The not-so-sweet truth about sugars

April 15, 2016 by Rosalie Marion Bliss, Agricultural Research Service
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting added sugars. Credit: Peggy Greb

Whether all sweeteners produce the same metabolic effects in consumers is a controversial topic. A study conducted by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) investigators indicates that consuming lower amounts of added sugars is a more effective approach to health than finding a sugar that is more neutral in terms of its health effects.

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) sprang to market as a cheaper source of added in the 1970s. By the year 2000, HFCS and white table sugar (sucrose) were being consumed about equally. Honey, which has been used for centuries as a sweetener, became less used when became more used. Overall, per-person consumption of added sugars in the United States increased throughout the 1900s.

The chemical similarities among the different sweeteners studied provide a hint about the results. Sugar, HFCS, and honey contain glucose and fructose, but in slightly different proportions. Table sugar (whether from cane or beet) contains about 50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose. Much HFCS (including that used in the study) contains about 45 percent glucose and 55 percent fructose. Different honeys have different proportions of glucose to fructose; those richer in fructose taste sweeter

ARS nutritionist Susan Raatz and her colleagues at the Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center in Grand Forks, North Dakota, investigated whether any of the sweeteners is more nutritionally beneficial than the others. Her team studied the metabolic and health effects of chronically consuming HFCS, sugar, and honey in people with impaired glucose tolerance (pre-diabetes) and in people with normal . Volunteers with were included because they may be particularly vulnerable to negative of added sugars, including heart disease risks, elevated blood fats and blood pressure, and inflammation.

The study consisted of 2 groups: 27 volunteers with glucose intolerance and 28 volunteers with normal tolerance. Their study diets incorporated 50 grams of carbohydrates daily from one of the three sweeteners: honey, white cane sugar, or HFCS. Over the course of the study, each of the sweeteners was fed to each of the volunteers for a 2-week period. Substituting the sweeteners for other carbohydrates in the diet allowed the volunteers to maintain their weight.

Volunteers in the two groups did not show any differences in based on the dietary sugar source. In addition, the three sugar sources resulted in the same increased levels of triglycerides. "Blood levels of triglyceride, used as an indicator of blood fat concentrations—a marker for heart disease risk—increased in response to all three sugars tested," says Raatz.

Results of the study were published in the October 2015 issue of the Journal of Nutrition.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) Advisory Committee emphasized evidence showing that high consumption of added sugars increases the risk of type 2 diabetes among adults. The study provides support for the guidelines, and the newly released 2015 DGAs recommend "an eating pattern low in ."

Explore further: The downside of your sweet and salty addiction could be rapid-onset high blood pressure

Related Stories

The downside of your sweet and salty addiction could be rapid-onset high blood pressure

April 6, 2016
Consumption of fructose, a fruit-derived sugar present in many sweetened beverages and processed foods, has been associated with epidemic levels of diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome and hypertension in the U.S. and around ...

New study finds neither HFCS nor table sugar increases liver fat under 'real world' conditions

February 12, 2013
A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism presented compelling data showing the consumption of both high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and sucrose (table sugar) at levels consistent with ...

Researchers look at effects of two common sweeteners on the body

January 23, 2012
With growing concern that excessive levels of fructose may pose a great health risk – causing high blood pressure, kidney disease and diabetes – researchers at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, along ...

All sugars are not alike: Isomaltulose better than table sugar for type 2 diabetes patients

February 16, 2016
Like sucrose (table sugar), the natural disaccharide isomaltulose (PalatinoseTM) consists of glucose and fructose, but it is apparently more suitable for people with type 2 diabetes with regard to regulating blood glucose ...

Soda consumers may be drinking more fructose than labels reveal

June 4, 2014
Soda consumers may be getting a much higher dose of the harmful sugar fructose than they have been led to believe, according to a new study by the Childhood Obesity Research Center (CORC) at the Keck School of Medicine of ...

Recommended for you

Sweet, bitter, fat: New study reveals impact of genetics on how kids snack

February 22, 2018
Whether your child asks for crackers, cookies or veggies to snack on could be linked to genetics, according to new findings from the Guelph Family Health Study at the University of Guelph.

The good and bad health news about your exercise posts on social media

February 22, 2018
We all have that Facebook friend—or 10—who regularly posts photos of his or her fitness pursuits: on the elliptical at the gym, hiking through the wilderness, crossing a 10K finish line.

Smartphones are bad for some teens, not all

February 21, 2018
Is the next generation better or worse off because of smartphones? The answer is complex and research shows it largely depends on their lives offline.

Tackling health problems in the young is crucial for their children's future

February 21, 2018
A child's growth and development is affected by the health and lifestyles of their parents before pregnancy - even going back to adolescence - according to a new study by researchers at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute, ...

Lead and other toxic metals found in e-cigarette 'vapors': study

February 21, 2018
Significant amounts of toxic metals, including lead, leak from some e-cigarette heating coils and are present in the aerosols inhaled by users, according to a study from scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public ...

Why teens need up to 10 hours' sleep

February 21, 2018
Technology, other distractions and staying up late make is difficult, but researchers say teenagers need to make time for 8-10 hours of sleep a night to optimise their performance and maintain good health and wellbeing.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.