think and learn a lot, which is awesome.

shine said...

I don't really understand anyone who thinks that most of the sugar we eat wasn't processed in some way. It was. I have to say that I kind of agree on the whole HFCS issue. I don't think it's the devil. I think people are fat because they eat too much crap. I agree that it's better to eat so-called "natural foods," you know, like vegetables, than processed crap like, you know, fast food. But the article is right, correlation does not imply causation, as anyone who has taken a basic statistics class will tell you.

I do agree with Tatiana about the farming issue, but I think it's a problem with more things than just corn. And don't even get me started on fishing (since that has nothing to do with the subject at hand).

Having said all that, for no reason at all really, I will now share with you my favorite line from the article (and the one I hope more people take home): "There's an equally valid correlation between obesity and dirty dishes."

HFCS is not the devil. Just like salt is not the devil, butter is not the devil, potatoes are not the devil, eggs are not the devil. Hell, even cupcakes are not the devil. IN MODERATION.

(I just said so many things weren't the devil and I don't even believe in the devil. What a good atheist I am...)

SeangSTM said...

That's as stupid as the ad for Pizza Hut take-home meals.

The family leaves their house, gets in the van...they're blind-folded...then they're trotted back into the house. The "testers" present them with these take-home meals. They eat them.

The "testers" ask them how the food is and they all say, "It tastes like restaurant food."

The "testers" then whisk off the blindfolds and reveal the family to be sitting at their own kitchen table.

Essentially they've taught us that A) this family is too collectively stupid to pick up on the fact that the van didn't drive an inch.
B) take-home restaurant food tastes miraculously and incredibly JUST like it does in the restaurant (is this really surprising? I thought it was the entire fucking POINT)

Every time the ad is on I lose my shit.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is, hey, they made enough of an impression on you to make you blog about it. They have succeeded already. Now everyone that read this blog is going to pay extra close attention when watching TV to look for this commercial.
Thank you from the bottled water company.

Jennifer said...

I didn't read your acticle because I have four kids and they may be swimming in HFCS right.now. I should probably check.

Anyways. I had a point. Damnit. Oh yeah! It's that I'd far rather eat sugar goo (and I pour that shit right on my sausages) than any sort of sugar replacement product. Aspertame gives me the willies.

(and did you draw the evil corn?)

Phronk said...

Shine: It's ok, I ask God to damn things all the time even though I don't believe in Him. Oh and I think the correlation does not equal causation thing should be drilled into every kid's head in grad school. Until it's actually intuitive. Because while most people have heard it, they really don't get it. The media still confuses the two on a daily basis, leading people to make irrational and harmful decisions all the freaking time.

Sean: Holy crap, I was about to blog about that one too! So dumb. I also learned from that ad that mental retardation runs in families. Seriously, not one of them recognized the smells, sounds, and layout of their OWN HOME? And why should I trust the opinion of people like that? They probably could have fed them dog food and told them it was filet mignon.

Lainy: I LOLed at that. :) You have a point...I do often wonder if they make intentionally stupid or confusing ads just to get people talking.

Jen: I think the danger of artificial sweeteners is also exaggerated (since there isn't any; again, it's just the same chemicals as sugar). I loves me some calorie-free coffee saturated with calorie-free Sugar Twin. I didn't draw the evil corn. Dude who did is linked when you click on it...he has some other good stuff.

Phronk said...

Uh, above, I meant "grade school." Hopefully by grad school people get it.

Anonymous said...

Your kids don't swim in vaginas, either, but they wouldn't be here if they hadn't.

Anonymous said...

But I'm against high-fructose corn syrup. It hurts my kidneys.

Trixie said...

I love high-fructose corn syrup. Growing up we weren't told it was bad, but now that parents aren't watching how much their kids eat we have a "problem."

Jennifer said...

I don't know if fake sugar is "dangerous", but it sure tastes nasty. I just prefer to eat real food - like real whipped cream rather than "edible oil product", real cheese than "cheese food". I am always suspicious of "chocolatey" flavour.

Phronk said...

Jack: Genius. I'm adding that to the post.

Trixie: Yeah exactly. It's easier to blame a single ingredient than to hold people responsible for their kids' (and their own) eating habits.

Jen: Yeah, the taste of these more altered products can leave something to be desired. I've managed to convince myself that sweetener tastes as good as sugar, but it may just be a healthy delusion.