What Is in a Name? HFCS Is Sugar.
The American Heart Association recommends that sugar intake be kept at 10% of the daily caloric intake. ?The Institute of Medicine lists 25% in its guideline. ?Daily Guidelines terms sugar as discretionary. What is the real truth? ?Is it what kind of sugar we use or the amount of it that is a contributing factor to obesity? ?What do we need to do to maintain a healthy lifestyle?
Recently I was invited to participate in a Corn Refiners Association sponsored webinar to help educate the public and answer questions about high fructose corn syrup. ?I appreciated the opportunity to hear experts such as ?Dr. White, a sweetener expert; Audrey Erickson, the president of the Corn Refiners Association; Dr. Rippe, a medical and nutritional researcher; and Dr. Clark, a dietitian, talk about what many consider the “bad” carbs, the processed ones from can, beet, corn and honey that make sugar, and high fructose corn syrup.
My interest was at its peak. ?I had recently read a September 16, 2010, New York Times article by Tara Parker-Pope entitled “Would high-fructose corn syrup, by any other name, have sweeter appeal?” ?It seems that the Corn Refiners Association petitioned that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) be rebranded to corn sugar. ?Consumers are confused by its name and possible dietary risks. ?It isn’t ?the same thing as fructose, a simple sugar found in honey and fruit. Instead it is a mixture of glucose and fructose. The FDA has six months ?to respond.
Dr. ?John White, Ph.D, President of White Technical Research, explained monosaccharides like fructose and glucose as well as disaccharides like sucrose, lactose, and maltose. ?He mentioned some uses for HFCS like browning, moisture, stability, structure, texture, flavor, freezing point, damage control, handling, and fermentation. ?I thought I was back in a college science class. ?His statement that ALL sweeteners have botanical origins of which the non-useful ones are processed out really grabbed my attention.
Dr. James M. Rippe, MD, Professor of Biomedical Sciences, University of Central Florida and Founder and Director of Rippe Lifestyle Institute, ?claimed the different sugars were essentially the same thing. ?He described them as a metabolic wash with no nutritional improvement. ?He emphasized that HFCS is not fructose so comparisons should be made to sucrose AKA table sugar instead.
Audrae Erickson, President of Corn Refiners Association, ?represented that HFCS and sugar are virtually identical, have the same number of ?calories per gram, and are indistinguishable upon entering the bloodstream. ?She termed it as corn sugar because the name high fructose corn syrup is a source of confusion. ?Consumers do not clearly understand HFCS’s composition as marketing not metabolic differences is the problem.
Dr. ?Kristine Clark, Ph.D, R.D., F.A.C.S.M., Director of Sports Nutrition Penn State University, touched on conflicting opinions and misconceptions. ?She stressed the need for a balanced diet in the five (bread, fruit, vegetables, dairy, and meat) food groups. ?She recommended recognizing where ingredients on a list appear and reading nutritional labels. She suggested that ?It is better to be moderate in consuming beverages, candy gum, baked goods, even juice and consider alternatives like fresh fruit and water ?for in-between meals snacks. She concluded that people need to exercise more.
The panel couldn’t answer every question during the presentation. However, the Project Manager forwarded me me some expert answers. ?Here goes:
QUESTION – Since low cost and high relative sweetness are main reasons for commercial use, how does corn syrup fructose change flavors?
ANSWER – Let’s break the question into two parts. ?First, is HFCS lower in cost and higher in relative sweetness compared to sugar (sucrose)? ?Yes, HFCS is generally lower in cost than sugar, both because of the supported cost of sugar in the US, and presently because of weather/growing season upsets in tropical climates and increased demand. ?But it is a common myth that HFCS is higher in relative sweetness than sugar…it has the SAME relative sweetness.
Second, HFCS enhances fruit and spice flavors by virtue of the tongue sensing its sweetness faster/sooner than sugar, and by its shorter sweetness duration. ?The tongue is slower to sense the sweetness of sugar, and its sweetness lingers for a longer time. ?Many flavors are masked by sugar and this is either unfortunate (fruit and spice flavors) or fortunate (bad-tasting medicinal flavors).
QUESTION – Use of ?fructose raises questions about health effects like hepatotoxity. ?What is the ?FDA’s stand on the issue?
ANSWER – Some investigators have raised concern about liver damage related specifically to the fructose component of either table sugar (sucrose) or High Fructose Corn Syrup. ?There are no prospective data to support these assertions and there is nothing unique about High Fructose Corn Syrup when it comes to this issue. ?As we discussed in the webinar, all of the nutritive sweeteners are approximately 50% glucose and 50% fructose. ?It is very important not to confuse research or concerns about pure fructose with the real world situation of table sugar (sucrose), High Fructose Corn Syrup, molasses, honey or concentrated fruit juices, all of which are approximately 50% glucose and 50% fructose.
To settle the issue of whether or not there are any adverse effects on the liver related to fructose we need prospective studies. ?My research laboratory is currently conducting such studies. ?In the meantime, I believe that some of the concerns that have been raised are far exaggerated, and as long as people consume any added sugar in moderation there is nothing to be concerned about.
The specific question about where the FDA stands on the issue is that the FDA has taken no stand on this issue, except that the FDA has agreed that table sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, molasses, honey and concentrated fruit juices all carry the designation as ?generally recognized as safe.?
I didn’t agree with everything that was presented but nevertheless enjoyed this presentation. ?I think I might have learned more if it were truly interactive rather that a on line lecture. ?Video-camming the event would have added as audio-visual aids including models and charts would heighten interest and add to the presentation.
I always?wondered about the word fructose. ?Now that I understand it and hopefully high fructose corn syrup better, I’ll be looking at ingredient listings and nutritional labels even harder. I think I understand more now than I did prior to the experience. ?Although I have had several nutritional classes through a local hospital and have read some about carbohydrates, this presentation filled in many blanks. I am still not an expert, and encourage everyone to speak to physicians and do their own research.
?I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of the Corn Refiners Association. I received a gift certificate to thank me for taking the time to participate.?