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Mass in Motion Posted by:
Meghan Mueller, Department of Public Health

Meghan is the State Breastfeeding Coordinator for DPH.


Controversy over consumption of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) versus sugar has been a hot topic in the news for as long as I can remember. Recently, HFCS found itself back in the spotlight when the Corn Refiners Association petitioned the FDA to change their products’ name from HFCS to ‘corn sugar.’ Their goal is to clarify that HFCS is still sugar.

Hot on the heels of their request is PepsiCo’s introduction of natural soda beverages. To comply with consumer demand trends, PepsiCo has reformulated some of its popular sodas to eliminate HFCS. Recent research has shown that over half of US consumers would “avoid products that list HFCS as one of the first ingredients.” The launch of PepsiCo’s Sierra Mist Natural aims to embrace consumer demands and encourage other popular soft drink brands to switch from HFCS to the use of natural cane sugar or other natural sweeteners in their formulation.

The real question is: are natural sugars healthier for the body than high fructose corn syrup? To make high fructose corn syrup, sugar from cornstarch is modified from glucose to a mixture of glucose and fructose (another type of sugar), a product that is more stable and has a longer shelf life. Although past research showed an association between HFCS consumption (in beverages and fruit juices) and obesity and type-2 diabetes, recent research shows that HFCS are not unhealthier than other sweeteners, like sugar.

The bottom line is, dietary guidelines ask us to avoid or reduce consumption of sugar for better short- and long-term health. Therefore, healthy adults and teens should follow the rules of moderation when it comes to consumption of HFCS and sugar-sweetened beverages. Products made with either are high in calories and have limited nutritional value.

What do you think of the name change from high fructose corn syrup to ‘corn sugar?’ Will this merely make you more aware that you are consuming excess sugar or will it help you make better beverage choices the next time you are thirsty?

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