December 9, 2008

Journal clears the air on high fructose corn syrup

The latest edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition includes a supplement that reviews high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). It concludes that there is no scientific support for the hypothesis that HFCS is linked to obesity in the U.S. or globally any more or less than other sweeteners.

It’s a case of mistaken identity, as the Corn Refiners Association noted in a news release. The USA Today did a good piece, too. Find it here.

CRA pointed out that the report was produced following a symposium that brought together scientific leaders on the topic from a number of backgrounds, including former HFCS critics.

According to Victor Fulgoni, symposium chair, in his summary of the presented papers, "Thus, we now have a clearer picture about HFCS; namely, metabolic responses are similar to sucrose as would be expected from the composition of these two sweeteners."

Audrae Erickson, president of CRA, said many have confused pure "fructose" with "high fructose corn syrup." Yet HFCS never contains just fructose – it contains fructose in a combination with glucose – a combination that is similar to ordinary sugar and honey.

Erickson said some studies that have examined pure fructose - often at abnormally high levels - have been "inappropriately applied" to HFCS. Obviously, this has significant consumer confusion. It’s the stuff urban legends are made of, but in this case, the legend hurts a useful corn product.

Here are some of the conclusions from the report:
  • High fructose corn syrup contains the same sugars compositionally as other fructose/glucose-based sweeteners like sucrose (or table sugar), honey or fruit juice concentrates.
  • Fructose-glucose sweeteners are metabolized through the same pathways regardless of their dietary source.
  • There are no known substantial metabolic or nutritional differences between high fructose corn syrup and sucrose. Both have a composition of approximately equal parts fructose and glucose.
  • High fructose corn syrup and sucrose offer equivalent sweetness and both contain 4 calories per gram.
  • From 1970-2005, caloric intake in the United States increased by 24%. This was not due to a disproportionate increase in added sugars (including HFCS), but rather an overall increase in calories from all food sources including fats and all other nutrient groups.
  • Per capita consumption of high fructose corn syrup has declined in the United States in recent years, but obesity rates continue to rise.
  • High fructose corn syrup accounts for about one-half of sweetener use in the United States but only 8% worldwide, yet obesity rates are climbing in countries that use little or no high fructose corn syrup. Sugar remains the predominant global sweetener.
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  1. I'm not buying it...or drinking the

  2. Actually, Kool-Aid is generally made with plain old sugar. Or some artificial sweetener. :)

    A lot has been learned about HFCS over the last couple of years - and it is good that this process was completed. Unfortunately, a lot of junk and misinformation got spread around during that time, all based on an observational study that suggested an incorrect hypothesis.

    This is a good post on the subject -

    Here is the conclusion near the end (Roger Clemens is a food scientist in the University of Southern California and a spokesperson for the American Society for Nutrition, which published the journal):

    In the meantime, here's Roger Clemens's word on HFCS: It appears to be safe and not to disrupt our metabolic processes. And when it comes to causing overweight and obesity, he says, "At the end of the day, it's calories that count, not high fructose corn syrup."