by Yuval Levental
The largest post that I have written about diet so far covers most of the well known basic foods (https://corticalchauvinism.com/2020/07/27/the-best-diet-plan-for-autistic-people-and-for-everyone-else/). One type of food that I didn’t consider was sugar, which is added to many kinds of foods. Since the seventies, sugar has been artificially modified by several companies to lower the cost (https://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/nutrition/article/high-fructose-corn-syrup-worse-regular-sugar). The most well-known artificial sugar is High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). While reducing the cost of sugar seemed beneficial at first, it’s also highly likely that the quality of artificial sugar is also much lower, leading to difficulties such as obesity and lack of focus.
As seen in this graph (https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/overweight-obesity), there was a dramatic increase in obesity starting in the early eighties. This is when HFCS and other artificial sugars became more popular. The relatively significant rate of obesity before this might have been because of refined grains such as white flour and white rice, which are still unhealthy but not as bad as artificial sugar.
Additionally, the rate of autism started to accelerate in the eighties (https://www.behaviorismandmentalhealth.com/2013/06/12/autism-prevalence-increasing/). Part of this increase is because the definition of autism is changing, but clearly, there must have been a significant environmental factor driving this significant increase.
Avoiding HFCS and other artificial sugars can be hard at first. Many sugary foods and beverages simply have the label “sugar” as an ingredient, which could potentially mean anything. Additionally, even if a product says “No HFCS” on the package, they could have replaced it with a different kind of artificial sugar. The only sugary foods and beverages that I would buy are those that are labeled with the exact type of sugar that is used. For instance, labels such as “cane sugar”, “brown sugar”, and “molasses” are acceptable. Jones Soda, a famous craft soda company, only uses pure cane sugar in its beverages.
Finally, manufacturers of HFCS claim that this kind of sugar is needed for its unique baking properties, which they say don’t exist with other products. However, traditional corn syrup is a great alternative to HFCS, and has existed since the 19th century. The chemical process for making traditional corn syrup is very simple in comparison to HFCS and other artificial sugars.