The Trojan Horse of today

While it seems like there is no escape from HFCS, there are solutions. The first is awareness. The second is action. Before buying and eating any food, it is important to read the ingredients

by Christopher Knight — 

The Greeks and the Trojans were locked in a harsh war. Both sides longed for a final end to it. The Greeks had been attacking the city of Troy for 10 years. The Trojans were fighting for survival, but the Greeks were determined to win the war.

Finally, the Greeks realized their siege was having little effect, due to the magnitude of the city’s walls, so they decided to use a different tactic. The Greeks built a huge wooden horse, later known as the Trojan Horse, and chose 30 of their best troops to conceal inside of it. The Greeks then offered up the Trojan Horse as a peace offering to the Trojans.

They left the Trojan Horse outside the walls of Troy and had their ships pretend to sail away. The Trojans accepted the gift and brought the horse inside their walls. However, after the Trojans went to sleep that night, the concealed Greek soldiers crept quietly out of the Trojan Horse. The whole Greek army sailed back to the city of Troy under the cover of darkness and was allowed entrance by the brave Greek soldiers who had hidden in the Trojan Horse.

The Greek army then slaughtered the drunken Trojans gruesomely and lit the city of Troy on fire, claiming victory. The Trojan Horse tactic caused massive destruction. The Trojans believed the Trojan Horse was a great gift and the solution to the peace for which they longed — but not so. The Trojans were completely unaware of the extreme danger the Trojan Horse posed, which ultimately led to their demise.

Today, there is a new Trojan Horse that has already infiltrated the lives of nearly every American. This new Trojan Horse is high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Yes, seriously, high-fructose corn syrup. Something you and I both deal with every day, whether or not you have consciously thought about it. What you drink and what you eat are often laden with HFCS. So, let us explore what we all need to know.

First, we will learn about the increasing use of HFCS. Then we will delve deeper to unravel some new groundbreaking evidence before finally discussing a solution — one that promotes awareness and action in regard to the effects of HFCS.

Just as the Trojans brought the Trojan Horse into their city, most Americans ingest HFCS. Yes, we bring it right into our bodies. In fact, according to the Harvard School of Public Health, “More than half of our sugar comes from corn, most of it in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. It is found in everything from sodas to baby food.” Furthermore, in 2007 a physician’s paper written for UC Davis stated that, “There are about 13 teaspoons of HFCS in a 12-ounce soda.” This report also reveals an eye-popping statistic: “In 2000, an average American ate about 31 teaspoons of high-fructose corn syrup a day.” Consumption is still on the rise because HFCS is incredibly inexpensive compared to other sweeteners.

According to the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University in 2009, “Manufacturers have historically been able to purchase HFCS at prices 20 to 70 percent less than sugar. Coca-Cola gained a cost advantage of $70 million annually over Pepsi when it switched from sugar to HFCS.” The total savings by switching is measured in billions of dollars.

If you were to do the math, a penny cost increase in sweetener per serving would cost Coca-Cola nearly $1.25 billion. So, HFCS, like the Trojan Horse, at first seemed to provide significant economic benefits, but at what cost are we bringing it into our bodies?

With such a high frequency of HFCS in the foods and drinks we ingest, one must ask the question of whether or not it is safe. What are the effects of HFCS on our health? There is much concern about HFCS in the medical community, which suggests it may indeed be the next Trojan Horse in American society. The Trojans assumed the Trojan Horse was safe, leading to their downfall. As the old saying goes, “Never look a gift horse in the mouth;” the Trojans should have looked deep into that gift horse’s mouth. In the same way, we need to look deep into the research to find the impacts of HFCS on our health.

According to a Tufts University 2009 educational report, “The sheer quantity of HFCS consumed would be bad enough for the American waistline, but there is also research suggesting HFCS is metabolized differently from other sugars in the body.” A University of Minnesota Study found that “diets high in fructose elevate triglyceride levels in men shortly after eating; this has been linked to a higher risk of obesity and heart disease.”

A recent study just conducted by researchers from Princeton tested HFCS on rats. The control group was given just rat food, while an experimental group was given HFCS and rat food. Both groups ate the same amount of calories. The major difference between the rats was illustrated at the end of six months.

The group of rats that ingested HFCS was 48 percent more obese than those that did not. Princeton researcher Miriam Bocarsly said, “These rats are not just getting fat; they are demonstrating characteristics of obesity, including substantial increases in abdominal fat and circulating triglycerides; in humans, these same characteristics are known risk factors for high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, cancer and diabetes.”

The University of Minnesota reported in June 2011, “When we eat ordinary sugar, the body produces an important signaling hormone called leptin that tells the brain that the body is full and hence controls our eating. But when we eat HFCS, we do not produce leptin and do not get a signal to stop.” This can evidently lead to type two diabetes, as blood sugar is not properly managed.”

Tufts University further indicated, “More recently, entirely different public health concerns have been raised by reports indicating the presence of mercury in HFCS and HFCS-containing products.” This was also illuminated in an article from the University of Florida in May 2010: “One study found that nine out of 20 of the HFCS samples tested contained mercury. Another study found that nearly one third of 55 popular, brand-name beverage and food products in which HFCS was the first or second ingredient contained mercury.” The medical community and many universities are concerned about HFCS and its associations with diabetes, heart disease, obesity and mercury.

While it seems like there is no escape from HFCS, there are solutions. The first is awareness. The second is action. Before buying and eating any food, it is important to read the ingredients. On all groceries and packaged food, companies are mandated to list the ingredients in the food they are selling. If HFCS is an ingredient, it will be on the ingredients list. With this knowledge, individuals are able to avoid HFCS, thus escaping the negative health effects.

The second solution is through action. People need to demand products without HFCS. The economic principles of supply and demand will run their course. Companies will then realize that HFCS does not increase their profit margins because people are not willing to purchase it. A few companies are already beginning to respond to this first wave of research and consumer demands.

Sara Lee now advertises that it does not include HFCS as an ingredient in one loaf of their wheat bread. Companies will switch to a better and healthier sweetener upon consumer demands. With these two steps, avoidance and action, the amount of HFCS consumed will drastically plummet.

In summary, HFCS is continually found in our everyday products. For example, just a couple of days ago, I bought a jar of minced garlic whose label stated “Minced in Extra Virgin Olive Oil,” but did not realize until I carefully read the label that it also had HFCS in it. It is everywhere! Think about it.

HFCS raises many valid health concerns by those in the medical, environmental and research fields. We must figure out the safety of consuming HFCS because we do not want to be destroyed like the city of Troy — from the inside out. The old saying goes, “A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down.” What about a spoon full of HFCS? Does a spoon full of HFCS require medicine?


Christopher Knight is currently a high-school junior, with a 4.0 GPA and the leader of the Lincoln Douglass debate team at Chandler Preparatory Academy. He is also an award-winning participant in the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth. Knight is an active leader in his local and school communities. This article is from a piece he researched, wrote and performed in the finals of the 2011-2012 State Speech and Debate Tournament. 480-250-3921.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 31, Number 5, October/November 2012.

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