How boomers are at risk from high fructose corn syrup

When we baby boomers were kids, it was pretty easy to eat. There were few choices, and although already there were preservatives and other additives in some of our foods, they didn’t dominate the food industry. But as BoomerCafé publisher and co-founder David Henderson reports, that was then, this is now. Which poses risks to our generation.

It was the PBS documentary, “King Corn,” that really opened my eyes to the health risks … even dangers … of high fructose corn syrup (or HFCS) in our food, and to its adverse effects particularly on baby boomers. HFCS is linked to many medical maladies we fear.

In “King Corn,” two recent college graduates traveled to Iowa to investigate the role that corn plays in an increasingly complicated and dysfunctional American food industry. After planting their own small crop of hybrid corn and tracing its journey through the industry, they discover with alarm that corn figures into almost everything we eat. It is insidious in our diets, and much of it is not good for us. They also discovered how the high fructose corn syrup is brewed in vats of acid.

I had long been aware of high fructose but had never liked its tart taste. In fact, when soda makers replaced old-fashioned sugar with fructose about 35 years ago, I quit drinking soda drinks. I still miss a mug of old-fashioned root beer but I can do without the chemicals. But even worse, HFCS is used in far more edibles besides soft drinks.

Consider a simple baguette. The taste of a fresh baguette in France, in Germany, in many parts of Europe is more than flavorful. It’s amazing. Seldom can I find a truly delicious baguette in America and why? Because of the HFCS and the other chemicals they add to alter flour and other ingredients. It’s not only bland and doughy, it’s fattening.

Our traditional perception of corn has morphed radically from when we were kids long ago and chomped fresh, tender corn from a cob. Much of today’s corn has been changed in laboratories to become more of a weed, chock full of fat. It was originally concocted in labs as an artificial feed to accelerate the fattening of cattle in feed lots. Now, it fattens Americans. And because of our age, baby boomers are especially vulnerable.

Most countries in the world have banned HFCS as a toxic and dangerous chemical, but not the U.S., where its use is proliferating.

High fructose corn syrup — a so-called “super sweetener” additive — is made by boiling the hybrid corn with acids. It has been found to be a killer. Even when used in moderation, it is a major cause of heart disease, obesity, cancer, dementia, liver failure, tooth decay, and more. High fructose corn syrup is a particular a risk for those of us over age 55. In other words, baby boomers.

Even so-called “organic” salmon, raised in floating wooden pens, is fattened on hybrid corn. Ever since people in the U.S. unknowingly started consuming it, obesity rates have more than tripled and diabetes incidence has increased more than seven-fold.

David Henderson at a café in the village of Bayeux in Normandy, France.

The latest development is that the Food and Drug Administration has allowed food manufacturers to change the name of the addictive super sweetener, apparently to trick Americans into thinking they are not consuming HFCS. Its new rebranded name is “Natural Sweetener.” In reality, there is nothing natural or different about it.

How did this rebranding happen? How can corn refiners call HFCS a “natural sweetener?” Easy. Simply by altering the potency of HFCS through complicated and confidential formulas. In other words, corn refiners have gotten permission to create a new version of high fructose corn syrup and call it “natural.” The manufacturers also are not required to reveal all the additives in the food.

For consumers, especially baby boomers, food shopping has become more than “caveat emptor.” We need to be mindful of the legal definitions of the chemicals that are added these days to our foods.

Either that or move to Italy!


  1. Wow, I’m stunned! I always attributed the obesity epidemic that is ravaging the West (not just America, Europe too) to chemical additives, particularly hormones given to chicken and beef to make the animals grow at triple rate – figuring that cooking the meat never could quite kill off the chemicals (particularly as we tend to eat beef fairly raw), so that the stuff would continue to accumulate in our bodies and cause us to grow fat…

    But I didn’t know about high fructose corn syrup, nor that it was so prevalent in all kinds of food. Thanks David for letting us know, this is very, VERY important! Really something should be done, especially protesting against the FDA. This is simply incredible…and scandalous! They’re supposed to defend consumer health and they are doing the exact reverse. Yes, I am indeed stunned!

  2. We’ve already been affected. My mother put me on my first diet when I was 11. Liquid diets had just been discovered (1961). Made with cocoa, evaporated milk – and Karo syrup, they were a tasty and addictive (I could never eat just what I was allowed) milkshake on the refrigerator shelf. I blame it for my life-long problem with sugar.

  3. Thanks for sharing this David. There are so many hidden sources HFCS that we are not aware of and it will now be even harder to sort that out. Our bodies process fructose differently than glucose and fatty liver is just one likely outcome of excess consumption. Creating a healthy diet has become infinitely more difficult!

  4. Great piece, David, but pretty scary as well. Didn’t know what to eat anymore, and we clearly can’t rely on the government to cover our backs.

  5. Hi all, Many thanks for your thoughtful comments. No doubt in my mind that HFCS is not only a toxin in our foods but adversely effects taste of otherwise yummy things.

  6. Yes, I remember the frustration of trying to find pancake syrup that didn’t either include “high fructose corn syrup” or cost an arm and a leg. Finally gave up and went to powdered sugar and fruit…

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