Sweet Comeback

April 14th, 2009 | Sources: NY Times

Old-fashioned sugar, the nutritional pariah that has been reviled for 3 decades as a tooth destroying, hyperactivity provoking source of empty calories, is making a comeback as a healthful, natural ingredient.

heavyweightmatchupThe resurrection comes at the expense of high-fructose corn syrup, a sweetener that had found its way into baked goods, frozen foods, soda, spaghetti sauce, yogurt and a thousand other staples of the American diet.

Pizza Hut’s new pie, dubbed “The Natural,” is free of HFCS, as is newly released Pepsi Natural. ConAgra adds either sugar or honey to its new Healthy Choice All Natural frozen entrees and Kraft Foods cut the corn sweetener from its salad dressings.

And a limited-edition Coke produced annually for Jews who stay away from corn during Passover has become so popular that stores have been forced to ration it.

The reversal of fortune comes after HFCS had relentlessly gained market share on sugar for 30 years. By 2003, the former had pulled even according to the Department of Agriculture, but 4 years later US adults were consuming an average of 44 pounds per year of sugar compared with a mere 40 pounds of HFCS.

“Sugar was the old devil, and high-fructose corn syrup is the new devil,” Marcia Mogelonsky, a senior analyst at Mintel International told the New York Times.

Some shoppers prefer sugar because they perceive it to be less processed, which is the equivalent of saying, “I shot the sheriff but I didn’t shoot the deputy.” Others link HFCS to the epidemic of obesity which is patently unfair but that’s beside the point.

The battle is about marketing and consumer perception rather than actual nutritional differences. Both sweeteners are comprised of glucose and fructose. Fructose levels are a bit higher in HCFS, a difference that has no clinical significance.

Or as Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at UCSF Children’s Hospital, explained to the Times, “the argument about which is better for you, sucrose or HFCS, is garbage. Both are bad for your health.”


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