Osteopath Joseph Mercola has plenty to sell you on his website. He’s also known for, as a Business Week commentator put it, “slick promotion, clever use of information, and scare tactics” that hearken back to the “unfortunate tradition made famous by the old-time snake oil salesmen of the 1800s.” If that sounds harsh, consider a Mercola article from Saturday perpetuating myths about high fructose corn syrup.
Mercola, who is not a medical doctor, starts with the good ol’ fable that corn sugar is a “prime factor” behind the obesity epidemic. Right? Wrong, according to a set of five studies published last winter finding that corn sugar is not a unique cause of obesity. Even the original speculator of the corn sugar-obesity theory has since recanted his mistake.
Ready for more? Mercola says high fructose corn syrup is twice as sweet as other sugars. Wrong again: High fructose corn syrup is designed to be exactly as sweet as table sugar. He also claims fructose can harm your liver, while omitting a key fact: High fructose corn syrup isn’t pure fructose; it’s not even “high” in fructose. Corn sugar is 55 percent fructose, compared to 50 percent for table sugar. (Some high fructose corn syrup—the 42 percent variety—actually has less fructose than table sugar.) The studies Mercola alludes to tested pure fructose—not high fructose corn syrup—and fed it to subjects in unrealistically high quantities.
Why is Joseph Mercola freaking his followers out? It could have something to do with his own pricey blend of “Pure Gold Raw Honey,” which he’s more than happy to sell you. (Ironically, the sugars in honey have basically the same chemical composition as high fructose corn syrup.)
The “Quackwatch” organization took a look at Mercola’s pseudo-science (and his clever “alternative” food marketing), and wrote that many of hiswritings “make unsubstantiated claims and clash with those of leading medical and public health organizations.” For examples, see the American Medical Association and American Dietetic Association, which advise the public that high fructose corn syrup and table sugar are nutritionally equivalent.
Let’s see … Who should we trust? Tens of thousands of doctors and dieticians, or a honey salesman? Sometimes the sweetest questions are the simplest ones.