Category: corn

High fructose corn syrup makes you fat

This well designed and well executed study provides rather conclusive proof that High Fructose Corn Syrup, the sweetener most commonly used in North America, makes you gain weight in a way not explained by calories alone. These rats gained more weight on HFCS compared to a sucrose (regular sugar) diet even though they were fed the same calories. The effect was seen in the short term and in the long term, and abdominal fat increased the most. Gut fat, if you did not know is related to the infamous metabolic syndrome, causing diabetes, hypertension, coronary disease, etc.

High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) accounts for as much as 40% of caloric sweeteners used in the United States. Some studies have shown that short-term access to HFCS can cause increased body weight, but the findings are mixed. The current study examined both short- and long-term effects of HFCS on body weight, body fat, and circulating triglycerides. In Experiment 1, male Sprague–Dawley rats were maintained for short term (8 weeks) on (1) 12 h/day of 8% HFCS, (2) 12 h/day 10% sucrose, (3) 24 h/day HFCS, all with ad libitum rodent chow, or (4) ad libitum chow alone. Rats with 12-h access to HFCS gained significantly more body weight than animals given equal access to 10% sucrose, even though they consumed the same number of total calories, but fewer calories from HFCS than sucrose. In Experiment 2, the long-term effects of HFCS on body weight and obesogenic parameters, as well as gender differences, were explored. Over the course of 6 or 7 months, both male and female rats with access to HFCS gained significantly more body weight than control groups. This increase in body weight with HFCS was accompanied by an increase in adipose fat, notably in the abdominal region, and elevated circulating triglyceride levels. Translated to humans, these results suggest that excessive consumption of HFCS may contribute to the incidence of obesity.

Miriam E. Bocarsly, Elyse S. Powell, Nicole M. Avena, Bartley G. Hoebel. High-fructose corn syrup causes characteristic of obesity in rats: Increased body weight, body fat and triglyceride levels. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 2010; DOI: 10.1016/j.pbb.2010.02.012

For a more layman friendly summary of the article, read the sciencedaily release.

Do reconsider your food habits to avoid HFCS. Note that this whole corn syrup boondongle is made possible by the US government’s insistence on providing billion dollar subsidies to its farmers to grow corn while imposing tariffs on cane sugar from the tropics to make it less attractive. Free trade, my A$$.

Thanks to Tom Laskawy at grist for the blog post.

Soda = Fat

Sodat Fat

From The New York Department of Health

Try this experiment at home: Take two and a half cups of water, add 15-20 teaspoons of sugar and stir to dissolve. If you haven’t broken your wrist with all this action, take a sip or two, or gulp it down. No worries, you’ve just had all the nutrition in a typical soda!

That’s the message the NY Department of health is sending out with its new PR campaign against soda. Pretty gross and effective, I must say, though I would go one further and put it on every label of Coke, now wouldn’t that be nice!

Conventional Biofuels are Evil, Part 43124

Almost all biofuels used today cause more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional fuels if the full emissions costs of producing these “green” fuels are taken into account, two studies being published Thursday have concluded.

These studies for the first time take a detailed, comprehensive look at the emissions effects of the huge amount of natural land that is being converted to cropland globally to support biofuels development.

The destruction of natural ecosystems — whether rain forest in the tropics or grasslands in South America — not only releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere when they are burned and plowed, but also deprives the planet of natural sponges to absorb carbon emissions. Cropland also absorbs far less carbon than the rain forests or even scrubland that it replaces.

Studies Deem Biofuels a Greenhouse Threat – New York Times

I think it is time to conclude that anyone who talks up biofuels is a) affiliated with an agri-biotech firm b) Big farmer c)Lobbyist, or d)Politician beholden to a,b and c.

It’s not even close. Clearing hitherto productive forest/grassland for biofuel growth  releases 93 times the amount greenhouse gases saved by the use of this biofuel. Diverting farmland for biofuel use makes things worse as the crop substituted will then be grown on land cleared.

The studies do give sugarcane and biofuel from agricultural wastes a cautious maybe. Corn ethanol and palm biodiesel will lead to the destruction of our ecosystems, make food more expensive and scarce, and actually exacerbate global warming.


  1. Joseph Fargione, Jason Hill, David Tilman, Stephen Polasky, and Peter Hawthorne. Land
    Clearing and the Biofuel Carbon Debt. Science, page 1152747, 2008.
  2. Timothy Searchinger, Ralph Heimlich, R. A. Houghton, Fengxia Dong, Amani Elobeid, Jacinto Fabiosa, Simla Tokgoz, Dermot Hayes, and Tun-Hsiang Yu. Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases Through Emissions from Land Use Change. Science, page 1151861, 2008.

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Corn Ethanol goes boom, then bust (and is evil)

Turns out that even the small increase in ethanol production (it is small if you compare it to the actual amount of gasoline used) cannot be handled by this country’s fuel infrastructure.

Sudden Surplus Arises as Threat to Ethanol Boom – New York Times

The ethanol boom of recent years — which spurred a frenzy of distillery construction, record corn prices, rising food prices and hopes of a new future for rural America — may be fading. Only last year, farmers here spoke of a biofuel gold rush, and they rejoiced as prices for ethanol and the corn used to produce it set records.

But companies and farm cooperatives have built so many distilleries so quickly that the ethanol market is suddenly plagued by a glut, in part because the means to distribute it has not kept pace. The average national ethanol price on the spot market has plunged 30 percent since May, with the decline escalating sharply in the last few weeks.

How many cars can run on E85 ethanol, which is an 85% ethanol, 15% gasoline blend? This pdf file courtesy of the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition lists about 50 vehicles. Note one common thread, most of them are overized, overpowered trucks and SUVs. Worse, only about 10 of them are < 3.0 liter engine vehicles. So why are these the only vehicles setup for ethanol? The hybridcars website explains:

Automakers’ tendency to make their largest vehicles E85 compatible is rooted in America’s fuel economy rules. Since 1988, automakers have been allowed to assign flexible-fuel vehicles higher fuel economy ratings under the government’s CAFE fuel economy regulations. This means that a vehicle like the Durango, which averages 13 mpg would be rated at roughly 23 mpg for CAFE purposes, even if its owner never fueled it with E85.

Hah, one more boondoggle. Corn ethanol is subsidized to the tune of $1.45 per gallon, corn growers get billions in subsidies, car manufacturers get to claim laughably high fuel economy standards, and politicians get to proclaim their fealty to the Midwest by kissing babies in Iowa and bowing to the corn god.

Meanwhile, everyone else loses, and the prospect that prices would fall 30% gets a concerned article out of the New York Times.

Conventional biofuels are evil, part 4233241

English to American Translation:

Rapeseed = Canola.
Maize = Corn.

Turns out that all the nitrate fertilizer you use to grow all the corn and canola you need emits a lot of Nitrous Oxide. No laughing matter, this, N2O is an incredibly powerful greenhouse gas.

Rapeseed biofuel ‘produces more greenhouse gas than oil or petrol’ – Times Online: “Measurements of emissions from the burning of biofuels derived from rapeseed and maize have been found to produce more greenhouse gas emissions than they save.

Other biofuels, especially those likely to see greater use over the next decade, performed better than fossil fuels but the study raises serious questions about some of the most commonly produced varieties.

Rapeseed and maize biodiesels were calculated to produce up to 70 per cent and 50 per cent more greenhouse gases respectively than fossil fuels. The concerns were raised over the levels of emissions of nitrous oxide, which is 296 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide”