ST. LOUIS - The National Corn Growers Association is urging its members to take issue with a national news media report condemning high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as a primary cause of increasing levels of obesity in the United States.

An article appearing in the April AARP Bulletin says HFCS is largely responsible for “the startling rise in obesity in America and a related increase in diabetes cases.” The article entitled “What’s Worse Than Sugar?” claims that the rising incidence of obesity and diabetes in the United States coincides with the increase in HFCS use since the 1970s.

The AARP Bulletin is one of the most widely circulated monthly publications in the United States, reaching more than 20 million readers every month.

“It’s ridiculous to believe HFCS is somehow responsible for the growing obesity problem in the United States,” NCGA CEO Rick Tolman said. “The media continues to spread misinformation about HFCS and obesity. In fact, studies have clearly shown the rise in obesity is due to increasingly poor dietary habits and lack of physical exercise.”

Statistics from the Corn Refiners Association show a steady increase in the daily caloric intake of the average U.S. consumer from 1977 to 1995. In that span, the average individual caloric intake increased by nearly 200 calories per day. However, the Food and Drug Administration says the total amount of fructose in the average diet during that same span remained relatively constant.

Additionally, the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports reports nearly half of adults in the United States engage in no daily physical activity. The increase in daily calories coupled with the decrease in physical activity is driving the obesity epidemic, Tolman said.

Tolman also expressed concern about the article’s assertion that HFCS is cheaper than table sugar because of “generous federal subsidies and trade policies that encourage farmers to grow more corn.” HFCS is a cheaper ingredient than table sugar because it is cheaper to produce and easier to transport, Tolman said.

“Farm support programs have nothing to do with HFCS prices,” he said. “Support programs have been decoupled from annual planting projections, so there’s no truth to the claim that growers are specially ‘subsidized’ to grow corn for HFCS. The truth is, farm policy encourages growers to respond to market signals.”

Tolman encouraged growers to “set the record straight” on HFCS by writing letters to media outlets that misrepresent HFCS as a cause of the obesity epidemic. He also noted that farmers, corn refiners and food industry leaders should prepare to respond to HFCS criticism generated at the upcoming “Summit on Obesity,” an event sponsored June 2-4 by Time magazine and ABC News.

The Corn Growers also took issue with an earlier ABC News report that attempted to attribute rising obesity levels with farm programs in general.

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