It’s a debate that has raged on for years now: is high fructose corn syrup just another sugar, or does it affect the human body differently? As recently as this weekend, I’ve heard the Corn Refiners Association’s “sweet surprise” commercials drift across the television, asserting that our bodies can’t tell the difference between HFCS and your average table sugar. But a recent study from researchers at the University of Colorado suggests that there are in fact some significant differences in the way we process our sugars.
The research team, led by Dr. MyPhoung Lee of the University of Colorado and Dr. Julie Johnson of the University of Florida, recently published their findings in the medical journal Metabolism. The study evaluated 40 men and women as they consumed 24 ounces of soft drinks sweetened with either sugar or high fructose corn syrup. What they found was that drinks containing HFCS resulted in higher uric acid levels and a systolic blood pressure level that was 3 mm Hg higher than subjects who drank sugar-based soda.
“Although both sweeteners are often considered the same in terms of their biological effects, this study demonstrates that there are subtle differences,” says Dr. Richard Johnson, chief of the Division of Renal Diseases and Hypertension at the University of Colorado and a co-author of the study. “Soft drinks containing HFCS result in slightly higher blood levels of fructose than sucrose-sweetened drinks. The next step is for new studies to address whether the long-term effects of these two sweeteners are different.”
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The Corn Refiners Association has already spoken out against the study, stating that its methods are flawed and inconclusive. “This study does not compare high fructose corn syrup to sugar made from cane and beets, and it did not use real-life diets as a model,” says CRA President Audrae Erickson in a statement from the association. “In fact, the authors noted that the sugar, or sucrose, had ‘broken down’ into the very same sugar compounds contained in HFCS. The study is also inconsistent with the great weight of scientific authority showing the nutritional and metabolic equivalence of HFCS and sucrose.”
Nonetheless, new information can’t possibly help the Corn Refiners Association in its battle to rebrand and scrub away high fructose corn syrup’s current negative public image. If studies continue to come out about potential health risks from the corn-based sweetener, the members of the CRA could find themselves facing a more difficult fight than once suspected.
[Source: University of Colorado – Denver]