A Soda Crack-Down at School
A state lawmaker wants to ban beverages with high-fructose corn syrup from public schools.
When state Rep. Juan C. Zapata introduced a bill last year aimed at banning high-fructose corn syrup from Florida public schools, he called it the “crack of sweeteners.” The bill never made it out of committee, but the Republican from Miami is not giving up. He plans to submit a watered down version next year that would ban the sweetener only in beverages, such as fruit punches and chocolate milk.
Researchers have been pointing to high-fructose corn syrup as one reason for rising obesity rates in children. That’s why Zapata wants it out of public schools, where many low-income children eat breakfast and lunch. “At least in the schools, where it’s taxpayer dollars paying for it, we need to be sensitive to the nutritional and health outcomes of what we feed these children,” he says.
The FDA suggests a 2,000 calorie diet with no more than 65 grams of fat.
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Since its introduction in the early 1970s, high-fructose corn syrup has been touted for its low cost and versatility. Americans now consume 30% more fructose than they did 40 years ago, says Dr. Richard J. Johnson, chief of nephrology, hypertension and transplantation at the University of Florida’s College of Medicine. The sweetener is found in a host of foods, even turning up in ketchup and bottled salad dressings.
Johnson’s research indicates that such heavy consumption of sugar can trigger a series of health problems, including hypertension and diabetes. His research also shows that fructose produces enzymes in the blood that actually make the body more sensitive to sugar’s negative effects.
The logical response would be to simply eat less sugar, but Johnson understands that’s difficult for many sweet-loving Americans. “I went to a really fine restaurant a few months ago and the specialty for dinner was sugar-encrusted steak,” he says. “And there was honey butter, and the rolls tasted like sugar. It was absolutely delicious, but it was absolutely the wrong thing to eat.”
Johnson, whose book, “The Sugar Fix,” will be published in April, says UF researchers are working on a low-fructose diet, which they’ll test in clinical trials next spring. He says the diet will still allow starches, such as rice, pasta and potatoes, but will cut fructose consumption to about 25 grams a day, or about 25% of the typical intake. That means no soft drinks, high-sugar desserts or other sweets.