Health – Corn Facts

God is so good and He always answers our prayers. When we pray to the Lord and ask him to “hold up my goings in thy paths, [that] my footsteps slip not” (Psalm 17:5), He answers. I know that God wants us to be in good health and to know what we are eating and drinking. Everything we do should be to the glory of God. He leads us on a path in order to teach us and we need to be willing to learn.

In 2007 the corn harvest in the United States was 13 billion bushels, making it America’s most highly planted and subsidized crop. The fructose syrup produced from one bushel of corn sweetens around 400 sodas. The average weight of high fructose corn syrup consumed by Americans in 1970 was 0.6 pounds compared to 73.5 pounds in the year 2000. What a huge change we have seen in diet over the past 30 years! The effects of these changes can also be seen in today’s society. For example, in 1971 the percentage of overweight Americans was 47.7% compared to 66% in 2004. The odds that a current first grader in America may develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetime are one in three.

For the first time in American history the present generation is at risk of having a shorter lifespan than their parents all because of what they are eating. The issue to be addressed here is not the consumption of corn in its natural state but the high fructose corn syrup which is used as a material to sweeten common items such as canned products and fruit juices. As you walk down the cookie isle in your local supermarket you can find many products listing ingredients made from corn, such as cornstarch, corn gluten, corn meal, hydrolyzed corn protein, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, and hydrolyzed corn protein.

Corn is a giant grass plant, very closely related to the grass that grows around your house. Native corn originated in southern Mexico, and after arriving in the United States was gradually changed and replaced by one variety, the corn we know and eat today. Over the last 40 or 50 years there have been many changes and developments to production, all with the goal of maximizing yield. It takes only about 18 minutes using the corn planter to plant 31,000 kernels per acre of corn for industrial production. Planting methods have been developed to make the plants tolerate closer planting and anhydrous ammonia is used to make the plants produce up to four times as much as what our great grandparents would have grown on the same piece of land. With yields of around 200 bushels of corn, or 10,000 pounds per acre, 5 tons of food can be produced on one acre of land. That is an amazing amount of food.

The corn we commonly eat is grown from genetically modified seeds which were developed to resist the herbicides necessary to kill weeds. This means that you can be standing in a corn field in Iowa in the midst of an immense amount of food but none of it is edible because it is a commodity corn and must be processed before we can eat it. This raw material is used as a basis for all these other processes and it is ironic that an Iowa farmer can no longer feed himself.

Of the 10,000 pounds of corn that can be produced on one acre, 32% will be exported or turned into ethanol, in neither case ending up as food. About 490 pounds will be made into corn sweeteners, like high fructose corn syrup, and the other 5,500 pounds, more than half of a one-acre crop, will be fed to animals which end up on American tables as meat.

The meat that is commonly consumed in this day and age is produced from animals which are fed corn silage in feedlots. Grain-feeding produces a characteristically obese animal whose muscle tissue looks more like fat tissue than the lean muscle of a wild animal. This means that a T-bone steak from a grain-fed cow may have as much as 9 grams of saturated fat compared to 1.3 grams of saturated fat in the same steak from a grass-fed animal. America´s favorite meat, hamburger meat or ground beef, is produced from the same grain-fed animal and about 65% of the calories in hamburger meat is saturated fat. Beef from corn-fed cows is cheap and easy to produce, and as a result it is more than likely that a person born in the last 30 years in America has tasted only corn- or grain-fed beef.

With so much surplus corn around it made sense to look for ways in which to derive maximum benefit from this versatile product. At the same time, food and beverage manufacturers were looking for a lower cost sugar substitute, and the corn sweetener industry was the perfect answer. Prior to about 1970, nobody ate high fructose corn syrup because of the high production expenses. Today, the most common form of sweetener in the western diet comes from corn. Corn is very cheap and therefore it was logical that food producers began to use high fructose corn syrup as a more available and economical option. By the late 80s high fructose corn syrup had taken over half of the sweetening market in the United States. High fructose is known to enhance the flavor of spices and fruits, lessen the acidic quality of spaghetti sauces and also provide good browning properties for the bread industry. Low cost and innovative corn production provided the market with a highly versatile product that offered a variety of choices at a low cost.

Almost every single item you see in the supermarket isle contains corn syrup. In the last 30 years America’s consumption of table sugar has fallen, but overall consumption of sweeteners has gone up 30%, largely because of a dramatic increase in the consumption of high fructose corn syrup.

The corn which is grown in Iowa has been selected for high productivity, meaning high volume starch production at the cost of nutritional value. From a nutritional standpoint, most of the developments and so called improvements in processing have a degrading effect on our food. The original corn from Mexico was a grain with a higher protein content, but with the focus on mass productivity, the nature of the corn kernel was transformed. Increased yield has mainly been possible due to an expansion in the endosperm or the starch fraction of the kernel of corn. The extra starch that is produced can be converted to high fructose corn sweetener which has basically no nutritional value.

One of the great changes in the American diet during the last 20 years is that we are now not only eating, but also drinking many more calories than before. In Brooklyn, New York, about 139 million gallons of soda are consumed each year, soda which is sweetened by approximately 20,000 acres of corn. There seems to be something about drinking calories in the form of soda, for example, that just does not generate the stop signals like it might with food and as a result we have an explosion of obesity. I can use one example of a person who used to be over 300 pounds, a size 60 in pants, to demonstrate the effect of drinking soda. He stopped drinking it completely and with that being the only change in his diet, lost about a third of his weight.

Obesity is probably the most conspicuous symptom of the nutritional crisis occurring in America, but in reality is only a part. Excessive consumption of sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup has adverse metabolic effects, and long term studies show that it also produces higher risk of type 2 diabetes. In a recent analysis it was found that drinking one soda per day on average almost doubled the risk of type 2 diabetes compared to only occasionally drinking a soda beverage, or none at all. One in eight New Yorkers have been diagnosed as having diabetes, and this statistic does not include those who do not know they have diabetes and remain undiagnosed. Diabetes essentially means the blood sugar level is too high for the pancreas to control and maintain within the normal range. Diabetes is not a condition treatable with only medicine; it is not something that goes away. Diabetes and obesity are conditions which are strongly linked to the environment factors of both diet and exercise.

The most important message that can be taken from this information is the eventual cost of the damage that we are doing to our systems. Highly processed foods, sodas, and fast foods all contain some variant of the corn products that have been discussed in this article and are perfect examples of the easy and sometimes cheaper mainstream options that make up the diet of many Americans. Eating healthfully often seems to be a more expensive option, but the long-term effects of such dietary habits are worth consideration. Are we really saving money if the outcome can be a serious medical condition or a level of obesity that limits our everyday activities and puts our health at risk?

“Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” 1 Corinthians 6:19.

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