Table sugar (sucrose) is made by extracting and crystallizing sugar cane or beet juice and is always half fructose and half glucose. HFCS is made by adding enzymes to corn syrup, which is just single and short chains of glucose molecules. The enzymes convert about 90 percent of the glucose to fructose. This 90 percent fructose syrup is combined with glucose corn syrup to produce HFCS. Thus HFCS can contain variable ratios of fructose to glucose depending on the amount of glucose corn syrup added. The creepy thing about HFCS is that food labels do not identify how much fructose is in the product.
Dr. Kimber Stanhope, a nutrition researcher and nutritional biologist at UC Davis, said she would like food labels to specify the type and amount of added sugars in the product. This is because just as different fats are used by the human body in different ways, so are different sugars. Fructose has been shown to increase risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes more than glucose. Fructose is used almost only by the liver while glucose can be used by all the cells in your body. Note that the liver is where sugar is converted into fat in your body.
Dr. Stanhope was recently featured on 60 Minutes for her groundbreaking study showing that HFCS increased risk factors for cardiovascular disease comparably to fructose and more than glucose in young men and women in just two weeks. This was the first and so far the only human study to compare the effect of HFCS (containing 55 percent fructose), pure fructose, or pure glucose on cardiovascular risk markers when consumed as 25 percent of total energy in the diet.
The amount of fructose contained in foods is a mystery to the general consumer. Supposedly the HFCS used to sweeten soda contains 55 percent fructose, however Stanhope notes that in a recent study published in the journal Obesity, Michael Goran "showed that the amounts of fructose in soda ranges from 47-65 percent, and it was two of the most popular brands that contained 65 percent fructose."
Many individuals against HFCS agree food labels should include fructose amount, but since there is yet no scientific evidence in humans that HFCS poses a greater risk than sucrose, this has not yet been approved by the FDA nutrition committee. Dr. Stanhope is currently studying the effect of HFCS compared with sucrose on cardiovascular risk markers and she states that she hopes the results will be available within a year. She also adds, "While this study will provide information about the effects of sucrose compared to HFCS when the HFCS contains 55 percent fructose, it will not tell us whether HFCS is more problematic than sucrose when the HFCS contains 65 percent fructose."
IT'S OKAY TO USE ARTIFICIAL SWEETENER...SOMETIMES
Jamie Yacoub, M.P.H., R.D. is a clinical dietitian with a Master's of Public Health in Nutrition. She obtained her Bachelor of Science in clinical nutrition from UC Davis after four years, during which time she participated in internships in several different nutrition environments including Kaiser Permanente and Women, Infants, & Children (W.I.C.). After graduating from UC Davis, she went on to study public health nutrition at Loma Linda University where she obtained her Master's of Public Health in Nutrition. Jamie completed the community nutrition portion of her dietetic internship as an intern for a Certified Specialist in Sports Nutrition. She completed both the food service and clinical portions of her dietetic internship at a top 100 hospital in the nation, where she was hired as the only clinical dietitian shortly after. Jamie now works as an outpatient clinical dietitian and is an expert in Medical Nutrition Therapy (M.N.T.) using the Nutrition Care Process (N.C.P.) including past medical history and current laboratory values as a basis of nutrition assessment.