A plea to big corn

In the wake of some damning evidence that suggests high fructose corn syrup causes greater weight gain than sugar, I suppose I can see why you’re looking to reinvent yourself. According to Science Daily,

A Princeton University research team has demonstrated that all sweeteners are not equal when it comes to weight gain: Rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same.

In addition to causing significant weight gain in lab animals, long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup also led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen, and a rise in circulating blood fats called triglycerides. The researchers say the work sheds light on the factors contributing to obesity trends in the United States. 

That’s bad news for an industry that not too long ago aired commercials sharing how healthy and wonderful corn syrup was. Ouch! *cough*Footshot*cough. Had to hurt.

The result? Since March, consumers journeyed in search of real sugar, and companies took note, changing ingredients to reflect concerns of Americans growing fatter than we could be if we ate Sugar Blasties cereal (as opposed to High Fructose Corn Syrup Blasties cereal). We smiled, drinking our now “real sugar” sodas, and the corn syrup sat up and took notice.

Corn industry: Look! We’re making lemonade from lemons!
Consumer: But isn’t that lemonade still sweetened with high fructose corn syrup?
Corn industry: Shut yo mouf! That’s corn sugar to you, son.

What’s better for consumers was the discovery of alternative sweeteners in the search for a healthier sweet. Stevia, for example, has become a tremendously popular product, having been FDA approved and now appearing in multiple products from Truvia to Purevia to Zevia.

So what’s the big deal? Well, considering that many consumers can hardly savor the flavor of those natural, sometimes exquisitely bitter leaves, an added ingredient appeared on those sweetener labels:  A sugar alcohol called xylitol.

Which, incidentally, is made from corn.


The same corn that will now be made over into ‘corn sugar’ instead of high fructose corn syrup.

Xylitol is a colorless, pretty wonderful sweetener discovered in the late 1800’s. Though it was first popularized as a safe sweetener for those suffering from Diabetes over 100 years ago, in the 1970’s, Finnish dentists discovered its dental superiority.

From dental.net:

According to Margherita Fontana, DDS, Ph.D., of Indiana University School of Dentistry in Indianapolis, chewing gum with high doses of xylitol several times a day over a prolonged period reduced the incidence of tooth decay.

“The studies were mostly done in children, but it would pply also for adults,” she said. Xylitol is a sugar substitute found in trees, fruits and vegetables. Even though it is sweet, it doesn’t interact with oral bacteria that produce acids that lead to cavities.”

So, let’s get this straight. Xylitol: 1. doesn’t exacerbate insulinism and weight (actual fat) gain that high fructose corn syrup causes; and 2. doesn’t make it with the oral bacteria like two teenagers while you’re off at work. What’s there not to love, corn industry?

Want more? Xylitol is a potential aid in osteoporosis treatment. Finnish doctors also found results in testing that showed that bone weakening in rats was prevented with xylitol.

But wait! There’s more! Chewing xylitol gum can help prevent ear infections, not only because the act of chewing helps clear the ear canal, but because the presence of xylitol prevents bacterial growth in the Eustachian tubes. According to the British Medical Journal:

When bacteria enter the body they hold on to the tissues by hanging on to a variety of sugar complexes. The open nature of xylitol and its ability to form many different sugar-like structures appears to interfere with the ability of many bacteria to adhere.

Now how much would you pay?

But wait! There’s still more:  In another study, rats ingesting xylitol experienced an increase in white blood cells known as neutrophils, those little guys who give the one-two punch to much of the bacteria out there–including sepsis.

Now how much would you pay?

But wait. There’s. Still. More! Got candida? A recent report from Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease* shares that consuming xylitol may help control oral infections of candida, where galactose, sucrose and glucose may cause proliferation.

Glucose… You mean like corn syrup?

Now how much would you pay?

But wait! I know, I know… so check this out. Not only is xylitol safe for nursing and pregnant women, this study suggests regular use actually decreases the streptococcus mutans bacteria during baby’s first 2 years by almost 80%.That’s a slighter chance of tooth decay, folks. And because of something the corn industry didn’t eff up.

It’s at this point you might be thinking, “Come on. We all know that sugar alcohols have a laxative effect.” True dat; however, let’s take a look at maltitol, the currently most used sugar alcohol on the market. You can find this substance in most “Sugar Free” candies and food stuffs, and all are guaranteed to do one thing: make you king or queen for the day (because, honey, you won’t be leaving your throne anytime soon, if you know what I mean) if you eat more than a single serving of the stuff in a sitting (and believe you me, you’ll be sitting).

With xylitol? Notsomuch. While xylitol does have a laxative threshold (doesn’t that sound sexy?), tolerance to the stuff builds with time, creating the ability to ingest greater amounts of the product without running for the Reader’s Quarterly every time you feel a phantom stomach gurgle.

And while there is some potential toxicity to dogs, how many out there are feeding their pets Corn Busties or Soda samples? 

Corn industry, what does this mean for you? How about an untapped nation of people who want healthy, sweet alternatives, who don’t want to crap our drawers in the process, and who are done exploding adipose out of our pants in the form of muffin tops. Sweetening cereals and sodas, desserts and snacks with xylitol might not increase overall insulinism in the entirety of the population, but it would be a start– and you could helm that delicious ship.

And, sure, the dental effects, candida fighting, osteoporosis blasting, neurophil inducting effects wouldn’t be kicked out of our beds either. Face it: we’re a nation of folks who can’t afford health care. We need some preventative maintenance.

So whaddaya say, corn industry? Could you do us this favor? Give us a true, healthy alternative and not just a name change?

Maybe then you can hold your heads high, we can pop open a can of Coke, sweetened with erythritol, and we can smile at you with those teeth that haven’t yet fallen out of our heads.

* Abu-Elteen, Khaled H. The influence of dietary carbohydrates on in vitro adherence of four Candida species to human buccal epithelial cells. Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease (2005), 17(3), 156-162

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  1. Excellent letter!!!

  2. Carol Bardelli says

    While the majority of people can tolerate xylitol and other sweeteners ending in "tol" I can't. An antibiotic induced colitis left me unable to properly digest these sweeteners. I my case, they ferment in the gut and cause damage. This is explained by Dr. Lamar Gibbons in his book Self Help Way To Treat Colitis and Other IBS Conditions. I went through nearly three years of constant pain until I discovered his book and stopped all the trigger foods like…corn.

  3. Ah Jamie, yet another amazing post!

  4. Nickname unavailable says

    I wouldn't deliberately give my dogs something sweetened with xylitol, but dogs are known for not waiting to be asked. At least, my pug doesn't. He'll steal any food he can get his teeth on. He's been known to climb up on the dining room table and eat the remainder of a packet of sugar free, low carb cookies. Thank God they were sweetened with maltitol, not xylitol; I only had to clean up explosive diarrhea, not bury my best friend.

    I won't allow xylitol-sweetened stuff in the house, plain and simple. I use erythritol, Splenda, occasionally stevia (which I find problematic to cook with,) but xylitol just poses too great a risk for my pooches.

  5. Jamie aka Carbarella says

    Hey, nickname!

    Tomatoes, grapes, Advil, chocolate and red onions are also poisonous to dogs, but so long as people use due diligence and are educated about the dangers, pets will be fine.

    I have a dog, myself, and yes, she has consumed xylitol (thankfully, with no ill effects. We're more careful now).

    Carol, does that mean you couldn't use corn syrup either, due to the corn base? If so, you likely wouldn't be missing out on anything if there was a switch.

    Thank you Robin and Karla!

  6. I enjoyed reading this post greatly. Very well written, love it!

  7. Lol! Nothing I love better than a well-written and researched paper that’s FUNNY! Thanks for the info, and the laughs

    • Thank you, Nikita. I just don’t see why they’re ignoring the consumers. People want viable sugar free alternatives.

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