Monday, October 11, 2010

Corn Sugar vs Cane Sugar: Don't Be Fooled - There Are Differences!

Glucose, fructose and sucrose are the three main types of sweeteners involved in recent health studies and debates. Here's the breakdown:

• Glucose is made when your body breaks down starches.
• Fructose is the sugar found naturally in fruits and widely used in the form of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
• Sucrose is table sugar.

Researchers from UC, Davis compared glucose and fructose consumption among 32 overweight or obese people and found they resulted in very different health changes. After drinking either a fructose- or glucose-sweetened beverage that made up 25 percent of their daily calories for 12 weeks, both groups gained a similar amount of weight. However, those drinking the fructose-sweetened beverage experienced an array of other unhealthy effects, including:

• an increase in visceral fat, which embeds itself between tissues in organs

• less sensitivity to insulin, one of the first signs of diabetes

• increased fat production in the liver

• elevated LDL cholesterol (this should be the lower number)

• increased levels of triglycerides

People who drank the glucose-sweetened beverage experienced no such changes. "This suggests that in the same way that not all fats are the same, not all dietary carbohydrates are the same either," Peter Havel, professor of nutrition at the University of California Davis and lead author of the study told TIME magazine.

When glucose is consumed, a set of reactions occur in the body allowing it to be used as energy, and production of leptin, a hormone that helps control appetite and fat storage, is increased. Meanwhile, ghrelin, a stomach hormone, is reduced, which is thought to help hunger go away.

When fructose is consumed, however, it "appears to behave more like fat with respect to the hormones involved in body weight regulation," explains Peter Havel, associate professor of nutrition at the University of California, Davis. "Fructose doesn't stimulate insulin secretion. It doesn't increase leptin production or suppress production of ghrelin. That suggests that consuming a lot of fructose, like consuming too much fat, could contribute to weight gain."

And as this most recent study pointed out, it may cause other dangerous side effects as well.

Most Sweets Contain Fructose or Sucrose

This news may compel you to begin searching for glucose-sweetened versions of your favorite desserts and sodas, but most sugary products are made with either sucrose or fructose, often in the form of high-fructose corn syrup.

Sucrose is made of 50% fructose and 50% glucose, whereas high-fructose corn syrup can be either 55% fructose, 45% glucose, or 42% fructose, 58% glucose.

What this means is that you’ll be hard pressed to find products sweetened with glucose, and may risk the side effects discovered in this study no matter which type you choose.

"This study provides the best argument yet that we should either decide to consume less sugar-sweetened beverages in general, or that we should conduct more research into the possibility of using other sweeteners that may be more glucose-based," Matthias Tschoep, an obesity researcher at the Obesity Research Center in the University of Cincinnati, said in TIME.

The Fructose-Diabetes Connection

According to Dr. Walter Willett, chair of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, long-term consumption of sugared drinks, which are typically sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, may double your risk of obesity. Part of the risk is simply from the extra calories, but part is also due to the high fructose content in the drinks.

And a review of multiple studies by Havel and colleagues, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that, in animals, consuming large amounts of HFCS led to several early warning signs of diabetes, including:

• induced insulin resistance

• impaired glucose tolerance

• produced high levels of insulin

Ideally to help protect your health you should minimize your intake of sugars, especially HFCS, fructose and sucrose, by limiting your consumption of soda and other sugary foods and drinks.

The Corn Refiners Association (CRA), the lobbying arm of US manufacturers of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), has petitioned the FDA to officially change the name 'high fructose corn syrup' to 'corn sugar', in an effort to skirt bad press. The process will take six months. You've probably already seen commercials which uses the CRA's desired name in the line, "Whether it's corn sugar or cane sugar, sugar is sugar. Your body can't tell the difference."

But that's not the truth, nor is it the whole story. There are reasons for the bad press, and here are some facts:

• Corn, as a crop, is largely GMO (genetically modified organism) and therefore lacks nutritional value.

• Corn sugar/high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a proprietary extraction of sugars from corn. After milling corn, manufacturers process the starch into syrup. They then add enzymes to the syrup to produce fructose. The resulting combination contains both glucose and fructose. HFCS was invented in the 1960s and became popular in the 1970s as a substitute for sugar when sugar prices shot up. HFCS also increases the shelf life of products, making it even more popular with manufacturers.

• Cane sugar has been popular worldwide since the beginning of the 19th century. Sucrose is the sugar produced from both beets and sugar cane. Tropical climates produce sugar cane. When harvested, the sugar cane is cut and juice is extracted. The juice is then clarified and boiled. The resulting crystals are put in a centrifuge. The large crystals of raw sugar are then sent to refineries. At the refineries, molasses and other debris is washed off. The crystals are dissolved in water, seed crystals are added, and, when dried, refined sucrose is the result.
  1. The astronomic rise in obesity, diabetes and heart disease in the United States since the introduction of HFCS has led many to believe that it may be dangerous, according to "High Fructose Corn Syrup: Just Another Sugar?," an article on CBC. The American Chemical Society conference in 2007 noted that alarmingly high levels of something called reactive carbonyls are in HFCS. They are known to cause tissue damage and are also found in high levels in people with diabetes.
  2. Both cane sugar and HFCS are processed. Cane sugar results in pure sucrose, and HFCS results in a combination of glucose and fructose. Both the Corn Refiners Association and the Sugar Association, as well as the U.S. government's Food Pyramid, suggest limiting intake of any form of sugar, whether glucose, fructose or sucrose.
  3. Many consumers see sugar as more natural, because making high-fructose corn syrup involves using enzymes in a complex series of chemical reactions. Environmentalists are concerned that depending on corn for sweeteners depletes the soil quality on land where it is farmed. Researchers have reported detecting traces of mercury in a small sampling of high-fructose corn syrup, though they cautioned that the study was limited.

• Some consumers say foods made with sugar simply taste better.

• Those issues have come to outweigh high-fructose corn syrup's benefits -- it helps keep foods moist, extends the shelf life of products and is cheaper to produce than cane or beet sugar. Consequently, it has become a popular ingredient in processed products in nearly every aisle of the supermarket.

The fact is that high-fructose corn syrup and sugar both contribute to increased risks of
obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses, according to the American Medical Association and numerous scientists. Although some studies have suggested the body metabolizes high-fructose corn syrup more slowly than it does sugar, experts say the bottom line for consumers is they should avoid both except in small amounts.

Other sources:

Note: LNH suggests using local raw honey as your best choice of sweetener. Although very sweet, stevia is also suggested -- be sure to start with trace amounts and add to taste.


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