On Friday, ABC's The View invited Phil Lempert, the self-anointed supermarket “guru,” to talk about high fructose corn syrup. Sound like a recipe for disaster? We thought so. We pointed out a few months ago that Lempert, despite his apparent expertise, completely botched a video by telling consumers that a candy wafer was reformulated to remove high fructose corn syrup — even though it never contained the corn sugar in the first place.
So with that in mind, we tuned in. Challenged off the bat by his hosts about whether high fructose corn syrup is more fattening than sugar, Lempert said bluntly, “No.” So far, so good. But then Whoopie broke out this whopper:
Goldberg: But when [high fructose corn syrup] took hold here, did we not see an increase in size in people?
Lempert: No question. If you look at the obesity rates before this, it was about 15 percent. Now 66 percent of us are either overweight or obese.
Phil is trying to play both sides, but this is an old game. The theory that high fructose corn syrup is more fattening than table sugar originates from an editorial (not peer-reviewed research) in the 2004 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. One of its co-authors has since fully recanted, saying “we were wrong in our speculations about high fructose corn syrup about their link to weight.” In fact, high fructose corn syrup is just like table sugar, which comes from sugar beet or sugarcane. The two sugars are nutritionally identical and have the same sweetness.
Lempert also cites a recent Princeton study as one piece among the “lots of research on both sides.” The “guru” ought to get caught up on his reading. Even calorie maven Marion Nestle (among others) has been openly skeptical of that research’s conclusions which, once again, speculate about high fructose corn syrup and weight gain.
On the whole, there’s far more solid research showing that high fructose corn syrup is nutritionally the same as table sugar than there is showing the opposite. (The American Medical Association has taken the all-sugars-are-created-equal position since 2008.)
For show, “guru” Phil gave the View ladies several taste-tests of products that use high fructose corn syrup and those that don’t. But right before one cookie taste-test, he revealed which one was the “bad” cookie. Predictably, Joy Behar reacted in melodramatic disgust.
That’s not exactly a scientific method—in fact, the technical name for it is “farce.” We don’t expect professional chatterboxes to look at the science, but Phil Lempert ought to know better. When food companies remove it and start using table sugar, it’s just a marketing ploy. Let’s hope the guru eventually ditches his dunce cap.