Sugar Wars – Nothing Natural About Them

Candy Corn

Despite the worldwide economic recession, one type of business seems to be profiting: candy shops.Most of us have our comfort foods. It may be chicken soup, a slice of pizza, or a chunk of chocolate. A recent article in the New York Times reported that business in candy shops is booming. Business is especially good for inexpensive sweets, such as Hershey Kisses, compared with more expensive indulgences.

Interestingly, this sweet-tooth trend coincides with another trend, a shift from high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) back to old-fashion sugar (sucrose). Beginning in the 1980s, HFCS became the sweetener of choice in processed foods, soft drinks, and candies. It was sweeter than sucrose, had a longer shelf life, and less expensive. Consumption of HFCS skyrocketed, while sucrose consumption plummeted – though the average American’s consumption of all added sugars has continued to climb to about 160 pounds per year.

Sucrose is a chemical compound, whereas HFCS is a blend of fructose and glucose, which leads to different metabolic effects. HFCS does a better job of raising triglycerides (a marker of diabetes and heart disease risk), and is more likely to lead to weight gain (in comparison to sucrose).

A lot of people (including me) complained about HFCS, and the giant junk food companies apparently listened. They’ve started returning to sucrose as a sweetener in frozen dinners, tomato sauces, salad dressings, and other products. With incredible audacity, companies are now describing sucrose as natural and healthy.

Natural and healthy? While HFCS does appear worse than sucrose, that doesn’t make sucrose a healthy alternative. The ideal dietary solution is to emphasis fresh foods and to avoid packaged foods, especially those with any type of added sugar.

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