Corn refiners cry foul

Corn refiners cry foul

Corn Refiners Association claims there is no credible evidence to support high fructose corn syrup's role in diabetes.

A medical doctor who claims he can cure diabetes in a week and who believes soda is healthier than orange juice is poised to reverse years of his own opinions and advocacy, as he reveals his involvement in a lawsuit that blames high fructose corn syrup for diabetes, yet omits processed sugar.

Dr. Robert Lustig, who has long espoused the belief that sugar in all its forms is unhealthy for human consumption, is now claiming in court documents that high fructose corn syrup is uniquely responsible for diabetes and distinct from sugar. This stands in stark contradiction to Dr. Lustig's many writings, speeches and media appearances equating HFCS with sugar.  It also appears to be the next step in his agenda of moving oversight of sugars from the Food & Drug Administration to the courts.

The lawsuit, filed against manufacturers of high fructose corn syrup, blames the fructose in HFCS for a young woman's diabetes, despite the total lack of credible scientific evidence to support that allegation. In fact, credible science shows that HFCS is nutritionally equivalent to sucrose (table sugar), a position that Dr. Lustig himself has advocated in his book Fat Chance and in speeches and TV appearances prior to becoming involved with this lawsuit:

  • "HFCS and sucrose are, for all intents and purposes, biochemically and metabolically equivalent." Fat Chance, page 166;
  • "HFCS is no worse for your health than any other forms of fructose..." Fat Chance , page 169;
  • "[I]f all the HFCS-contained candy bars in the world somehow mysteriously were replaced by their sucrose-containing equivalents, ... your body wouldn't know the difference..." Fat Chance, page 178;
  • "High fructose corn syrup. Sucrose. It's a non-issue. It's a wash. They're the same..." University of California Television, July 30, 2009;
  • "[F]ructose, and I don't care what the vehicle is, it's irrelevant, sucrose or high fructose corn syrup, I don't care." UCTV, July 30, 2009;
  • "All the data says that high fructose corn syrup and sucrose, table sugar, cane sugar, beet sugar, the stuff you put in coffee, are exactly the same.  ...  And in fact it [HFCS] does exactly what the natural sugar does, too." The Colbert Report, March 28, 2013.

"Dr. Lustig's credibility and motivations are in serious doubt. He has suddenly reversed his long-held position that high fructose corn syrup and syrup are nutritionally equivalent, for the sake of participating in a lawsuit," said John Bode, president of the Corn Refiners Association. "Dr. Lustig is using this case to drive his agenda that the regulation of sugars should be handled by the courts. It is wrong and irresponsible for Dr. Lustig to attempt to use the courts to override authoritative scientific research and regulatory agencies to advance his political agenda."

Furthermore, Dr. Lustig claims to be able to cure diabetes by switching people to a diet high in fiber:

"Want to reverse your diabetes?  Want to improve your metabolic health?  Put fiber back on the menu." FAT CHANCE page 138. He appears to be serious. The fiber cure apparently takes almost no time at all. "If you eat everything as it came out of the ground raw, with no cooking, you would cure diabetes on a dime. Takes about a week." Dr. Lustig's speech Sugar: The Bitter Truth University of California Television broadcast July 30, 2009 Cures for diabetes are commonly offered by people who want to sell books. …"

Other radical positions staked out by Dr. Lustig include:

  • Advocating for a legal requirement that persons be 17 years old before being allowed to buy sugared drinks, such as juice, soda, sports drinks and chocolate milk;
  • Claiming that "100 percent orange juice is worse for you than soda;"
  • Blaming sugars for "the biggest public health crisis in human history. It's bigger than the bubonic plague, the flu, and AIDS."

The defendants, manufacturers of high fructose corn syrup and other food ingredients made from corn, have moved to dismiss the case for failure to state a legal claim. In response, Dr. Lustig revealed his involvement in the case and offered an opinion that HFCS was uniquely responsible for diabetes, a position that contradicts years of his own public opinions and writings. In a court filing on November 1, 2013, the defendants pointed out to the court Dr. Lustig's many contradictions and his apparent motive to use the litigation to pursue his anti-sweeteners agenda. 

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