Sugar is…HFCS is…Sugar

Spent a little time reading about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) after my cousin posted a few things on facebook about its evils. Thought I might as well share a couple interesting things I learned.

I recently stopped drinking purple grape juice. I love (loved :_( ) purple grape juice. But after seeing a few scary (and seemingly reliable) things about sugar I’ve been trying to cut much of it from my diet. I stopped drinking soda a few years ago. And I finally just admitted that juice–100% or not–is no better.

But is this actually true? The anti-HFCS argument is that the enrichment in fructose makes it worse for you than sugar, the latter of which is ‘natural’. First off, refined sugar is not natural. It takes a bunch of processing and some absurd number of feet of sugar-beets to make that much sugar (I forgot the actual foot to grams conversion, I think it’s in here but am too lazy to listen again). Same with juice: it takes a lot of processing to get all that filling fiber out of there.

Second, what I just read about is how the ‘high’ in HFCS can be a misnomer. People think sucrose is ‘better’ than HFCS because your body breaks it down into 50% glucose & 50% fructose. Glucose has feedback responses that tell you to slow down; fructose’s are apparently retarded [Edit: as @Pascallisch points out, there are a LOT of other things wrong with fructose as Dr. Lustig talks about in the video I linked to above]. Now, according to Wiki, the kind of HFCS used in soft drinks (HFCS 55, which is conveniently a liquid for soda makers) is 57% fructose & 43% glucose. So, yes, the fructose % is higher, but not by that much. I doubt a 7% decrement in glucose is really going to make you stop eating that sugary treat.

But here’s the funny thing, the HFCS used in most food has LESS fructose than glucose. Regular corn syrup is really 44% fructose & 56% glucose. Just like honey, actually. It’s still called HFCS (HFCS 42 actually) because it’s still ‘high’ in fructose, but if you believe in the feedback mechanism stuff then it’s actually ‘better’ for you than sugar.

One final thing people often complain about with HFCS is this study (here’s a good summary) that showed obese people who ate 25% of their calories from fructose gained more bad (visceral) fat than obese people that ate 25% from glucose. However, they still both gained the same net amount of weight, just in different places. But here’s the thing: they each ate pure solutions of their respective sugar. HFCS, as I noted above, is not 100% fructose. It’s not even close. The name always made me think it was. Meaning that the results of this study only marginally apply to eating HFCS vs. regular sugar. And, as I said, if you’re not getting HFCS in soft drink form, it’s actually giving you less net fructose than sugar is.

Anyway, long story short, I’m not all about defending HFCS: ALL SUGAR IS BAD FOR YOU. And so tasty. Believe me, giving up (100% natural, haha) grape juice has been hard.

PS–N.b.: As Dave Chappelle aptly points out, as a stereotypical white guy, I was into grape juice, not grape drink.

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One thought on “Sugar is…HFCS is…Sugar

  1. Pingback: 9 Nutritional Myths | Too long for twitter...

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