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Corn Syrup Vs. Sugar

Corn Syrup Vs. Sugar

Corn syrup is a commonly used sugar substitute, a derivative of which is high fructose corn syrup, typically seen in proprietary and processed foods. Let's see how it compares with sugar.
Tilottama Chatterjee
Corn syrup has been widely used to replace white refined sugar, in an attempt to bypass the harmful effects associated with the calories in sugar, while maintaining the desired sweetness. However, current studies show that high fructose corn syrup may actually contribute more to weight gain, obesity, and other associated disorders, than the conventional sweetener made from cane and beets. To understand the factors that go into such a debate, however, it may be worthwhile to understand the origins of corn syrup and sugar, and the predominant effects of each.

Difference Between Corn Syrup and Sugar

Corn syrup is made from the starch found in corn, and is used in a number of proprietary foods; it is primarily made up of glucose. Apart from its use to add sweetness, it also works as a flavor enhancer, adds bulk, and imparts a softening quality to foods. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is a derivative of corn syrup, which is sweeter, having undergone processing to convert part of the glucose to fructose. HFCS is available in a number of forms, named according to the percentage of fructose they contain, HFCS 90, for instance, contains 90% fructose. These derivatives are used mainly in aerated beverages, processed, packaged foods.

Table sugar is chemically known as sucrose, and is mainly obtained from sugarcane and sugar beets. It is also known as white refined sugar. Over the years, the use of sugar as a sweetener has declined in the US, partly because government subsidies on corn meant that, corn and other food syrups were more economical, and partly as a result of artificially elevated prices of refined sugar and duties levied on sugar imports. In addition, sugar garnered a lot of negativity, because of its relation with increasing levels of obesity and intrinsic lack of nutritive value. A recent study conducted at Princeton, revealed that lab rats who were fed HFCS gained more body weight than those fed the same amount of sugar. In addition, over long-term consumption, those fed HFCS were found to have elevated levels of triglycerides.

It's well understood that the excessive intake of any form of calorie-dense, nutrition low sweeteners, whether as syrup or sugar, are detrimental to health and contribute to increased risk of diabetes and heart disease. For a long while, sugar was considered the worst thing to add to a diet. It's high fructose corn syrup is being portrayed as the villain, with a number of companies, including Heinz, Pepsico, ConAgra, and Starbucks, either eliminating HFCS from their products or introducing versions that contain sugar in its place. This is not only because of a sudden influx of negative publicity surrounding HFCS, but also because of obesity assuming the gargantuan proportions it has as a national health issue. Biochemically, HFCS and sugar are similar, and the verdict is unanimous―reducing the quantity of sweeteners in a given diet is beneficial for health. While the jury is still out, it may be judicious to cut back on your intake. Choosing the lesser of two evils may soon be a choice to make, but until then, reduce quantities of anything sugary. It's the best bet.