With a new study pointing the finger at high fructose corn syrup as a culprit in America’s explosive epidemic of obesity, it is important to remember just why we are consuming so much of this commodity as opposed to the more traditional, and apparently healthier, sucrose or common table sugar.

The answer is trade protectionism.

Lobbying expenditures—estimated at over $135 million over the past 20 years—by a small group of American sugar producers have bought for them a complex set of U.S. protectionist policies. These policies limit imports of sugar and raise the price for Americans significantly above the world market average. For example, last year, the average price of sugar in the United States was 41 percent higher than the world market price.

As a result, U.S. manufacturers of soft drinks, candy, and other confections have switched increasingly to corn syrup or other sources of fructose.

Think of it as a U.S. government two-for-one special at your local grocery store: You can pay more for sugar and be less healthy, too!