Cane Sugar Is Not Healthier Than High Fructose Corn Syrup *
For the past several decades high fructose corn syrup silently snaked its way into the American food steam. Before its potential harmful effects were know, high fructose corn syrup was the perfect solution for food manufacturers seeking a product that was cheaper than cane or table sugar, sweeter than table sugar and that would make consumers eat or drink more of their product. Today over 10% of all the daily calories ingested by American adults come from fructose yet there is still a dearth of information on exactly how high fructose corn syrup impacts your health. Once a food ingredient that the general public paid little mind to, it is pretty much common knowledge that high fructose corn syrup isn’t good for you, but it isn’t taken out of our food supply thanks to the inherent difficulties in declaring a food unhealthy. Such a declaration would bring about dramatic economic consequences for the agricultural and food manufacturing industry here in the United States and would require control studies that are practically impossible to conduct under normal circumstances. Such research would require a large group of people eating only one food in a completely controlled environment while being monitored for a significant period of time. Our current study methods have a hard time picking out products and ingredients that are not immediately harmful to your health as it is a daunting task to place the blame for the development of any disease when everyone eats so many different things. That being said, high fructose corn syrup is out and good old fashioned cane sugar is enjoying a comeback as a healthier alternative. So much so that many major food manufacturers (especially organic labels) have high fructose corn syrup free versions of their foods. In these foods cane sugar is listed a natural and healthier choice which isn’t exactly true. As much as the advertising campaigns would like you to believe otherwise, the chemical composition of sucrose (regular sugar) hasn’t changed. It’s still bad for you and the idea of it being a healthier alternative is blatantly absurd.
Thanks to the lobbying and billion dollar public relations campaigns put forward by the Sugar Association- one of the most powerful food lobbies in the country, sugar is placed to seem like a better choice when compared to high fructose corn syrup. Since the eighties the use of high fructose corn syrup has been gaining in popularity. At one time it even threatened to overtake sugar as the main sweetening ingredient in our foods. However thanks to the new high-fructose-corn syrup-is-bad-cane-sugar-is-good marketing strategies, this trend is starting to shift. High fructose corn syrup saw a continued increase in its use as compared to sugar up until 2003 and then began a decline ever since. In 2007 the US Department of Agriculture reported that American adults consumed an average of 44 pounds of sugar per person (an alarming statistic by itself) as compared to (only) 40 pounds of high fructose corn syrup. A clear about-face from the pattern of rising high fructose consumption and a very clear sign that the ploy of making high fructose corn syrup the bad guy and cane sugar the good guy is indeed working.
Cane Sugar & High Fructose Corn Syrup Are Equally Bad For Your Health *
Is cane sugar better than high fructose corn syrup? Absolutely not. Chemically both cane sugar (sucrose) and high fructose corn syrup are made from glucose and fructose but in high fructose corn syrup the fructose concentrations are about 5% higher. Research has found that there are many negative health effects from a high fructose intake, especially in the liver where it is metabolized. Studies found that an overabundance of fructose (which doesn’t occur with eating fruits and other natural sources as the high fiber content limits the concentration of fructose at any one time) adversely affects the liver in the same way that alcohol does. This happens regardless of whether the sweetener you’ve consumed comes from cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Both provoke rapid rises in blood glucose levels and can contribute to the development of metabolic syndrome. Studies also suggest that drinks containing sugar or high fructose corn syrup may be linked to obesity, increased visceral abdominal fat, insulin resistance and type II diabetes[3, 4, 5] in addition to its confirmed role in bringing about tooth decay. That being said, given the epidemic of obesity and diet related metabolic diseases that continue to extract an enormous health toll on the general population the act of marketing sugar as a healthy alternative is both unethical and immoral. It’s naïve to believe that public interest would ever be more important than increasing profits for corporate shareholders, but the unfortunate aspect of these practices is that it works to further confuse the public as to what they should and should not eat to stay healthy.
Arguing Whether Sugar Is Healthier Than High Fructose Corn Syrup is Useless As They Are Both Bad For Your Health And Should Be Avoided *
Today the laws of what I call ‘Health Relativity rule. The idea that one bad food is somehow better than another. These laws are marked by one constant- they are always wrong no matter how convincing and appealing an argument they may present. Saying cane sugar is a better health choice over high fructose corn syrup is akin to choosing to leap from the 70th floor of a skyscraper as opposed to the 71st floor. Both choices lead to the same result and thus the only sensible choice would be to not make a choice in the first place. Similar arguments are made for agave (which actually has more high fructose syrup than high fructose corn syrup), fruit concentrate (a natural sounding code name for an artificially concentrated high fructose product) and honey (which is also high in fructose and most certainly no healthier than any other sweetener).
Coming from the islands of the West Indies, I know all too well the often forgotten environmental impact of cane sugar. Most are unaware of the vast rainforests and their inhabitants that were effectively destroyed in the Caribbean islands and many other tropical parts of the world to facilitate the widespread sugar cane plantations during the 17th to 19th centuries. Ludicrously profitable slave-powered plantations that were meant to satisfy the world’s growing sweet tooth and the irony that so many resources, energy, effort and suffering went into the production of a product with no nutritional value whatsoever should never be overlooked. Cane sugar holds the distinction of one of the first processed unnatural junk foods and is not only a waste of valuable ecological reserves but an additive that historically has caused us nothing but poorer health.
At the turn of the 20th Century a dentist named Dr. Weston Price did extensive surveys of primitive and close to the ground societies in Africa and Europe and he found that those cultures had little or no incidence of tooth decay whatsoever when compared to Europeans who had already incorporated sugar into their diets. What was even more significant was the lack of diseases common in the Western world at that time and today. Type II diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, cancer, obesity and other metabolic related diseases were almost nonexistent in those societies thanks almost completely to the absence of refined sugars in their diet and processed foods. Dr. Price was one of the first to recognize the link between Western diets and the maladies that we face today, yet a hundred years later we have yet to accept the idea that life without refined sugars, sweeteners and junk food isn’t a death sentence. In fact it is very much the opposite. Make the right choice and let whole fruits and vegetables be your source of sugars.
Kevin Richardson is an award winning health and fitness writer, one of the most successful personal trainers in New York City and the creator of Naturally Intense High Intensity Training™. Get a copy of Kevin’s free weight loss ebook here. If you live in the New York Metropolitan area and need help losing weight or getting into shape give Kevin and his team a call at 1-800-798-8420. Check out Kevin’s training services here.
1. Vos MB, Kimmons JE, Gillespie C, Welsh J, Blanck HM. Dietary fructose consumption among US children and adults: the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.Medscape J Med. 2008 Jul 9;10(7):160.
2. Alexander Aguilera, Alfonso; Hernández Díaz, Guillermo; Lara Barcelata, Martín; Angulo Guerrero, Ofelia; Oliart Ros, Rosa M. (2004). “Effects of fish oil on hypertension, plasma lipids, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha in rats with sucrose-induced metabolic syndrome”. J. Nutr. Biochem. 15 (6): 350–57. doi:10.1016/j.jnutbio.2003.12.008. PMID 15157941.
3. Ten, Svetlana; Maclaren, Noel (2004). “Insulin resistance syndrome in children”. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. 89 (6): 2526–39. doi:10.1210/jc.2004-0276. PMID 15181020.
4. Fukuchi, Satoshi; Hamaguchi, Kazuyuki; Seike, Masataka; Himeno, Katsuro; Sakata, Toshiie; Yoshimatsu, Hironobu (2004). “Role of Fatty Acid Composition in the Development of Metabolic Disorders in Sucrose-Induced Obese Rats”. Exp. Biol. Med. 229 (6): 486–93. PMID 15169967.
5. Lombardo, Y. B.; Drago, S.; Chicco, A.; Fainstein-Day, P.; Gutman, R.; Gagliardino, J. J.; Gomez Dumm, C. L. (1996). “Long-term administration of a sucrose-rich diet to normal rats: relationship between metabolic and hormonal profiles and morphological changes in the endocrine pancreas”. Metabolism 45