Sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup Per Capita Availability: 1912 and 2012

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, February 20, 1912:  I hardly know what to write.

Click on chart to make larger.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Since Grandma didn’t write much a hundred years ago today, I’ll tell you about some interesting statistics that I found.

We hear so much about how we eat too many sweets today. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has one hundred years of trend data about per capita availability of sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

In 1912 there was enough sugar for every man, woman and child in the US to eat 76 pounds of sugar per year. Sugar availability was 102 pounds in 1972. By 2012 there were 64 pounds per person.

A hundred years ago people ate a small amount of corn syrup per capita, but it was not high fructose corn syrup. Prior to the late 1960s corn syrup was either glucose or dextrose.

In 1972 there was 1 pound of high fructose corn syrup per person. By 1992 there was 63 pounds per person.  It decreased to 50 pounds per person in 2012.

2009 data are the most recent year available on the USDA website. When making the chart, I assumed that per capita availability of sugar and high fructose corn syrup is the same in 2012 as it had been in 2009.

4 Responses

  1. I don’t know what to say about this but wow! Perhaps that explains a lot. I don’t eat much prepared food and I never pour corn syrup on my pancakes so I hope I am at the 1972 level or lower.

    • There definitely was corn syrup around when we were kids–Karo, King’s Syrup, etc., but it was made in a different way back then. I don’t understand chemistry, but I believe it was dextrose or glucose instead of high fructose. USDA reports separate figures for those types of corn syrup that go way back–though the per person availability was relatively low. I’ve seen old recipes that call for glucose.

  2. Thank goodness the consumption of high fructose corn syrup is going down!

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