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Sugar-sweetened soft drinks: The taste may differ, but don't kid yourself they're healthier

January 5, 2010 |  7:19 pm

Given all the panic in the streets about high-fructose corn syrup, it's no surprise that beverage companies are making hay out of vintage formulations that use sugar from cane or beets in their beverages instead of the syrup. Many fans say the beverages taste better with sucrose -- hence the following enjoyed by Mexican Coke.

It is also not surprising that the Sugar Assn. is thrilled by this development. In an exuberant press release today it "applauded Pepsi-Cola" for reintroducing Pepsi Throwback (For a limited time only! Hurry! Hurry!) and noted that "Pepsi Throwback gives shoppers another opportunity to chose natural sweeteners instead of manufactured ones.”

Certainly, cane/beet sugar -- once reviled -- has had a rehabilitation in the last year or so, with a lot of new products touting its inclusion, to the point that you might think it was a health food. (L.A. Times writer Jerry Hirsch wrote about that in 2008, and here's a nice story by New York Times writer Kim Severson.)

Never mind that sugar -- sucrose -- is made up of one unit of fructose and one unit of glucose, to which it is broken down when it enters the body. HFCS is made up of very similar proportions of fructose and glucose (55% and 45%) -- the main difference being that the fructose and glucose are already detached in the syrup.

By virtue of the way they bind and detach to the receptors in our mouths, different sugars can indeed taste distinct from one another (and so can artificial sweeteners). Fructose reportedly tastes sweeter than sucrose, so you might imagine that HFCS-sweetened drinks could taste different in the mouth. There are also recent reports that overconsumption of fructose in particular may induce metabolic changes that raise the risk for diabetes and heart disease.

But again -- since the fructose levels in high fructose corn syrup and sucrose are so similar, there's not much reason to suppose that Pepsi Throwback and other "natural sugar" drinks are any healthier.

Read an article about HFCS's fall from grace -- "Dark Sugar: The Decline and Fall of High-Fructose Corn Syrup" by Daniel Engber -- at

-- Rosie Mestel

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Comments (3)

Nice try covering up for big Corn...the truth is that HFCS creates fat cells around your organs thus contributing to obesity, heart disease, and a weakened immune system. Natural Sucrose, although not the healthiest thing in the world, does not do this. For this reason real sugar is much more preferable than chemichally induced HFCS. You have shown yourself to be a puppet for the "Powers that Be". It's only a matter of time before the "Powers that Be" and their minion class (like yourself) are totally insignificant. The world is changing yet you keep beating the drums for your failed masters!! SADDDDDDDD!!!!!!!

HFCS-55 is 55%fructose:45% glucose. This appears to be close to the ratio of simple sugars in sucrose(table sugar)until you do the math. 55%:45% = 55/45 = 1.22
This means that in every Coke or Pepsi there is, compared to glucose, 22% more fructose. What does this mean in everyday terms? Drinking 5 HFCS-55 sweetened Cokes is the
equivalent of 4 1/4 Cokes sweetened with sucrose and 3/4 of
a Coke sweetened with pure fructose. Considering that the average teen chugs a few sodas a day, that's a lot of excess fructose. One doesn't have to dig deep in to medical research to substantiate that our long term ingestion of excess fructose is at the bottom of our health woes. And remember, mother nature didn't design the fructose: glucose ratio in HFCS, the CRA did.
Ditch HFCS, especially, HFCS-55.
To your health!

You can still buy soda (EVEN COKE) made with sugar in Pittsburg, PA.


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