Are You Made of Corn?

By Larry Rettig (LarryR) on January 22, 2011

Sound like a silly question? It’s not.


2011-01-20/LarryR/6d55a6cientists at the University of California-Berkeley recently revealed a startling fact:   Most Americans are made primarily of corn!  The study involved the analysis of strands of hair from average citizens.  In those strands, 69% of the carbons composing them came directly from corn.  Continuing studies by other scientists reveal that carbons  from corn are present as well in our tissues, in our fingernails, in our muscles, and in our blood.  

The Berkeley researchers also analyzed hair strands from average Europeans.  Only 5% of the carbon contained in their hair came from corn.  The reason?  Their diets contain far fewer processed foods and corn-based sweeteners.  It’s those corn-based sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup in particular, that account for most of the corn carbons in our bodies.

So how does one go about establishing carbon origins?

Corn has a unique chemical signature.  The variety of carbon it contains is called carbon 13.  Unlike other carbons, it has an extra neutron that makes its atom heavier.  This characteristic makes it very easy to trace corn carbon through our food chain.  Ninety-three percent of the tissue in hamburger from corn-fed cows, for example, comes from corn.  So when you bite into a Whopper, you’re actually biting into a whole lot of carbon 13.

Where Corn Comes From

Corn is descended from a plant called teosinte, which still grows in Mexico, and the first corn plants seem to have appeared in Mexico. The earliest known ears of corn were tiny - only a few inches long. Centuries of breeding, first by Native Americans, then by early settlers and modern scientists, have resulted in bigger, fuller ears of corn and made corn one of the world's three leading grain crops.

In 2006, Iowa corn farmers grew almost 2.1 billion bushels of corn on 12.4 million acres of land. In 2007 they harvested more than 2.5 billion bushels on a record breaking 13.9 million acres.


 So what else contains corn carbon?


As it turns out, there is a staggering amount of corn-derived carbon in our diets.  Michael Pollan points out in his writings that an entire fast-food meal ends up being mostly corn:  Sodas nearly 100%, milk shakes 78%, salad dressing 65%, chicken nuggets 56%, cheeseburgers 52%, and French fries 23%.

But that’s only the tip of the iceberg.  More than a quarter of the products in the average American supermarket now contain corn or its derivatives, according to Pollan.  Not only that, but a sweetener called high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) turns up in almost all of these food products.  At the end of this article, I’ve posted a listing that includes 345 common food items containing HFCS.  And that’s just a sampling.

The formulation of HFCS was first reported by Richard O. Marshall and Earl R. Kooi in 1957. Its industrial production was conceived and perfected by Dr. Y. Takasaki at the Agency of Industrial Science and Technology of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry of Japan from 1965 to 1970.  The U.S. producers of many processed foods and soft drinks began incorporating HFCS in their products around 1975.


 The production of HFCS requires a corn milling process that produces corn starch.  This starch, in turn, is processed to yield corn syrup.  At this stage, the syrup is composed almost entirely of glucose.  Enzymes are added to the glucose, resulting in its conversion into 40% fructose.  A purification process yields 90% HFCS.

So why are we being fed HFCS and not plain sugar?  Quite simply, it’s much cheaper to produce.  Corn is very inexpensive, due to an annual surplus and government subsidies.  Even transport of the product enters the picture here.  Most corn syrup travels from one destination to another through large pipes, while sugar involves paying a driver to truck it.  To put its current popularity into perspective, HFCS represented less than one percent of all caloric sweeteners in 1970, and by 2000 that percentage had increased to 42 (Link to source).  Aside from being cheap, manufacturers prefer it over sugar because it’s sweeter and preserves well.

 Is all that corn-derived food harmful?

We know that corn can harm cows.  Their digestive systems are set up to process grass, not corn.  Yes, cows are fed a diet rich in corn in feed lots, and yes, it fattens them up for slaughter.  But if they were allowed to continue to eat corn, they would die.

Given this scenario, it’s only natural to wonder if an overabundance of corn consumption harms humans as well.  Studies addressing this question are currently underway, but more work needs to be done before we have a definitive answer.  One of the big questions at the moment concerns genetically modified corn.  Since we consume so many corn-based foods, are we getting a dose of some new, manufactured substance that is harmful to our health?

Obesity is also an issue.  Rates have increased tremendously since the introduction of HFCS some 40 years ago.  According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 15% of the population fit the definition of obesity in 1970.  Today that percentage has more than doubled.  Cause and effect have yet to be determined, but preliminary studies with rats indicate that there may well be a connection.

America’s sweet tooth increased 39 percent between 1950-59 and 2000:

Annual averages

The lively debate about the safety of HFCS has the corn industry working on damage control.  Most obvious so far is an application on September 14, 2010, by the Corn Refiners Association to rename HFCS as “corn sugar” whenever it appears in a list of ingredients.  According to Audrae Erickson, president of the Association, the reason for the name change is that "the term 'corn sugar' [more] succinctly and accurately describes what this natural ingredient is and where it comes from – corn.”  Time magazine isn’t buying it, saying that the name change was quite obviously because HFCS is getting a bad reputation.



I’m a born-and-raised corn-fed Iowan, so parts of this article may sound like absolute heresy to my fellow Iowans.  After all, corn has been the dominant crop in Iowa for more than 150 years.  Our state has produced the largest corn crop of any state in the last 14 years.  In fact, we produce more corn in this state than whole foreign countries do.

But we can’t ignore the facts or the issues.  In this instance, we really are what we eat.



~ Please scroll down past the list below to leave comments. ~


Products Containing HFCS

Baking and Cooking ingredients

Kellogg's Corn Flake Crumbs
Nabisco Oreo Cookie Crumbs
Shake n Bake - Tangy Honey Glaze
Shake n Bake - Honey Mustard Glaze
Stove Top Stuffing - Chicken
Stove Top Stuffing - Cornbread
Stove Top Stuffing - Homestyle Herb
Stove Top Stuffing - Pork
Stove Top Stuffing - Turkey


A&W Root Beer
Capri-Sun Iced Tea
Capri-Sun Juice Drink - Fruit Punch
Capri-Sun Juice Drink - Grape
Capri-Sun Juice Drink - Lemonade
Capri-Sun Juice Drink - Mountain Cooler
Capri-Sun Juice Drink - Orange
Capri-Sun Juice Drink - Pacific Cooler
Capri-Sun Juice Drink - Red Berry
Capri-Sun Juice Drink - Splash Cooler
Capri-Sun Juice Drink - Strawberry
Capri-Sun Juice Drink - Strawberry/Kiwi
Capri-Sun Juice Drink - Surfer Cooler
Capri-Sun Juice Drink - Tropical Punch
Capri-Sun Juice Drink - Wild Cherry
Capri-Sun Refreshers - Orange Dragonfruit
Capri-Sun Refreshers - Rasberry Passionfruit
Capri-Sun Refreshers - Strawberry/Kiwi
Capri-Sun Refreshers - Tropical Fruit
Capri-Sun Sport Drink - Berry Ice
Capri-Sun Sport Drink - Clear Cherry Chill
Capri-Sun Sport Drink - Light Speed Lemon Lime
Capri-Sun Sport Drink - Orange Edge
Capri-Sun Sport Drink - Thunder Punch
Darigold Chocolate Milk
Hanson's All-Natural Soda (all flavors)
Hanson's Tonic Water
Jones Soda
Newman's Own Pink Lemonade
Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice
Snapple -Cranberry Raspberry Juice Drink
Starbucks' Frappuccino
Thomas Kemper Soda's
Tropicana OrangeAde
Tropicana Smoothies
Village Lemonade


Brownberry Breads
Pepperidge Farm's line of 100% whole grain breads
Sara Lee Heart Healthy Whole Grain Bread.
Thomas English Muffins

Breakfast Cereals

Kellogg's Frosted Rice Krispies
Kellogg's Tony's Cinnamon Krunchers
Kellogg's Corn Flakes
Kellogg's Frosted Flakes
Kellogg's Smorz
Kellogg's Special K Red Berries
Kellogg's All-Bran Bran Buds
Kellogg's All-Bran Extra Fiber
Kellogg's All-Bran Original
Kellogg's Apple Jacks
Kellogg's Cinnamon Crunch Crispix
Kellogg's Cocoa Krispies
Kellogg's Complete Oat Bran Flakes
Kellogg's Complete Wheat Bran Flakes
Kellogg's Fruit Harvest Strawberry Blueberry
Kellogg's Honey Crunch Corn Flakes
Kellogg's Kellogg's Crunchy Blends Just Right Fruit & Nut
Kellogg's Kellogg's Crunchy Blends Low Fat Granola without Raisins
Kellogg's Kellogg's Crunchy Blends Low Fat Granola With Raisins
Kellogg's Mini-Wheats Frosted Bite Size
Kellogg's Mini-Wheats Frosted Original
Kellogg's Mini-Wheats Strawberry
Kellogg's Crunchy Blends Mueslix with Raisins, Dates & Almonds
Kellogg's Product 19
Kellogg's Raisin Bran
Kellogg's Raisin Bran Crunch
Kellogg's Rice Krispies Treats Cereal
Kellogg's Rice Krispies
Kellogg's Smart Start Antioxidants
Kellogg's Smart Start Soy Protein
Kellogg's Special K
Kellogg's Special K Vanilla Almond
Kellogg's Fruit Harvest Peach Strawberry
Kellogg's SpongeBob SquarePants Cereal
Kellogg's Corn Flakes with Real Bananas
Kellogg's Spider-man Spidey-Berry Cereal
Kellogg's Kellogg's Frosted Flakes 1/3 Less Sugar
Kellogg's Special K low carb lifestyle
Kellogg's Fruit Harvest Banana Berry
Kellogg's Disney Pixar Finding Nemo Cereal
Kellogg's All-Bran Bars Honey Oat
Kellogg's All-Bran Bars Brown Sugar Cinnamon
Kellogg's Disney Pixar The Incredibles
Kellogg's Tiger Power
Kellogg's Smart Start Healthy Heart
Kellogg's Disney Lilo & Stitch
Kellogg's Special K Fruit & Yogurt
Kellogg's Mini Swirlz Fudge Ripple
Kellogg's Toasted Honey Crunch
Kellogg's Cran-Vanilla Crunch
Post Blueberry Morning Cereal

Breakfast Pastries

Eggo Pancakes Buttermilk
Eggo Waf-Fulls Blueberry
Eggo Waf-Fulls Strawberry

Candy Bars 

Hershey's Watchamacallit
Lifesavers - Butter Rum
Lifesavers - Chill-o-mints
Lifesavers - Cryst-o-mint
Lifesavers - Five Flavor Value Pack
Lifesavers - Hard Candy Sours
Lifesavers - Sours
Lifesavers - Tropical Fruits
Lifesavers - Wild Berries
Lifesavers - Wild Cherry
Optimum Opti-Pro Meal Lite Bar


Heinz 57 Sauce
Heinz Ketchup
Hunt's Catsup
Miracle Whip

Cookies and Cakes

Kellogg's Rice Krispies Treats Squares Caramel Chocolatey Chunk
Kellogg's Rice Krispies Treats Squares Original
Kellogg's Rice Krispies Treats Squares Rainbow
Kellogg's Cereal & Milk Bars Frosted Flakes
Kellogg's Cereal & Milk Bars Cocoa Krispies
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Frosted Hot Fudge Sundae
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Spider-manâ„¢ Spidey-Berry
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Apple Cinnamon
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Blueberry
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Brown Sugar Cinnamon
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Chocolate Chip
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Frosted Blueberry
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Frosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Frosted Cherry
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Frosted Chocolate Fudge
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Frosted Chocolate Vanilla Creme
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Frosted Grape
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Frosted Raspberry
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Frosted S'Mores
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Frosted Strawberry
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Frosted Wild Berry
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Low Fat Frosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Star Warsâ„¢ Frosted Lava Berry Explosion
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Frosted Caramel Chocolate
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Frosted Cookies & Creme
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Cinnamon Roll
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Low Fat Frosted Chocolate Fudge
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Low Fat Frosted Strawberry
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Strawberry
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Yogurt Blasts Blueberry
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Yogurt Blasts Strawberry
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts French Toast
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts SpongeBob SquarePantsâ„¢ Wild Bubble-Berry
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts The Incredibles Incrediberry Blast
Nabisco Barnum's Animal Crackers
Nabsico Chips Ahoy
Nabisco Fig Newtons
Nabisco Fig Newtons - Fat Free
Nabisco Fig Newtons - Whole Grain
Nabisco Honey Maid Graham Crackers
Nabisco Lorna Dornes
Nabisco Nilla Wafers
Nabisco Nutter Butter
Nabisco Mallomars
Nabisco Oreo Cookies
Nabisco Snackwells - Creme Sandwich
Nabisco Teddy Grahams
Nutri-Grain Twistsâ„¢ Apple Cobbler
Nutri-Grain Twistsâ„¢ Cappuccino & Creme
Nutri-Grain Twistsâ„¢ Strawberry Cheesecake
Nutri-Grain Muffin Bars Banana
Nutri-Grain Muffin Bars Cinnamon Raisin
Nutri-Grain Cereal Bars Apple Cinnamon
Nutri-Grain Cereal Bars Blueberry
Nutri-Grain Cereal Bars Cherry
Nutri-Grain Cereal Bars Mixed Berry
Nutri-Grain Cereal Bars Raspberry
Nutri-Grain Cereal Bars Strawberry
Nutri-Grain Chewy Granola Bars Honey Oat & Raisin
Nutri-Grain Chewy Granola Bars Chocolatey Chunk
Nutri-Grain Chewy Granola Bites Chocolatey Chip
Nutri-Grain Minis Yogurt Icing Blueberry
Nutri-Grain Minis Yogurt Icing Strawberry
Nutri-Grain Yogurt Bars Strawberry Yogurt
Nutri-Grain Yogurt Bars Vanilla Yogurt
Nutri-Grain Muffin Bars Blueberry
Nutri-Grain Chewy Granola Bites Caramel Nut Crunch
Grandma's Homestyle Peanut Butter Cookies 

  For Further Reading
  Please click on topics below

Corn study

Corn study researcher

Corn in food

HFCS and obesity

HFCS as sweetener of choice

Iowa corn

History of Corn


Images in this article are
courtesy of Wikipedia.




Cough Syrups

Delsym 12 Hour Cough Suppressant for Children, Orange
Delsym 12 Hour Cough Suppressant, Orange
Delsym Cough Suppressant
Children's Dimetapp Decongestant Infant Drops
Children's Dimetapp Decongestant Plus Cough Infant Drops
Robitussin Infant Cough DM
Robitussin Infant Cough & Cold CF
Robitussin DM Cough Relief Infant Drops, Fruit Punch
Robitussin Pediatric Cough & Cold Formula
Robitussin Pediatric Cough Long-Acting
Robitussin Pediatric Cough & Cold Long-Acting
Robitussin Maximum Strength Cough & Cold
Robitussin Head & Chest Congestion PE
Robitussin Cough DM
Robitussin PE Nasal Decongestant and Expectorant
Robitussin Cough, Cold & Flu Nighttime
Robitussin Chest Congestion Guaifenesin Syrup, USP
Robitussin Cough & Congestion
Robitussin Cough Long-Acting
Robitussin Honey Cough Natural Cough Drops, Honey Center
Vicks NyQuil multi-symptom - original
Vicks NyQuil multi-symptom - cherry
Vicks NyQuil Cough
Vicks Formula 44 Cough
Vicks Formula 44 Expectorant
Vicks Formula 44 Decongestant
Vicks Formula 44 Mult-symptom
Pediatric Vicks 44E Cough & Congestion
Pediatric Vicks 44M Cough & Cold
Vicks Casero


Kraft Cheese Nips
Nabisco Harvest Crisps - Wheat Thins 5 Grain
Nabisco Ritz Bits - Peanut Butter
Nabisco Ritz Bits - Graham Cracker S'mores
Nabisco Ritz Chips - Cheddar - Oven-Toasted Crunch
Nabisco Ritz Crackers
Nabisco Ritz Crackers - Low Sodium
Nabisco Sociables
Nabisco Wheat Thins
Nabisco Wheat Thins - Baked
Nabisco Wheat Thins - Low Sodium
Nabisco Wheat Thins - Multi-Grain
Nabisco Wheat Thins - Ranch
Nabisco Wheat Thins - Reduced Fat


Breakstones Cottage Cheese & Toppings - Peach
Breakstones Cottage Cheese & Toppings - Pineapple
Breyer's Yogurt -Fruit on the Bottom - Strawberry Lowfat
Cool Whip
Cool Whip - Extra-Creamy
Cool Whip - Lite
Knudsen - Cottage Double (Peach)
Knudsen - Cottage Double (Pineapple)
Knudsen - Cottage Double (Strawberry)
Yoplait Yogurts

Drink Mixers

Saratoga Salsa Bloody Mare Mix (spelling is correct)
El Paso Chili Key Lime Margarita Mix

Frozen Foods

Fruits and Vegetables:

B&M Original Baked Beans
Contadina Tomato Paste
Claussen Pickles - Bread and Butter Chips
Claussen Pickles - Kosher Dill Burger Slices
Claussen Pickles - Sweet Gherkins
Claussen Pickle Relish
Del Monte canned petite diced tomatoes with italian seasonings
Del Monte Fruit Naturals Red Grapefruit
Heinz Pickle Relish
Mott's Applesauce
Mt. Olive Sweet Relish
Mt. Olive Bread and Butter Pickles
Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce

Ice Creams:

Ben & Jerry's - Chubby Hubby (HFCS and Transfat!) - Should we call it Very Chubby Hubby?
Ben & Jerry's - Cherry Garcia
Ben & Jerry's - Neapolitan Dynamite
Ben & Jerry's - Cherry Garcia Body & Soul
Ben & Jerry's - Cherry Garcia Low Fat Frozen Yogurt Pints
Ben & Jerry's - Cherry Garcia Original Ice Cream Singles
Dreyer's - Girl Scouts Samoas Cookie Ice Cream
Dreyer's - Almond Praline Grand Ice Cream
Dreyer's - Cherry Chocolate Chip Grand Ice Cream
Dreyer's - Cherry Vanilla Grand Ice Cream
Dreyer's - Cookies 'N Cream Grand Ice Cream
Dreyer's - Dulce de Leche Grand Ice Cream
Dreyer's - Nestle Toll House Cookie Swirl Grand Ice Cream
Dreyer's - Spumoni Grand Ice Cream
Dreyer's - Toffee Bar Crunch Grand Ice Cream
Dreyer's - Turtle Sundae Grand Ice Cream
Dreyer's - Ultimate Caramel Cup Grand Ice Cream

Jams, Jellies, and Syrups

Eggo Syrup Original Syrup
Eggo Syrup Buttery Syrup
Eggo Syrup Lite Syrup
Hershey's Chocolate Syrup
Knott's Boysenberry preserves
Smucker's Grape Jelly


Oscar Meyer Pickle and Pimento Loaf


Nabisco Nilla Wafer Pie Crust
Nabisco Oreo Pie Crust
Jello No-Bake - Chips Ahoy
Jello No-Bake - Oreo
Pepperidge Farm's Puff Pastry sheets

Salad Dressings

Emeril's Italian Vinegrette
Kraft Salad Dressing - Light done Right Creamy French
Kraft Salad Dressing - Thousand Island Fat Free
Maple Grove Farms Caesar Fat Free
Miracle Whip Salad Dressing
Miracle Whip Salad Dressing - Hot n Spicy
Miracle Whip Salad Dressing - Light
Miracle Whip Salad Dressing - Light Super Easy Squeeze
Miracle Whip Salad Dressing - Non-fat
Miracle Whip Salad Dressing - Super Easy Squeeze
Wishbone Ranch Dressing
Wish-Bone Classic Caesar


A1 Steak Sauce Marinade - Cajun
A1 Steak Sauce Marinade - Chicago
A1 Steak Sauce Marinade - Teriyaki
Bull's Eye BBQ Sauce
Bull's Eye BBQ Sauce - Honey Smoke
Bull's Eye BBQ Sauce - Smokehouse Hickory
Bull's Eye BBQ Sauce - Sweet Hickory Smoke
Bull's Eye BBQ Sauce - Texas Style Mesquite
Crazy Jerry's Alotta Bull BBQ Sauce - Torrid Toro (Hot
Holy Smoke - Sticky Wings Glaze
Holy Smoke - Bar B Q Glaze
Jim Beam Steak Sauce
Jim Beam Herb & Garlic Gourmet Marinade
Jim Beam Lemon & Herb Gourmet Marinade
Kraft Barbecue Sauce
Penn State Nittany Lions Lime Grilling Sauce
Pork Rubbers Original Competition BBQ Sauce
Tuttorosso Marinara
Tuttorosso Three Cheese
Tuttorosso Traditional
Tuttorosso Flavored With Meat
Tuttorosso Mushroom
Tuttorosso Tomato & Basil
Tuttorosso Tomato, Olive & Garlic
Virginia Gentleman Bourbon BBQ Sauce


Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheese Strawberry Cheesecake Bar
Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheese Chocolate covered Strawberry Cheesecake Bar
Oscar Mayer Lunchables - All Star Burgers
Oscar Mayer Lunchables - All-star Hot Dogs
Oscar Mayer Lunchables - Chicken Dunks
Oscar Mayer Lunchables - Chicken Strips
Oscar Mayer Lunchables - Cracker Stackers
Oscar Mayer Lunchables - Nachos
Oscar Mayer Lunchables - Peanut Butter Pile-ups
Oscar Mayer Lunchables - Pizza
Oscar Mayer Lunchables - Pizza Dunks
Oscar Mayer Lunchables - Pizza Pile-ups
Oscar Mayer Lunchables - Pizza Stix
Oscar Mayer Lunchables - Pizza Swirls
Oscar Mayer Lunchables - Tacos


Campbells Vegatable soup (in microwaveable bowl)


















Related articles:
carbon, carbon13, corn, cows, food, HFCS, high fructose corn syrup, Iowa, obesity

About Larry Rettig
"An enthusiastic gardener for over 50 years, my first plant was a potted Ponderosa Lemon tree ordered from a comic book ad at age 15. I still have it, and it’s still bearing lemons! My wife and I garden on 3/4 of an acre, both flowers and vegetables. Our garden, named Cottage-in-the-Meadow Gardens, is private and is listed with the Smithsonian Institution in its Archives of American Gardens. It is also on the National Register of Historic Places. We garden organically and no-till. Our vegetable garden contains a seed bank of vegetables brought to this country from Germany in the mid-1800s by my ancestors. My latest book, Gardening the Amana Way, is available at

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
No high fructose bread LarryR Mar 5, 2011 11:18 AM 2
Scary Stuff valleylynn Feb 2, 2011 5:57 PM 22
living with corn allergies Kathleen Jan 29, 2011 5:06 PM 1
Rice. pajonica Jan 25, 2011 11:59 PM 2

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