Sugar is Back on Food Labels -- This Time as a Selling Point

sugar, food labelsSugar, long reviled by dentists and dietitians, is now being dressed up as a natural, healthful ingredient. Some of the biggest players in the American food business have started replacing high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) with old-fashioned sugar, and using this as a selling point.

ConAgra uses only sugar or honey in its new Healthy Choice All Natural frozen entrees, and Kraft Foods recently removed HFCS from its salad dressings.

The change comes after three decades during which HFCS had been gaining on sugar in the American diet. Consumption of the two finally drew even in 2003, according to the Department of Agriculture. However, per capita, American adults ate about 44 pounds of sugar in 2007, compared with about 40 pounds of HFCS.

With sugar sales up, the Sugar Association last year ended its Sweet by Nature campaign, which pointed out that sugar is found in fruits and vegetables.

Though research is still under way, many nutrition and obesity experts say sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are equally bad in excess.
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
This is a powerful example of what happens when enough people voice their opinion: you and I can make a difference.

In response to the growing number of people seeking healthier, less processed food options, major players in the food industry, from Pizza Hut to Pepsi, have removed high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) from at least some of their products -- and replaced it with sugar instead.

Ironically, now sugar is seen as the good guy on food labels.

Scientists have linked HFCS to the rampant epidemics of obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome in the United States.

And medical researchers have pinpointed various other health dangers associated with the consumption of HFCS compared to regular sugar, so ANY decrease in this sweetener is a step in the right direction.

Yet despite all the evidence, the HFCS industry persists in claiming these findings are untrue, arguing that HFCS is the same as sugar. Their campaign also relies on nutritional research, but the funding for many of the major studies they cite came from companies with a financial stake in the outcome.

Is HFCS the Same as Sugar or Not?

Even now, as several food giants are scaling back their use of HFCS, the Corn Refiners Association is continuing their desperate plea to make you believe HFCS is the same as sugar.

Critics, meanwhile, say HFCS is WORSE than sugar, contributing to weight gain and tricking your body into wanting to eat more.

So who is right?

If you have been reading this newsletter you will know the answer and you will not have been fooled by the media advertising designed to convince you otherwise.

HFCS does NOT metabolize in the same way sugar does. It is a highly processed product that contains similar amounts of unbound fructose and glucose. Sucrose, on the other hand, is a larger sugar molecule that is metabolized into glucose and fructose in your intestine.

HFCS is metabolized to fat in your body far more rapidly than any other sugar, and, because most fructose is consumed in liquid form, its negative metabolic effects are significantly magnified. Whereas the glucose in other sugars is used by your body, and is converted to blood glucose, fructose is a relatively unregulated source of fuel that your liver converts to fat and cholesterol.

There are over 35 years of hard empirical evidence that refined man-made fructose like high-fructose corn syrup metabolizes to triglycerides and adipose tissue, not blood glucose. The downside of this is that fructose does not stimulate your insulin secretion, nor enhance leptin production. (Leptin is a hormone thought to be involved in appetite regulation.)

Because insulin and leptin act as key signals in regulating how much food you eat, as well as your body weight, this suggests that dietary fructose may contribute to increased food intake and weight gain.

Additionally, a  recent study found that because fructose is much more readily metabolized to fat in your liver than glucose, this can lead to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. NAFLD in turn leads to hepatic insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

Did You Know?

sugar foods infographic

View the Infographic

Embed this infographic on your website:

Click on the code area and press CTRL + C (for Windows) / CMD + C (for Macintosh) to copy the code.

Is Sugar Really a Healthy Alternative?

Sugar, though natural and preferable to HFCS or artificial sweeteners like Splenda and aspartame, is NOT a health food.

Refined sugar was almost nonexistent in the diets of most people until very recently. Nowadays, as the New York Times pointed out, American adults ate about 44 pounds of sugar each in 2007, just slightly more than the 40 pounds of HFCS they also ate that year.

This is A LOT of sugar and is especially concerning because it’s been proven over and over that sugar increases your insulin levels, which can lead to:

• High blood pressure and high cholesterol
• Heart disease
• Diabetes
• Weight gain
• Premature aging, and more
In fact, because sugar is bad for your health in so many ways, I created an entire list outlining 76 Ways in Which Sugar Can Damage Your Health!

So to protect your health, it would be wise to strive to cut back on your consumption of HFCS (which is right now the LEADING source of calories in the U.S.).

While simply trading HFCS for sugar may lead to slight health improvements, eating large amounts of EITHER of these sweeteners is an absolute prescription for disaster. And right now, many American adults are eating 88 pounds of HFCS and sugar every year!

Please also avoid the even worse mistake of replacing sugar and HFCS in your diet with artificial sweeteners. As you can read in my book Sweet Deception, these will damage your health even faster than HFCS or sugar.

So to get healthy and help prevent chronic disease, stop drinking soda and cut back on sugary or HFCS-laden processed foods. Instead, focus on your diet on whole foods based on your nutritional type, and, if you do purchase packaged foods, become an avid label reader and avoid foods that contain corn syrup or sugar as a main ingredient.  

For times when you want to add sweetness to your food or beverages, I prefer Stevia as my sweetener of choice, and I frequently use it. However, like most choices, especially sweeteners, I recommend using Stevia in moderation, just like sugar.

+ Sources and References