Sometimes it's hard to believe how the world once was.
For much of the first half of the twentieth century, the public viewed antismoking groups with a sort of What's-the-big-deal? bemusement now reserved to groups just north of the lunatic fringe, like PETA. After all, smoking was portrayed as glamorous, actors and athletes sung its praises in advertisements, and talk about peer pressure close to half of American adults were doing it.
But evidence was mounting that there was a link between smoking and lung cancer not to mention bronchitis, emphysema, and heart disease which eventually overrode the pro-smoking myth circulating that the recent increase in lung cancer was a result of air pollution, asbestos, and radioactive materials.
Finally, on June 12, 1957, Surgeon General Leroy E. Burney declared what we know today to be an obvious truth: smoking causes lung cancer.
The news didn't really sway the public. A 1958 Gallup Poll found that only 44 percent of Americans sided with the Surgeon General.
It was only after the January 11, 1964 release of a national commissions report encompassing more than 7,000 scientific articles declared that cigarette smokers had a 70 percent increase in mortality over nonsmokers and up to a twenty-fold increased risk of developing lung cancer that public perception changed. By 1968, a Gallup Poll showed that 78 percent of Americans believed smoking caused cancer.
But more than four out of 10 adults were still smoking.
It took until 2008, according to the CDC, for that percentage to be cut in half.
Now we see even secondhand smoke as so dangerous that smoking is banned in virtually all places of employment and many public places.
So why start a health and fitness column with a 300-word history lesson?
Because my hope is that history is about to repeat itself. That sometime soon the government will issue a statement detailing the evils of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which would eventually trigger not only the public's acceptance of the fact, but also a change in eating and drinking habits.
And the studies that could spur this on were held at the University of Princeton and published in March in Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior.
In one, a team of researchers led by Bart Hoebel, a psychology professor who specializes in the neuroscience of appetite, weight, and sugar addiction, found that even when caloric amounts remained the same, rats fed HFCS instead of table sugar (sucrose) gained significantly more weight.
The implications of this are significant.
In the past, I have told you of a theory of diet held by many, especially in the sports-performance field, called nutrient partitioning. In brief, nutrient partitioning is the belief that it is not so much the number of calories consumed but rather the type that determines whether or not weight is lost or gained.
This study promotes that theory and questions the mainstream medical belief that "a calorie is a calorie is a calorie." It also contradicts the claim of the HFCS lobby that HFCS is no different than other sugars.
About this, Hoebel says in a Medical News Today report that, "Our results make it clear that this just isn't true, at least under the conditions of our tests. When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they're becoming obese every single one . . . . Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don't see this."
Additionally, the HFCS-fed rats recorded abnormal increases in body fat and a rise in triglycerides, both of which are characteristics of what doctors call metabolic syndrome, a precursor to diabetes.
So the second study at Princeton kept the rats on a diet rich with HFCS for six months and then compared them to another group fed typical rat chow mixture that did contain sucrose. Again, the number of calories consumed remained the same.
But the HFCS group once again had significant increases in triglycerides and fat deposits. Of particular note was how the male rats on the HFCS-rich diet were affected: They gained 48 percent more weight than the male rats in the rat-chow group even though they consumed the same number of calories.
How can this be? Again, proponents of nutrient partitioning have an answer. For years they have stated that all fructose even the type found in fresh fruits if not used immediately by the liver to replenish its limited energy stores is preferentially stored as fat and that the storage requires virtually "waste" of energy in the transference.
What the Princeton studies suggest is that HFCS gets stored as fat even easier than fruit fructose.
What this means to you is that you may now have a reason for why diets in the past have gone astray.
After all, the average American ingests about 60 pounds of HFCS, and it's found in virtually all processed foods, even ones seen as good for you, such as fruit juice, yogurt, and cereals.