Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Truth About Sodas: High Fructose Corn Syrup and Other Sweeteners

If you drink sodas (soft drinks), either you are either getting a lot of calories from sugar or you are consuming an artificial sweetener of one kind or another, or you are getting your sweetener. So, what harm is there in enjoying a little sweet beverage, you might ask. Let's take a look.

High Fructose Corn Syrup 
The bulk of sweeteners used in sodas is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Many people believe that HFCS, which is made from genetically engineered corn is a responsible for the rapid increase in obesity in the United States. 

One of the most worrisome problem facing us is the fact that sodas containing HFCS has rapidly displaced more nutritious beverages, including milk and 100% fruit juice. As a result, Americans are getting more sugar and less of the important nutrients like calcium, vitamin D and vitamin C that are needed for healthy growth, development and disease prevention.

Additionally, sodas contain a large amount of calories from HFCS. Each 12-ounce can of soda that you drink provides about 140 calories. That is the equivalent of about 8 teaspoons of sugar. In essence, essence, every time you drink a soda you are consuming empty calories. These empty calories can easily add up, resulting in obesity and chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

It is important to note that the increase obesity in this country has occurred over the same period that we have experienced a huge increase in the consumption of sodas containing high fructose corn syrup. 

While most of the sodas on the market today are sweetened with HFCS, you might find some that actually contain table sugar. Calorie-wise, there is no difference between the number of calories that you get from sugar and HFCS. However, there is ongoing debate about whether your body handles these two sugars, table sugar and HFCS, differently.  

While the scientists continue to debate the issue, you need to focus on avoiding sodas and other foods with any form of added sugars, in order to prevent unwanted weight gain and related health problems.

You can gain unwanted weight from drinking sodas with table sugar just as well as you can from drinking sodas with HFCS. You are also likely to experience other health problems, like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and high levels of triglycerides if you drink too much sugar sweetened soda. 

Other problems associated with a high intake of table sugar, as well as HFCS, include high levels of insulin in the blood, elevated blood glucose and inflammation. Inflammation is believed to be the cause of a number of chronic diseases.

Artificial Sweeteners
In a previous blog where I discussed “The Truth About Sodas,” I mentioned two artificial sweeteners, aspartame and acesulfame potassium. These sweeteners (chemical compounds) are made by combining two amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine in the presence of an acid.

While these and other artificial sweeteners were developed to provide sweetness to food and drink without the calories, there has been ongoing controversy about the safety of these chemicals. 

One issue surrounding aspartame and acesulfame potassium is the health harm that could result to individuals with an inborn error of metabolism called phenylketonuria. Artificial sweeteners have been linked to a number of other health problems, as well. These will be discussed in a future blog. 

Although artificial sweeteners (aka sugar substitute and non-nutritive sweeteners) have been marketed as weight loss aids and as a substitute for sugar in diabetics. there is no evidence that these chemicals help in either case. To the contrary, the incidence of obesity, as well as diabetes, has climbed significantly since these products have been put on the market.

Sodas offer no real nutritional benefit to consumers and may, in fact, contribute to obesity and the risk of chronic disease. Therefore, to reduce those risks, you should avoid do your best to consumption of sodas, whether sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, sugar or artificial sweeteners. This is especially important if you are trying to lose weight or want to avoid becoming obese in the first place.