DIET AND FITNESS:

Is Corn Dangerous to Your Health?
--A Comprehensive Review
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September 4, 2010, Last Updated October 10, 2011

By Louise Carr, Contributing Columnist





America is a corn-fed nation. The average American eats 28.4
pounds of corn a year, according to the United States
Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. Corn
flakes, corn dogs, corn chips, corn on the cob. Corn, corn,
corn. Corn is everywhere and in everything - in our animals,
in our cereals, even in our soft drinks. Perhaps more
concerning, a new report from the US Department of
Agriculture shows that  
88% of all corn sold in the United
States is genetically-modified. So pervasive is corn in the
American diet that it prompts the question “Is all this corn
really good for us? Are there health dangers from eating so
much corn?”

How Much Corn Does America Produce?

According to statistics from the United States Department of
Agriculture’s Feed Grains Database, the United States
produced 13 million bushels of corn in 2007. Out of that
mammoth amount, we exported 2.45 million and used the
remaining 10.5 million.

That’s over 5 pounds for each person, every day. Obviously
no one’s eating that much every day so where does it all go?

Almost 60 percent goes to feed animals for meat and milk.
Another 30 percent makes ethanol fuel. Only 1.8 percent
goes to make 'other products', such as the many products we
eat that contain corn like corn chips, breakfast cereals and
popcorn.

With each passing decade, we're eating more and more corn.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, we
ate just 15.4 pounds a year each in the 1950s, and even less
– 11 pounds – in the 1970s. A 2008 study from the University
of Hawaii found nearly all fast food consumed in the United
States today relies on corn agriculture. The researchers used
a carbon isotope to identify the type of feed the animals
which make our burgers ate and the type of oil used to cook
fries. They bought 480 servings of burgers, chicken
sandwiches and fries and found only 12 servings of beef didn’
t show traces of corn.

Why Choose Corn?

It’s cheap, for a start. Bumper crops of corn are made
possible by federal subsidies that help keep food prices
down. Food producers use corn as a cost-effective
ingredient, cheap animal food and a way of sweetening
products in the form of high fructose corn syrup. But what’s
the problem with a low-cost, readily available form of
energy? No one wants to live in a country where we can’t
afford to feed our family. The problems come when corn
makes up such a large proportion of our diet. Is corn a health
risk because we eat it, and everything we eat eats it too?

Corn Makes Meat Fattier

America is a nation of meat eaters. Could corn in animal feed
be a danger to your health? According to the United States
Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, in
2000 total meat consumption reached 195 pounds per person
per year, 57 pounds higher than our average annual
consumption in the 1950s.

Corn-fed animals produce meat that can harm your health.
Recent research suggests meat from corn-fattened animals
tends to have more artery-clogging fats than grass-fed
animals. The meat is higher in omega-6 fats and lower in
omega-3. According to Susan Allport, author of The Queen of
Fats, it doesn’t matter if we increase our intake of fish oils to
increase our omega-3 levels if we are eating a lot of omega-6.
The two fats simply compete in our bodies. It’s not just meat
– corn oil has a 46 to one ratio of omega-6 to omega-3.
Canola oil is only two to one. And eggs from chickens fed
corn have one-tenth the omega-3 as free-range eggs from
chickens fed on grass. (Article Continues Below)

























Grass-Fed Meat Has Health Benefits

According to a 2010 study from the University of Melbourne,
red meat that comes from corn-fed animals is associated with
an increased risk of mental health problems. Researchers
found people in Australia, where cattle is grass-fed, who ate
more beef and lamb were less likely to have depression or
anxiety.

And a 2008 study from the University of California’s Jonsson
Cancer Center and the Department of Urology found that
lowering omega-6 intakes helps prevent prostate cancer in
mice. The researchers fed one group of mice a diet containing
about 40 percent of calories coming from corn oil fat. The
other group got 12 percent of their calories from fat. The
study found there was a 27 percent reduction in the
incidence of prostate cancer in the low-fat diet group.

Cattle Fed Corn Risk E.coli

Could corn-fed meat be responsible for high levels of
dangerous bacteria in your diet? Recent research has
suggested that cattle eating a diet of corn develop high
stomach acidity which may breed dangerous levels of E.coli
bacteria. In 2001, United States Department of Agriculture
researcher James Russell found that switching cattle to a diet
of hay for a brief period before slaughter could eliminate
most of the E.coli.

A 2007 study by Kansas State University followed up these
findings and discovered that cattle fed distillers grains, a by-
product of corn ethanol production, had significantly higher
levels of e.coli than grass-fed animals.

Corn Has Significant Environmental Impact

Many people have concerns about the effect of intensive corn
production on the environment. Corn production could be a
danger to your health through the effect it has on soil and
water.

A 2009 study from Purdue University found that more of the
fertilizers and pesticides used to grow corn would find their
way into nearby water sources if farmland was used more
intensively for growing corn. The study looked at Indiana
water sources and found that those near fields with
continuous-corn rotations had higher levels of nitrogen,
fungicides and phosphorous than corn-soybean rotations.

High Fructose Corn Syrup Can Be A Danger To Your Health

Perhaps the most pervasive use of corn in American today is
in the form of high fructose corn syrup. According to United
States Department of Agriculture the average American
consumes 42 pounds of high fructose corn syrup every year.
The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy estimates we
eat around 12 teaspoons of high fructose corn syrup every
day. Cornstarch is used to make high fructose corn syrup, a
super-sweet mixture of glucose and fructose that is used to
sweeten everything from soft drinks to soups and sauces.
The amount of high fructose corn syrup we eat has increased
by over 1,000 percent since the 1970s, according to an article
in the April 2004 issue of the American Journal of Clinical
Nutrition. What are the problems with eating so much? Could
corn made into high fructose corn syrup be damaging our
health?

Corn Can Make You Fat

Recent research has shown that soft drinks and processed
foods sweetened with corn - high fructose corn syrup - cause
us to pile on the pounds faster than regular table sugar.

A 2010 study from Princeton University found that, while
their calorie intake remained the same, rats with access to
high fructose corn syrup put on more weight than those who
could only eat table sugar. The rats also gained a lot of body
fat, particularly around the middle, and levels of blood fats
called triglycerides increased.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 62
percent of adult Americans were overweight in 2000, a
dramatic rise from 46 percent in 1980. 27 percent of
Americans were classified as obese - twice the amount as in
1960. And our kids are getting heavier too. Could America’s
corn-fed diet be responsible? Or is something else to blame?

Corn Is Not the Enemy

Many people believe that because the body deals with high
fructose corn syrup in the same way it does with sugar, corn
is not the problem. Experts say, chemically, corn syrup is
nearly identical to table sugar and both substances play a
part in America’s obesity epidemic.

A 2008 study published in the Journal of Nutrition from the
International Life Sciences Institute of North America and the
United States Department of Agriculture suggested that there
was little evidence that high fructose corn syrup had a more
marked effect than sugar on health and no unique role in
creating obesity.

The American Medical Association in 2008 stated that “high
fructose syrup does not appear to contribute to obesity more
than other caloric sweeteners.”

And meat is getting healthier. Producers offer extra-trimmed
cuts and less fatty meats as well as numerous pre-packaged
products with a lower fat content. Corn is not the problem.
Our problem is we eat too much. We can now get a large
percentage of our daily calories from one movie-sized cup of
soda, let alone the take-out on the way home. It’s not like we
have to hunt, catch, skin and cook our food anymore – it’s
too easy to eat too much.

The Health Benefits of Corn

Corn contains good levels of folate, an important B-vitamin,
and thiamin. Thiamin is important for nerve health and
cognitive function. Corn is also rich in vitamins A and E and is
full of fiber. Fiber helps prevent digestive problems and is
good for an overall healthy diet. According to 2002 research
from Cornell University, corn is a rich source of antioxidants
and cooking corn actually increases the levels of antioxidants
we receive when we eat it.

So Is Corn Dangerous?

These health benefits concern the corn we eat before
manufacturers have got their hands on it. Corn on the cob,
roasted over the barbeque coals and served with a drizzle of
butter, is not the enemy. And it’s clear we aren’t getting our
calories from a diet of corn plucked by hand from the fields.

Processed Corn Versus Whole Corn

It’s the process of refining corn, feeding it to our farm
animals and adding it to all manner of foods that rings
warning bells.
Processed corn, not whole corn, is dangerous
to our health.

So what can we do? Start by limiting our consumption of
processed food to cut down on corn and prevent obesity.
Choose grass-reared meat when available and substitute
sodas for fruit juice, milk and water. Eat more whole grains,
not processed corn foods, to make up our essential grain
intake. And stick to a healthy diet rich in fruit, vegetables,
good fats and protein to ensure the dangers of too much
corn are kept to a minimum.



You're just getting started. Learn more about the relationship
between your diet and your risk for other diseases and
conditions:
10 Exotic Potatoes That Fight Disease / Read
more recipes from this author /Beets Lower Blood Pressure-
But There's a Big Catch / How Much Is Too Much Salt?
/
Sugar-The Disease Connection / Are Diet Sodas Bad for
Your Health? / Ideal Breakfast for Diabetics / Ideal Breakfast
for Arthritis /Healing Foods Links /  Foods That Shrink Your
Waist / Foods That Lower Cholesterol/ VLDL-The Other
Cholesterol/ Foods That Reduce Blood Pressure


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