The tendency to find the culprit when a wrongdoing occurs seems to be so automatic as to be deemed instinctive. Just track down and find the perpetrator of the offense and the issue can be settled; we can all sleep secure in the knowledge that we’ve cracked the case. In this case, the wrongdoing is obesity and the culprit is fructose, particularly when it shows up as high fructose corn syrup.
Now, understand, I am no fan of HFCS on any level and go out of my way to avoid any seasonings and ingredients that contain HFCS in any of my cooking, but I think that the obesity and Type-2 diabetes epidemic goes well beyond the HFCS content in food. In fact, a large part of the problem is caused by our own physiology, by the way we’re designed. Nature, in its infinite wisdom, has provided our bodies with the ability to convert excess energy consumption into fats which we store and which can be converted back into useful glucose when needed by the body to fulfill its energy needs. This design however is predicated upon the concept of scarcity and not of plenty. When, after the hunt, our ancestors brought back meat and gathered the fruits, berries, and grains available to them, everyone ate heartily. When those supplies ran low though, particularly in winter, the only way our species continued to survive was to consume what foodstuffs they could preserve, and that was supplemented by the body’s ability to expend its own fat stores as needed. With the advent of agrarian society, the feast or famine cycle was at last broken, as farming allowed the cultivation of more foodstuffs than what could be reasonably consumed. Along with seeds, the concept of plenty was sown.
Still, it would take another few centuries and another innate phenomenon of human psychology to deliver the wallop that has made an epidemic of obesity and prompted so sharp a rise in Type-2 diabetes, and that is the relentless drive of mankind to create an ever-increasing scope of creature comforts. As we are given the instruments that facilitate our ability to achieve results, we are much less physically active. From automobiles and washing machines to mechanized factories and computers, the requirement for physical exertion in daily life has significantly diminished for most people. Exacerbating the problem, we now have the ability to handle a larger number of tasks within a certain time-frame, and so work loads are significantly increased and society-at-large no longer seems to have the time or ability to prepare meals that are healthy and well-balanced, the result of which is the grab-a-burger-and-go attitude. This newly emergent mien isn’t so much a result of this is what we want, as it is a consequence of what other choice is there? And so the recipe for a deleterious quality of physical fitness amid the splendor of convenient gadgetry is now complete.
So yes, the average amount of HFCS consumed by the people of this country is detrimental to good health, but so is the excessive salt consumption, not to mention the amount of saturated fats eaten. The answer though is not just limited to food and is not quite as easy as we would wish it to be; there is no single culprit. Every chapter in the history of society has demonstrated a constant state of flux as it redefined itself to reflect the changes imposed by the advent of new mores, new tools, and/or new discoveries. The present is no different, and we shall persevere in finding solutions to those things that ail us, lest we willingly return to a lifestyle without all of the modern-day conveniences.