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Although it reflects myths that are often repeated these days, I respectfully disagree with much of what is said in "The Sorry Secrets Of Sweeteners."
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a desirable food ingredient for food manufacturers because it is equally as sweet as table sugar, blends well with other foods, helps foods to maintain a long shelf life, and is less expensive (due to government subsidies on corn) than other sweeteners. It can be found in a variety of food products including soft drinks, salad dressings, ketchup, jams, sauces, ice cream and even bread.
Table sugar (also called sucrose) and HFCS both consist of two simple sugars: fructose and glucose. Table sugar contains 50% of each type of simple sugar. There are two varieties of high fructose corn syrup commonly found in foods today: HFCS-55 (the main form used in soft drinks) contains 55% fructose and 45% glucose. HFCS-42 (the main form used in canned fruit syrup, ice cream, desserts, and baked goods) contains 42% fructose and 58% glucose. So table sugar and HFCS are virtually identical chemically, and provide the same number of calories (4 per gram).
Research has shown that there are no significant differences between HFCS and sucrose when it comes to the production of insulin, leptin (a hormone that regulates body weight and metabolism), ghrelin (the "hunger" hormone), or changes in blood glucose levels. In addition, the two sweeteners are identical with regard to appetite regulation, feelings of fullness, and short-term energy intake. There is no significant difference in the overall rate of absorption between table sugar and HFCS, which explains why these two sweeteners effect the body in the same way.
HFCS hit the food industry in the mid 1970s, right when the waistlines of many Americans began to expand. During this time, many diet and activity factors where changing in society. It is a well-researched fact that the current obesity crisis is very much a multi-faceted problem. The American Medical Association (AMA) has extensively examined the available research on HFCS and obesity. This organization has publicly stated that, to date, there is nothing unique about HFCS that causes obesity. It does not appear to contribute more to obesity than any other type of sweetener. Obesity is the result of consuming more calories than you burn. Since the mid seventies, our society has been consuming more, but exercising less. I grew up in the seventies and spent most of my non-school hours running around outside. Today, my kids and their peers spend nearly all of their free time watching our hundreds of cable TV channels or playing video games.
"The Sorry Secrets Of Sweeteners" mentions a study that correlates the consumption of diet soda with gaining weight. Diet soda contains aspartame, not corn syrup, so this isn't an indictment of HFCS. It's important to note that this study doesn't show causation, just correlation. Diet soda drinking is linked to obesity, but doesn't necessarily cause obesity. People who drink diet soda do so because they are having trouble controlling their weight and are prone to obesity. So the people in that study probably would have gained weight no matter what they drank.
It is also possible that diet soda drinkers use the calorie-free drink as a "free pass" to include other unhealthy, calorie-dense foods on their plates. In addition, it may be that offering your brain something sweet that's not actually backed by calories could cause future cravings that lead to binge eating. But this would also be true for chewing gum and any food or drink that is sweet yet low-calorie, even if it doesn't contain any artificial sweetener.
Needless to say, neither table sugar nor HFCS would exist without human processing. You cannot just go to a field and squeeze corn syrup out of corn or table sugar out of sugar beets or sugarcane. Too much sugar is bad for you — even if it comes from what you might think of as natural sweeteners like honey, agave syrup (which is also highly refined and actually higher in fructose than HFCS) or raw sugar. Barry Popkin, Ph.D., professor of nutrition at the Univeristy of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, scoffs at people who promote "natural" sweeteners, saying "They all have the same caloric effects as sugar. I don’t care whether something contains concentrated fruit juice, brown sugar, honey or HFCS. The only better sweetener option is ‘none of the above.’”
This brings us to "healthy options to satisfy a sweet tooth." Options that contain lots of sugar from any source aren't healthy. Healthy options include using sugar-free sweeteners like sucralose.
While it has been suggested by some that no-calorie sweeteners may cause weight gain, these claims are not backed by the collective scientific data. These claims are often based on studies that were not designed to understand actual effects on weight management, and are often of very short duration and involve only a small number of people or animals. In contrast, studies in people for up several years show that no calorie sweeteners can be useful in weight management strategies. Additionally, rigorous, large studies in rats that received sucralose at doses equal in sweetness to over 40 pounds of sugar per day over a lifetime showed that sucralose does not cause increases in body weight. In determining the safety of sucralose, the FDA reviewed data from more than 110 studies in humans and animals. No negative effects were found. The studies show that sucralose and other no-calorie sweeteners can be useful for weight management.
Sucralose tastes like sugar, but is calorie-free, does not affect insulin levels, does not promote dental cavities, has a long shelf-life, and is highly heat stable. It is probably the closest thing we have to the perfect sweetener. When purchased in liquid form (e.g. Sucralite Liquid), it doesn't even contain any bulking agents that can contribute hidden calories. As a no-calorie alternative to sugar, sucralose-containing foods and beverages still allow people who are following a weight loss or weight management program to enjoy sweet, good tasting options. It has been extremely useful to me as I continue to maintain a healthy weight while still enjoying sweets.
People tend to be conspiracy-minded, but there really aren't any dark secrets in the world of sweeteners - at least not for people who are open-minded and rely on scientific evidence instead of fear and hearsay.