Corn Syrup No Worse than Sucrose, Study Shows

Author:  Emma Wear

Institution:  Indiana Wesleyan University
Date:  July 2007

One explanation frequently suggested for America's growing obesity epidemic is that humans may metabolize high fructose corn syrup, a sweetener whose use was adopted only a few decades ago, differently than the sucrose found in naturally sweet foods. However, a new study in the July issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition discounts that explanation, showing instead that corn syrup and cane sugar in beverages affect hunger, fullness, and food consumption in similar ways at lunch.

"There is no direct link between the type of sweetener and obesity," said Adam Drewnowski of the University of Washington, a co-author of the paper, along with Pablo Monsivais and Martine Perrigue. "As far as appetite is concerned, cane and corn sugars in beverages are much the same."

Since high fructose corn syrup is commonly used to sweeten sodas, the researchers gave participants one of a number of beverages two hours before lunch: a cola sweetened with sucrose, two colas sweetened with corn syrup, a diet cola, milk, or a no-beverage control. Over several weeks, the subjects were rotated through the various beverages.

The participants ate similar lunches when they drank the diet cola and when they had no beverage. They ate slightly less when they drank any of the beverages with calories, although not sufficiently less to compensate for the calories they drank. The type of beverage did not affect food consumption.

A likely explanation for the difference between results and expectations is that the original metabolic studies linking fructose and obesity used pure fructose. However, the corn syrup used in the colas consisted of a mix of fructose and glucose, either 55 and 45 percent, respectively, or 42 and 58 percent. These ratios are similar to that found in sucrose, in which glucose and fructose are bound in a 1-to-1 ratio.

Written by Emma Wear