We Americans are a bunch of sugar-addled addicts, a fact that has become painfully clear to me while carrying out some simple research on eating habits.
A recent article in the in the New York Times on the comeback of sugar completely missed the real issue at stake: we eat WAY too much sugar and sweetener of any kind. The article did sort of pussy-foot around that issue by saying that nutritionists would like to see us eat less of all caloric sweeteners, but it really just wound up being a trend story about a backlash against high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in favor of sugar.
Perhaps the reporter didn’t want to upset the people in the HFCS industry, but the truth is, Americans started consuming more and more sweeteners just after HFCS hit the market in the mid-1970’s, according to statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). As a basis for comparison, I’ve also dug up the sweetener consumption statistics for the UK and Australia, two countries that have fairly similar diets to ours, minus the HFCS. Interestingly, sweetener consumption in those countries actually decreased while ours was skyrocketing upward:
Consumption of Sweeteners 1961-2001
U.S U.K. Australia
1961 52 kg 52kg 56 kg
1981 56 kg 44 kg 54 kg
2001 71 kg 41 kg 45 kg
For those who don’t do the metric system, 71 kg is 156 pounds of sweetener every year– which is the weight of an average woman, give or take a few pounds. We eat, far and away, more sweetener per person than any other country in the world.
I’m not going to argue whether HFCS is worse than sugar. That’s not really the point. The point is, that ever since HFCS came onto the scene, our collective sweet tooth has gotten even sweeter and our consumption of caloric sweeteners climbed 40 percent in 40 years. Now, you tell me why America has an obesity problem.