"Is it all sugar or is it like that, uh, I hear that high-fructose corn syrup's got a couple of skulls and crossbones next to its name." -- Stephen Colbert
"All the data says that high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose — table sugar, cane sugar, beet sugar, the stuff you put in your coffee — are exactly the same. The problem is not that high-fructose corn syrup is worse. The problem is that high-fructose corn syrup is cheaper. And when it became cheaper, it made sugar cheaper and therefore, started appearing in all sorts of foods." -- Dr. Robert Lustig
Stephen Colbert 1, Dr. Robert Lustig 0.
When a comedian playing a pundit is smarter about food than a renowned doctor who has written a book ("Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease"), no wonder people get confused about food information.
Dr. Lustig spent the early part of the interview segment on the "Colbert Report" talking about the impact of our diet on our livers. Lustig is a pediatric endocrinologist, so he should know that extra fructose does damage to livers. High-fructose corn syrup has more fructose than sucrose, ergo, high-fructose corn syrup is not a) the same as sugar and b) is worse for your liver than sugar.
Lustig is correct that "the problem is that high-fructose corn syrup is cheaper." And it appears "in all sorts of foods." But when he says high-fructose corn syrup "became cheaper, it made sugar cheaper," he is literally wrong. Sugar is much more expensive than high-fructose corn syrup. As much as high-fructose corn syrup is subsidized to be cheaper, sugar is artificially more expensive. Lustig could have meant that a cheap sweetener led food manufacturers to put more high-fructose corn syrup in products that normally aren't sweet. But that is about food politics and high-fructose corn syrup, not sugar.
Later, Lustig said about high-fructose corn syrup, "And in fact, it does exactly what the natural sugar does, too." Uh, no, it doesn't.
The doctor does point out that we consume on average 22 teaspoons of "sugar" per day, as opposed to the recommended 6-9 teaspoons/day. And he is correct that we consume too many sweeteners in our diet. But Lustig is absolutely wrong about high-fructose corn syrup and its impact on the American diet.
Dr. Lustig should know better; Stephen Colbert already does.