A few years ago, nutrition experts unleashed more than a little rage on high fructose corn syrup – the sweetener found in everything from sodas and juices to baked goods and pasta sauce. Then, the Corn Refiners Association decided to fight back. They launched a beautiful campaign with vivid green and gold fields of corn, happy children and parents and a positive message about corn syrup. The most common phrase reused in the campaign is, “It doesn’t matter if it’s corn syrup or sugar, your body doesn’t know the difference… sugar is sugar.” And it’s delivered in such an off-hand manner that it seems to say, “what the heck are you worried about?”
Now, the truth is, yes, the body processes all kinds of sugars the same way. Fructose, sucrose, dextrose, glucose, and a number of other compounds ending in –ose all impart flavors of sweetness, but the body burns them just like other calories. But therein lies the problem. Almost all sugars have little outright nutritional value – it’s the delivery system that matters. Sugars from whole fruits also come with vitamins, nutrients and dietary fiber. Sugars added to products like bread, cookies, crackers, juices and the like are essentially adding empty calories. And this is where nutritionists and physicians took aim at high-fructose corn syrup.
Their argument was that when you see “SUGAR” listed in the ingredients list, you are keenly aware that sugar has been added to your food, adding additional calories and providing no additional nutritional value. Ingredients like evaporated cane juice, maltose, crystalline fructose, and, yes, high fructose corn syrup don’t necessarily set off warning bells. With obesity and diabetes continuing to rise nationwide, it’s important to understand that all types of added sugars are not your weight-loss friends. They’re not even frenemies… just avoid them. The commercials are right – sugar is sugar – but that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing.