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Corn syrup commercials perpetuate unhealthy eating

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Cigarette advertisements were banned from television in the 1970s because of the product’s potential heath risk. This, along with others, is an example of past recognition of the power of commercial advertisements.

However, recently, a surprising new series of commercials advertising questionable products have been playing on television — commercials for high fructose corn syrup.

That’s right — commercials are now playing that urge people to eat foods with high fructose corn syrup, and this is happening here, in the United States, a country that has long been criticized for having a high obesity rate. High fructose corn syrup is a sweetener and preservative made by changing the sugar in cornstarch into fructose, a sweeter form of sugar. Yes, you’re reading this correctly: We now have commercials for sugar. It can be found in more foods than you might think — check the labels of your pop, processed food, or even fruit-flavored drink, and chances are it’s one of the top three ingredients listed. And while the health effects of high fructose corn syrup are not 100 percent clear, nutritional experts have linked it to the obesity problem, and it has also been linked to longer-term problems like diabetes and high cholesterol.

Though there are multiple versions of the commercial currently playing, all have essentially the same dialogue. One begins with a couple on a date; the woman offers the man a bite of her popsicle, and he declines with, “I thought you loved me,” explaining that the popsicle has high fructose corn syrup in it. The woman goes on to open his eyes as she extols the virtues of high fructose corn syrup, explaining that it’s made from corn, has the same number of calories as sugar, and is fine in moderation. The man looks sheepish, feeling stupid about his bad opinion of such an apparently good substance, and goes on to accept the popsicle.

In defense of the commercial, this information given about high fructose corn syrup is technically true. And of course, there is no denying that most of us Americans do eat foods with high fructose corn syrup in them on a regular basis; in actuality, many probably already eat more than the “moderate” amount that the commercial promotes — and therein lies the problem.
Eating healthy is finally becoming “popular” in the United States. And no, “healthy” isn’t referring to runway models that starve themselves and then puke in the nearest bathroom. Healthy means adding whole grains and natural fruits and veggies to one’s diet. Healthy means following the newly redesigned food pyramid that came out a few years ago, which has better-defined food portions, a greater variety of categories, and recommendations of items from each category. The healthy food craze has recently been catching popularity from the “Go Green” movement (two fads that hopefully stick around longer than pogs and iPod Nanos).

This doesn’t necessarily mean that every American is going out and starting to eat all organic and vegan, all the time, nor is this movement toward popularizing healthy eating meant to say that everyone should. It does mean, however, that there has recently been a trend toward healthier eating and living in general. And just when people are moving in a healthier direction, a commercial promoting high fructose corn syrup comes out.

What exactly is the point of a commercial promoting something like high fructose corn syrup? Are companies really so scared of losing money as people start to move to healthier diets that they are willing to promote high fructose corn syrup in commercials — and thus unbalanced nutrition over healthy eating habits? Is the corn syrup industry so willing to promote a product that could be detrimental to people’s health, as long as its product keeps selling? Although high fructose corn syrup is technically considered “natural” by the FDA, this doesn’t mean it’s healthy — and something with fructose in its name is never going to have a place in the new food pyramid.

While many know enough to not be swayed by this unhealthy product, there are those that will be. But for the few people out there that may be swayed by the commercials, they need to come off the air. And really, I doubt the bad acting and poorly disguised product promotion is going to be greatly missed.