News that Starbucks plans to remove high fructose corn syrup from its baked goods later this month as part of its “Real Food. Simply Delicious” campaign (Reuters, June 2) may be misleading to consumers by implying that products sweetened with other sweeteners, such as sugar, are healthier.
“Consumers could be in for a jolt when they realize that there is no scientific basis to suggest that coffee cake made with sugar is ‘healthier’ than one made with high fructose corn syrup,” says Audrae Erickson, president of the Corn Refiners Association. “There is no nutritional difference between high fructose corn syrup and sugar. It is the calories that count.”
High fructose corn syrup may have a complicated-sounding name, but it is essentially a corn sugar that is nutritionally the same as table sugar. High fructose corn syrup is not sweeter than sugar; and high fructose corn syrup, sugar and honey all contain the same number of calories (four calories per gram).
The American Medical Association in June 2008 helped put to rest misunderstandings about this sweetener and obesity, stating that “high fructose syrup does not appear to contribute to obesity more than other caloric sweeteners.”
High fructose corn syrup is made from corn, a natural grain product. High fructose corn syrup contains no artificial or synthetic ingredients or color additives and meets the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s requirements for use of the term “natural.”
While there is general agreement that Americans should cut back on all sweets and calories, many experts in the nutrition science community agree that high fructose corn syrup is essentially the same as sugar:
* “To pretend that a product sweetened with sugar is healthier than a product sweetened by high fructose corn syrup is totally misguided,” Michael Jacobson, Ph.D., Executive Director, Center for Science in Public Interest (Associated Press, September 10, 2008).
* “There’s no substantial evidence to support the idea that high fructose corn syrup is somehow responsible for obesity.” “If there was no high fructose corn syrup, I don’t think we would see a change in anything important. I think there’s this overreaction.” Walter Willett, Ph.D., Chairman of the Nutrition Department, Harvard School of Public Health (The New York Times, July 2, 2006).
* “HFCS is glucose and fructose separated. Table sugar is glucose and fructose stuck together, but quickly separated by digestive enzymes.” “The body can hardly tell them apart.” Marion Nestle, Ph.D., Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health, New York University, author of “What to Eat” and “Food Politics” (Spokesman Review, January 2, 2008).
* “The source of the added sugar – whether sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, honey or fruit juice concentrate – should not be of concern; rather it is the amount of total calories that is important.” American Dietetic Association (Hot Topics paper on High Fructose Corn Syrup, December 2008).
* “The danger I see in all of this is a misleading message that foods and beverages sweetened with sugar are better choices than those with added high fructose corn syrup. This is simply not true, from a nutritional point of view.” Madelyn Fernstrom, Ph.D., C.N.S., Director, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Weight Management Center (Health Journal on iVillage.com March 25, 2009).