The public is concerned lately over high-fructose corn syrup, the sweetener common in foods, soft drinks and even bread.
Some claim high-fructose corn syrup is processed differently by the body, and that it is more harmful to the body than other sugars. Others say there is no nutritional difference between high-fructose corn syrup and other forms of sugar. So, what's the truth about high-fructose corn syrup?
High-fructose corn syrup is a calorie-providing sweetener used to sweeten foods and beverages, particularly processed and store-bought foods. High-fructose corn syrup is a desirable food ingredient for food manufacturers because it is equally as sweet as table sugar, blends well with other foods and helps foods to maintain a longer shelf life. It is also also less expensive for manufacturers to use — because of government subsidies on corn — than other sweeteners.
Table sugar, also called sucrose, and high-fructose corn syrup both consist of two simple sugars: fructose and glucose. The proportion of fructose and glucose in high-fructose corn syrup is basically the same ratio as table sugar, which is made of equal parts fructose and glucose. Both sweeteners contain the same number of calories, 4 calories per gram.
Because of differences in how high-fructose corn syrup and sugar are digested, theories abound that high-fructose corn syrup has a greater impact on blood glucose levels than regular sugar.
However, research has shown no significant differences between high-fructose corn syrup and sugar when it comes to the production of insulin, leptin — a hormone known as the "hunger" hormone. Satiety studies done on high-fructose corn syrup and sugar have found no difference in appetite regulation, feelings of fullness or short-term energy intake.
So even though there are differences in how the body breaks down sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup, both sweeteners enter the bloodstream as glucose and fructose — the metabolism of which is identical. There is no significant difference in the overall rate of absorption between table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, which explains why these two sweeteners have the same effects on the body.
The association between high-fructose corn syrup and obesity may reflect that we consume so much of it. And because high fructose corn syrup is the main sweetener in most soft drinks and a common one in other processed foods, many people may just consume more of it than other sugars.
The typical American consumes more than 300 calories — the equivalent of 19 teaspoons — daily from sugar, High-fructose corn syrup, and other caloric sweeteners that provide no other nutritional value. This is definitely affecting our weight and overall health. Added sugar should be limited to 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 teaspoons per day for men.
No matter what form it takes, it is time to take charge and cut back on all sugars.