Blog Directory - Blogged foodliterate: Sweet Is as Sweet Does

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sweet Is as Sweet Does

Sugar, that ubiquitous sweet substance we all love, is comprised of fructose & glucose (50%/50%) as you learned here. HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) is also comprised of fructose & glucose in a very similar ratio (55%/45% or 42%/58%). So why is HFCS vilified, sugar not and honey, agave syrup and evaporated cane juice all but ignored?

Both fructose and glucose have the chemical formula of C6H12O6, but have different configurations (where the atoms are located) and so have different sweetness levels and are metabolized differently. Fructose is absorbed through the wall of the small intestine directly into the bloodstream and taken up into the liver cells where it is converted into components indistinguishable from glucose and sometimes into glucose. A downside of each: glucose needs insulin to get into your cells, fructose doesn't, so it has a high glycemic response while fructose is more likely to elevate your triglyceride levels.

In sugar the monosaccharides fructose & glucose are linked, unlike in HFCS where they are not. Enzymes in your digestive system break down the links into the individual monosaccharides fructose and glucose which are processed identically to monosaccharides consumed separately. Since all of these products will end up as monosaccharides, it is impossible to say one is inherently better or worse for you.

In addition, the University of Washington Nutritional Science Program performed a study which showed that there was no direct link between the type of sweetener consumed and obesity. While the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study results showed that cane sugar and HFCS have similar effects on hunger, fullness and food consumption.

Whether you consume sugar (50% fructose), HFCS (42 or 55% fructose), honey (53% fructose), agave nectar (56 -92% fructose) or evaporated cane juice (45% fructose), your body is going to treat them all the same. That is not to say that there is not a difference between eating a piece of fruit (a pear for instance) or a candy bar. While your body may not distinguish one fructose molecule from another, the pear has water (a diluent), fiber, vitamins and minerals which the candy bar most certainly does not.

So, enjoy your sweets in moderation and don't get caught up in all the hype; we could all do better at consuming less sugar in any of its forms!
UPDATE! American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Supplements:

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