Sidelights on Glucose

By Dr. Royal Lee

Summary: Before there was high-fructose corn syrup, there was just plain corn syrup—the original synthetic sweetener, created by chemically decomposing cornstarch into glucose molecules. Dr. Harvey Wiley, the first head of the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), rightfully claimed that use of the word “corn” in describing this imitation food was fraudulent, since it implies naturalness in what is clearly a product of human engineering. In this 1958 article from Let’s Live magazine, Dr. Royal Lee cites a seminal experiment by Drs. Lukens and Dohan at the University of Pennsylvania in which corn syrup (i.e., glucose) was shown to cause diabetes in test animals, whereas refined cane sugar was not. Dr. Lee adds that animal-feeding studies and clinical trials had shown that corn syrup “contributes to cancer, diabetes, hypertension, lassitude, brain fatigue, overweight, irritability, and mental depression; it impairs the assimilation of calcium; and it destroys vital amino acids if they are cooked in its presence.” Finally, Dr. Lee excoriates the FDA for failing to force manufacturers to distinguish between synthetic corn syrup and natural sweeteners on food labels, a deceit that bespeaks the agency’s transformation from consumer watchdog, under Dr. Wiley’s leadership, to the guardian of food manufacturing interests that it is today. From Let’s Live magazine, 1958.