It’s just about every week that someone dredges up old sweetener myths for another ride on the media’s merry-go-round. This past week we’ve seen quite a few examples involving high fructose corn syrup, also known as corn sugar.
Over the weekend, a University of California-Davis professor was quoted calling for a tax on corn sugar. Last week, guest writers in the Buffalo News called corn sugar “the worst kind of sugar.” A writer in the Chicago Tribune warned parents away from giving “high fructose corn syrup-laden pop” to their kids. And recently, a blogger for Mother Jones rehashed the alleged corn sugar/mercury link. Lastly, the dismissal of a class-action lawsuit over corn sugar labeling was overturned by an appellate court. The suit, originally filed in 2007, claimed that the “All Natural” label on drinks containing corn sugar was misleading.
Given the piles of misinformation, let’s review the reality about corn sugar.
Nutritionally, corn sugar is no different than table sugar. Same sweetness, same caloric content. Even Marion Nestle, no friend of food companies, has stated that corn sugar is "basically no different from table sugar.”
In terms of weight gain, no fewer than five papers in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found “no special link between consumption of high-fructose corn syrup and obesity.”
As for the so-called “link” between corn sugar and mercury, the media worked itself into a frenzy over a mercury-in-corn-sugar study in January. But according to the study’s own data (which was questionable enough), you would have to drink 181,797 cans of Coke to be exposed to the same amount of elemental mercury in a single compact fluorescent light bulb. That’s the same size at the period at the end of a sentence.
And lastly, no less than the Food and Drug Administration has called corn sugar “natural.”
In the end: sugar is sugar. Whether it’s table sugar, corn sugar, brown sugar or honey, it can be part of a healthy diet.