A story in Sunday's New York Times debunks the idea that there is something uniquely unhealthy about high-fructose corn syrup–specifically, that it contributes to obesity in a way that other caloric sweeteners do not. To begin with, the fructose/glucose breakdown of HFCS is essentially the same as cane sugar's. And contrary to Fat Land author Greg Critser's argument that the cheapness of HFCS led to bigger servings, a Pepsi spokesman says "the cost of the sweetener in the product is extremely minimal to the point of not even mattering."
Walter Willett, chairman of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health, sums up the case against HFCS this way: "There's no substantial evidence to support the idea that high-fructose corn syrup is somehow responsible for obesity. If there was no high-fructose corn syrup, I don't think we would see a change in anything important."
It's striking that scientists credited with pointing out the unique dangers of HFCS say they did not really do that. The co-author of a 2004 paper that noted the parallel between rising obesity and rising HFCS consumption says it was just a "suggestion…a theory meant to spur science, but it's quite possible that it may be found out not to be true….I don't think there should be a perception that high-fructose corn syrup has caused obesity until we know more." A Procter & Gamble scientist cited by Critser says the idea that the cheapness of HFCS contributed obesity was "just a hypothesis, without any data to back it up."
For me, the clincher was that even the head of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Michael Jacobson, who rarely misses an opportunity to spread alarm about the food Americans consume, "never supported the notion that high-fructose corn syrup was a unique contributor to obesity."
[Thanks to Mostafa Sabet for the link.]