Few food ingredients – with the possible exception of aspartame – have gotten worse media publicity in recent years than high fructose corn syrup. This sweetener is found commonly in many processed foods and beverages, but some of the biggest culprits historically have been sodas and carbonated drinks. As a result of public backlash against this product, many sodas manufacturers are now abandoning the much-reviled high fructose corn syrup in favor of good old-fashioned sugar amid a positive blitz of marketing campaigns to tout this change as healthy.
Corn Syrup’s Bad….
There are good reasons for all the bad publicity surrounding high fructose corn syrup. For one thing, this sweetener is not even found in nature and must be chemically altered in an industrial process to produce it. It has also been linked to weight gain and abdominal obesity and from there, to an increased chance of developing serious health conditions like diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Many nutritionists and those in the medical professional have roundly panned this thick sweet syrup as being one of the main culprits in America’s obesity epidemic – currently, nearly 75% of Americans are classified as obese or overweight.
But is Sugar Any Better?
While the soda companies are busy marketing these new products as healthy alternatives, their ads featuring poolside parties, river rafting and other outdoor activities, nutritional experts are already shaking their heads. The medical community appears unconvinced that this change is going to bring about any really difference in the overall health status of Americans. In its defense, sugar is at least a more natural sweetener that does not have to be modified by industrially means. However, refined sugar still goes through a manufacturing process between the cane fields and the supermarket shelves and has been stripped of much of its nutritional value by the time it is ready for sale. And this is what has many experts convinced that this move by soda manufacturers is probably more hype than health.
Lisa Sasson, a member of the faculty in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University is frankly skeptical of the possible health benefits of this change, saying bluntly, “It really doesn’t matter. Sugar is just sugar.” This tallies with the opinion of Dr. David Katz of the Yale Prevention Research Center who also edits the journal Childhood Obesity. In his opinion, no health benefits will be derived from this switch to sugar.
The best solution might still be the most obvious: for those who are serious about staying healthy, ditching sodas altogether for healthier drinks like sparkling waters or unsweetened teas. Until Americans cut down on the simple carbohydrates in their diets, whether those come from refined sugars or high fructose corn syrup probably won’t make that much of a difference.
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