Rebranding something unhealthy does not make it healthy

Variously, I have written about the now quite voluminous and ever-growing body of research which demonstrates that fructose has considerable potential to harm health.  See here, here, here and here for examples of research which implicates fructose as a potential causative factor in a wide range of health issues including weight gain and cancer.

So considerable is the evidence, that even some official bodies are taking a longer, harder look at fructose. In this blog post, I wrote about how the American Heart Association has highlighted fructose’s links with health issues such as insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. It’s not so much fructose per se that has received bad press from the scientific establishment, but something known as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

This sweetening agent is a highly processed sweetener derived from corn, and is made up of varying relative amounts of fructose and glucose. I suspect the idea to brand it high fructose corn syrup was an effort to emphasise its content of a supposedly ‘healthy’ sugar. However, if this was the idea, it has backfired spectacularly as more and more evidence comes in which reveals fructose to be potentially very toxic indeed.

The HFCS industry is predictably keen for its product to remain popular and sellable. But as I allude to here, the fact that HFCS makes a feature of its heavy fructose content and that fructose appears to be uniquely unhealthy means that the industry is fighting a losing battle. I suggested some rebranding might be due in a way which would perhaps be “less vocal about the fact that this sweetening agent is high in fructose.”

I learned this week that this is precisely what has happened. The Corn Refiners Association in the US is petitioning the FDA to be able to rename high fructose corn syrup as ‘corn sugar’ (notice the absence of any mention of its high content of fructose here!) Of course, changing HFCS’s name does not change its health characteristics, and certainly does not make it any less toxic to health. And the same, as it happens, is true for the artificial sweetener aspartame, which its manufacturers (Ajinomoto) are rebranding as ‘AminoSweet’.

I take these rebranding exercises as tacit admission by manufacturers that their products have managed to gain themselves quite unhealthy reputations (and for good reason, I think).

5 Responses to Rebranding something unhealthy does not make it healthy

  1. Brian Abbott 17 September 2010 at 1:51 pm #

    The chemical sweetener can re-brand it any way they like. For me it is still Aspartame and I prefer not to use it at all.But then I did read up on the history of this artificial sweetener.

  2. Brian Abbott 17 September 2010 at 1:53 pm #

    The chemical sweetener industry can re-brand it any way they like. For me it is still Aspartame and I prefer not to use it at all.But then I did read up on the history of this artificial sweetener

  3. Brian Abbott 17 September 2010 at 1:55 pm #

    Sorry but I missed a word out in the first post. Here the post is corrected.

    The chemical sweetener can re-brand it any way they like. For me it is still Aspartame and I prefer not to use it at all.But then I did read up on the history of this artificial sweetener.

  4. dennis 17 September 2010 at 7:15 pm #

    Why would anyone want to eat a substance with a brand name of any type associated with it ? What’s wrong with ordinary food ?

  5. Robert 18 September 2010 at 9:04 pm #

    With the growing influence of the internet and its ability to spread the word (eg blogs like this one), I wonder how long before the new brands also have an unhealthy reputation attached to them (hopefully not too long). Perhaps people could equally petition the FDA to not allow the renaming of HFCS, in the interests of people’s health.

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