by Ashley Giddens, MS RD/LD
Q: Where do you stand regarding High Fructose Corn Syrup and its use in foods/beverages?
A: High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is a sweetener made through the process of combining fructose and glucose with added enzymes and acids to produce a powerful sweetener at a cheaper cost for use in foods. It is listed by the Food and Drug Administration to be generally recognized as safe (GRAS), meets the requirements to be identified as “natural,” and provides the same amount of calories as table sugar.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans report that the body metabolizes all sugars the same and is unable to distinguish between the types of sugars. Table sugar is also composed of fructose and glucose, although at a slightly different ratio. There has been much debate about HFCS and its relation to obesity in the United States. However, we must consider that many foods containing a higher amount of added sugars include soft drinks or other sweet beverages, candies and desserts. These products are often high in calories and fat while lacking in other vital nutrients. These should be consumed less frequently as they do not offer much nutritional value.
HFCS may appear on the ingredient list of some condiments, breads, and sauces as well – that is because of its versatility compared to other sweeteners. If there is concern about the amount of added sugars one consumes, choosing products labeled, “no added sugar,” is one way to control this. If able, making these products from scratch is another great option. Currently, there is no scientific confirmation to verify that HFCS directly contributes to obesity, diabetes, or other conditions. Rather, the American Diabetes Association recommends that the management of diabetes center more largely on monitoring carbohydrates from not only sugar-containing foods, but also from fruits, starchy vegetables, and grain products as these have an effect on blood glucose levels.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics concurs by encouraging a focus on healthful eating from nutrient-rich foods in order to maintain a healthy weight. Foods such as dairy products and fruits have naturally-occurring sugar and have the added benefit of providing important vitamins and minerals, therefore, making them a sweet and more nourishing option overall.
For nutritional counseling, Norman Regional Health System offers the guidance of registered dietitians. Those interested can schedule an appointment for an assessment with a referral from their family physician.