Monday, December 24, 2012

"Correlation does not imply causation"--so let's look at per capita consumption of HFCS

The results from a study conducted by Michael I. Goran, Stanley J. Ulijaszek and Emily E. Ventura and published in Global Public Health: An International Journal for Research, Policy and Practice has received considerable press.  The article, entitled "High fructose corn syrup and diabetes prevalence: A global perspective," is being widely cited as proof that there is a link between High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) and diabetes.  For example, a recent WebMD Health News article included the following statement: "Countries that mix high-fructose corn syrup into processed foods and soft drinks have higher rates of diabetes than countries that don’t use the sweetener."  

As one might imagine, the Corn Refiners Association reacted vociferously.

Ok, so we all know that "correlation does not imply causation".....

So, let's talk about the findings in this study that can't be disputed....  

The study examined data from 42 countries. The United States came out on top, with the highest per capita consumption of HFCS.  That can't be disputed.  So what?  Just how much HFCS is consumed on average by a citizen of the United States?

Can't be that much, right?

Well, let's compare the per capita HFCS consumption with the per capita rice consumption.  Just for a point of comparison. According to the USA Rice Federation, the "U.S. per capita rice consumption is 24 pounds a year."

We can't possibly eat more HFCS than rice, right?

The U.S. per capita consumption of HFCS is 55 pounds per year.

How is that possible?  Per capita, our consumption of HFCS thus is more than double our consumption of rice....

Ok, so that's seriously scary.

Seems like a good blog post with which to round out the year.