Sugar: Does It Make You Dumb?

“Sugar in the morning/Sugar in the evening/Sugar at suppertime…”

My late father would often burst into those lyrics from the 1958 McGuire Sisters hit “Sugartime.” Little did he know it was a recipe for asking, “Morning — that’s the one where the sun is RISING, right?”

Yes, a new UCLA study (published in the May 15 edition of the peer-reviewed Journal of Physiology) is the first to show how a diet steadily high in high-fructose corn syrup affects more than just the body.

(I THINK they said it was the first. After downing a 32-ounce Dr. Pepper, it could be the copycat research project of the decade, for all I know. Anybody remember the way to the bathroom?)

Experiments involving laboratory rats and mazes show that the sweetener (used extensively in soft drinks, cereal and candy) slows the brain, hampering memory and learning. (In a breach of research ethics, scientists hoped the rodents would forget the cereal decoder rings they had been promised.)

Detractors of corn syrup are already dusting off the old Florida orange juice slogan: “High-fructose corn syrup: it isn’t just for diabetes, obesity and fatty liver anymore.”

This report is a blow for the respectability of an industry whose impassioned mantra already sounded like a bad 70s comedy routine. (“Oh, you can call me corn sugar, or you can call me Ray, or you can call me Jay, or you can call me RJ — but you doesn’t have to call me high-fructose corn syrup!”)

I fear that manufacturers will be forced to redo time-honored advertising campaigns. No longer will “Have a Coke and a smile” be sufficient. It’ll be “Have a Coke and a…and a…what do you call that thingie where you’re happy and the corners of your mouth curl up???”

Hollywood quotations will need updating as well. Dear old Forrest Gump will observe, “My mama always said life is like a box of chocolates — except a box of chocolates can be used as a date-rape drug.”

Perhaps the study will help people cope with unwarranted pride. (“My mama didn’t raise no fools. Although…those heaping bowls of Sugar Crunchies might have something to do with playing in traffic and my unfortunate choices in the 2004 election…”)

All of my research this week came from late-breaking online reports, but TV newsmagazines will almost certainly run breathless promos about the UCLA bombshell. This is in spite of the irony of the “boob tube” worrying about dulling anyone’s wits (“Stay tuned for a very special ‘Fear Factor/Baywatch Nights’ crossover event”) and in spite of the danger of angering sponsors who regard the low-cost ingredient as My Precious. (“At ABC News, we’re not afraid of biting the hand that feeds us — as long as that hand is saturated with high fructose corn syrup! Yum! Yum!”)

I’m sure some people will panic over the UCLA study and make drastic changes in their lifestyles, but most of us addicted to sweetness will accept a little fuzzy-headedness as a small price to pay for our favorite snacks.

I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?

(“Ha! This derivatives strategy is so brilliant, there’s no way it could lose JPMorgan Chase $2 billion. What? It already did?? Man, I’ve gotta start tying a string around my finger or something!”)

Danny Tyree
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