High-fructose corn syrup was our sweetener of choice in the late ’90s, when we were all high on junk food and the potential for this crazy new thing called The Internet. Those were fast times!
Now we are jaded and less interested in the sweet stuff. According to the USDA, this year only 4.5 percent of the U.S. corn crop is expected to be used for production of high-fructose corn syrup, the lowest amount since 1997.
Corn costs have tripled since 2004, making the syrup a less cost-effective sweetener. And some health advocates say efforts to combat obesity have helped to curb HFCS consumption, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s much-despised and much-lauded big soda ban.
From Bloomberg the news source, not Bloomberg the mayor:
Americans consumed an average of 131 calories of the corn sweetener each day in 2011, down 16 percent since 2007, according to the most recent USDA data. Meanwhile, consumption of sugar, also blamed for weight gain, rose 8.8 percent to 185 calories daily, the data show.
Even with the increase in sugar use, total U.S. sweetener production remains down 14 percent from a 1999 peak, according to the USDA.
“We’re seeing a real decline, and that people aren’t just switching to sugar,” said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington.
Let’s not celebrate just yet, though — the full picture on our sweet habits is a bit more grim.
This week, researchers in Philadelphia found a 70 percent increase in diabetes rates for kids under age 5 over a 20-year period. That scary rise has leveled off over the last decade, as has our taste for corn syrup. Good news, sure, but that decade of living the high life on high fructose has given us a serious public health hangover. And diet cola isn’t going to make it feel any better.