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NewsBites March 2010 Issue

No Evidence “Throwback” Sugared Sodas Healthier

Sugar producers may be celebrating and corn growers grumbling as softdrink companies turn to sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) to sweeten their beverages—at least temporarily. Pepsi-Cola and Mountain Dew recently introduced “Throwback” soft drinks sweetened with sugar “for a limited time only” (the nostalgic promotion was scheduled to end Feb. 22). Some soft-drink fans swear the sugarsweetened sodas taste better, but are they also better for you? Chemically, both sugar and HFCS contain similar amounts of glucose and fructose. In sugar (sucrose), those more basic sugars are connected in a single molecule and don’t separate until broken down in digestion. In HFCS, which typically contains 55% fructose and 45% glucose, the sugars are already detached. Some studies have suggested that consuming fructose directly, rather than bonded into sucrose, may have different metabolic effects in the body. Other studies have linked increased consumption of HFCS with metabolic syndrome, a precursor of diabetes and heart disease, and hinted that it may not satiate the appetite, leading to obesity. But the evidence is mixed—and, in any case, “throwback” sugar is hardly health food. The most important health fact about sugar and HFCS is that both contain about 50 calories per tablespoon.

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