When you move from one country to another, you often notice some details of the taste and texture of the local foodstuffs. For example, pretty much everything in Thailand tasted slightly fishy to my western tastebuds, due to their widespread use of nam pla, a fermented-fish sauce seasoning.
In the US, there’s a very definite gooey texture and strong sugary flavour which crops up in lots of foodstuffs — right down to salad dressings and soft drinks. Eventually I figured it out — it’s corn syrup, which isn’t really used at all in Europe. According to this review of Fat Land, here’s why it’s everywhere:
According to Critser, a leading journalist on health and obesity, America about 30 years ago went crazy sowing corn. Determined to satisfy an American public that ‘wanted what it wanted when it wanted it,’ agriculture secretary Earl Butz determined to lower American food prices by ending restrictions on trade and growing. The superabundance of cheap corn that resulted inspired Japanese scientists to invent a cheap sweetener called ‘high fructose corn syrup.’ This sweetener made food look and taste so great that it soon found its way into everything from bread to soda pop. Researchers ignored the way the stuff seemed to trigger fat storage.
The book’s thesis seems to be that corn syrup and palm oil are largely to blame for the obesity epidemic. A quick google shows up this LA Times story which covers the book in more detail:
‘High-fructose corn syrup is a really low quality, really cheap sugar,’ the 38-year-old (Robyn) Landis says dismissively. The syrup starts out as cornstarch, which is then made sweeter by converting some of its glucose to fructose; the more fructose in the end product, the sweeter it is. ‘It is not something our bodies should be dealing with. It’s completely unnatural.’ She also objects to the fact that high-fructose corn syrup turns up in unlikely places, such as ketchup, baby food and baked beans. ‘Even chocolate tastes more like sugar than chocolate when it is sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup,’ says Landis …
… Dr. George A. Bray, an obesity researcher and professor of medicine at Louisiana State University Medical Center, also singles out high-fructose corn syrup because the meteoric rise in its consumption closely parallels the jump in obesity rates. ‘Nothing else in the food supply does this. It’s a very, very striking relationship.’
… Ironically, fructose, which is also known as fruit sugar, was once considered a healthier, ‘more natural’ alternative to sucrose, that is, old-fashioned table sugar, because of its presence in fruit. In addition, diabetics thought it was healthier for them because it does not raise insulin or blood sugar levels as high as glucose does. However, animal studies and preliminary human studies have found that a high-fructose diet leads to some of the same health problems that are rampant among overweight Americans, including insulin resistance and elevated triglyceride levels, a marker for heart disease.
(I still plan to get my teeth into a corn dog pretty soon though ;) Gotta get that low-grade meat product fix!)
As far as I can see, AC wants development of (N)echo to stop, because he dropped 10,000 dollars getting a year’s paid placement in the Radio Userland aggregator, or something like that. Well, that was a smart investment. I’m sure all the people thinking about (N)echo are dropping tools right now, accordingly. ;)