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Well and Good: Sugar is Sugar?

We’ve all seen the commercials: sugar is sugar, they say, and they even go so far as to say they’ve contacted the “experts”, and they all agree!

I’m not sure who these experts are… but they should probably read the research – all sugars are not created equal.

In 1970, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) accounted for less than 1% of sweeteners added to food. By 2000, 42% of sweetened foods were sweetened with high fructose corn syrup.

Let’s take a look at this hotly-debated ingredient:

  • What is it? The short story: HFCS is a syrup made by processing corn and extracting sugars called glucose, then chemically changing some to fructose. The glucose and fructose are mixed and used to sweeten soda, candy, cookies, chips, and many more processed foods we eat.
  • Why is it used? In the 1970’s, the government placed import tariffs and production quotas on how much cane sugar (real sugar) can be harvested and grown. Because of these tariffs, sugar became very expensive for food producers to purchase and use in their products, which significantly raised prices for the consumer. While making it difficult to use cane sugar, corn was subsidized. The more corn farmers grow, the more money they make. If it were you, wouldn’t you find a way to make more things from corn?
  • Why is it so bad? Our bodies process HFCS differently than cane sugar. There is a lot of new research (and a lot in process) concerning the impact of HFCS on the obesity epidemic in the United States. One study researched the consumption (by sale) of sugary foods like soda, cookies, candy and cake and compared the consumption rates with the obesity rates of states. What did they find? The higher the rate of HFCS consumption, the higher the obesity rate.

So what should we do? It’s important to be informed about what is on our dinner table and in our kid’s lunch boxes! Any food product that has the names high fructose corn syrup, corn sugar, or maize sugar in the first 75% of the ingredient list should only be consumed rarely, if ever.

The moral of the story? Real (cane) sugar isn’t bad for us, when we use moderation.

Food for thought: any “food” that has to be processed chemically so that we can eat it shouldn’t have a place on our dinner tables.