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“You Are Corn”

Since you’ll never find the film King Corn in theatres, I strongly urge you to rent this important independent documentary (netflix has it here). It certainly was an eye opener for me.

I’d always known that high fructose corn syrup is bad for us, but King Corn reassured me the problem was actually much worse.


King Corn follows two friends who become interested in corn when they learn from a food scientist that because they’ve been unknowingly eating so many corn-derived products, they themselves are now largely corn. The scientist performs a hair analysis on one of them and says something like, “Yes, you are corn.”

To the friends’ surprise, each of their great grandfathers had farmed corn in the same Iowa county decades ago, so they head to the Midwest, where they rent a single acre of a corn field, grow corn, and follow their crop’s travels after the harvest. Along the way, we all learn a great deal about America’s single largest agricultural commodity.

Here’s some of the cheerless data:

  • Most of our immense government-subsidized corn crop is inedible to humans, used mainly for animal feed and to make high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
  • Corn-fed beef is the fattiest and least nutritious. A visual comparison between corn-fed and grass-fed beef makes you squirm. Plus, corn is so bad for cattle that one rancher remarks: it’s a good thing we slaughter them–they’d be dead from this diet in six months anyway. The food scientist reminds us that a hamburger is just a “slab of grilled fat,” as the protagonists nervously chow down a bacon cheeseburger.
  • The original species of corn grown in the US (from Mexico) was a rich protein source and actually good for us. The corn currently grown is a high-glycemic (read: sugary) simple carbohydrate with minimal nutritional value.
  • Because we have so much corn and because HFCS is so cheap to make, it’s replaced cane sugar as our sweetener. Food manufacturers use it in bizarre ways (to “brown” a loaf of bread or sweeten cole slaw).
  • If you shop the aisles of a grocery store (as opposed to the healthier outside ring), it’s hard to find products without HFCS.
  • It’s our soaring intake of high fructose corn syrup that’s likely responsible for our epidemics of obesity and diabetes. HFCS actually tricks the body into storing more fat.
  • If you think ethanol is a good idea, the film shows that the amount of overall work needed to produce ethanol from corn ends up actually burning more energy sources than it creates.

Your best bet? Eliminate HFCS from your life. The single largest source is sweetened drinks, including soft drinks and sweetened fruit drinks. I must admit it was a real challenge for me to find even a breakfast cereal without any sweetener–the two were shredded wheat and puffed rice. (Homemade oatmeal remains one of your best choices.)

If you’re a beef eater, stick to grass-fed beef. It runs a bit more, but you can offset the extra cost by reducing the amount you eat.

Leave a Comment

  1. Karen Kynell Tanboor says:

    I read this blog on corn and I am glad you have shared this with your patients. When I was diagnosed with hypo-thyroid I eliminated as much processed food as I could from my diet and in the first year dropped 140 lbs without much effort. I usually don’t admit that because dieting is supposed to be such hard work. Over the next 4 years I have lost at average of 32 lbs. (I started at 574 so I still have some to lose). I have moved to Amman Jordan with my husband awhile and immediately started losing weight quickly.

    The only things that have changed is I drink regular soda instead of diet, (a girl has to have a vice, mine are very dark chocolate and soda) and the food here does not have any corn product in it. I discovered this the first time I ate a Snickers bar. The texture was different and the taste different/strange. When I read the ingredients I could pronounce and attribute every one to an actual whole food source.

    I have been here 4 months and I have no idea how much I have lost and honestly I don’t really care. I just know I have gone down 2 clothes sizes.

    One of my best friend found out she was allergic to corn. Eliminated it from her diet. She lost almost 200 lbs in a little over 2 years without counting a calorie or killing herself at the gym. She does not react to one kind of Mexican corn product because it is treated with lye (I don’t know how good that is for you but my 97 year old Grandma has eaten Lutafisk her whole life and she is still going strong) and corn on the cob.

    We are 2 woman that are proof positive that the American food supply is poison and the poisons are chemically altered corn and MSG.

    Thank you for spreading the word,
    Karen Kynell Tanboor

  2. Kathy Spencer says:

    I am so glad that you saw this documentary and decided to share it with others. I saw this piece on Ch. 11 PBS this past year. It is mind boggling that the US allows such practices to continue at the detriment to our society and its health. I wish this was something our president and FDA would view and take into consideration. It is critical that we scrupulously read every food label, try to avoid any food product with corn, eat whole and organic foods, etc. The fact that the government allows and sanctions the corner convenient stores to accept food stamps when their shelves are filled with HFCS is truly a travesty against humanity and that we continue to subsidize food products that essentially lead to the downfall of our health is just unbelievable. I think that this documentary, along with Food Inc., should be viewed by all. The part that was particularly disturbing to me was when they show a cow that has an impacted stomach due to the starch levels in the corn it is fed. Thanks for sharing this critical information.

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