GOOD

Here's What A Lifetime's Worth of Corn Syrup Consumption Looks Like

Could a cherished aspect of our diet—those sweet drinks and sugary snacks—actually be toxic in the long run? If only it were that simple.


Americans are guzzling, on average, 90 pounds of sugar a year, and about a hot tub's worth (313 gallons) of corn syrup over a lifetime. What is all that glucose and fructose doing to our bodies? Are sugars the cause of the Western diseases of affluence—diabesity, heart disease, and some cancers?

In this weekend's New York Times Magazine, Gary Taubes, the author of Good Calories, Bad Calories, has an excellent examination of the scientific research on sugars. In addition to clearing up some misconceptions (high fructose corn syrup and sugar are "effectively identical in their biological effects"), he covers the ongoing search into why sugars are not toxic after one meal, but may have something to do with malignant cancers after 1,000 meals. He writes:


It very well may be true that sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, because of the unique way in which we metabolize fructose and at the levels we now consume it, cause fat to accumulate in our livers followed by insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, and so trigger the process that leads to heart disease, diabetes and obesity. They could indeed be toxic, but they take years to do their damage. It doesn’t happen overnight. Until long-term studies are done, we won’t know for sure.

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See the full version of the high fructose corn syrup consumption graphic here and a Dumpster's worth of sugar here.

Photo illustration by Kenji Aoki/The New York Times Magazine.

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