Tag Archives: HFCS

Flavored Milk Debate

Should chocolate milk be banned from schools? That’s the topic of a heated debate going on in the school system these days. Until now I haven’t opined on this subject, but recently I received some new information based on scientific studies that has made me decide it’s time to share some facts and my opinion.

Schools that have banned or are considering banning chocolate milk are doing so because they think eliminating a source of added sugars will lower childhood obesity rates. In a recent YouTube video, cardiologist Dr. James Rippe has weighed in on the issue of banning flavored milk and he also clarifies some misconceptions about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), one of the types of added sugar used in flavored milk. Here is a summary of some of his main points:

  • There are no studies that link the consumption of chocolate milk with childhood obesity.
  • There are studies that show chocolate milk consumption is correlated with total milk consumption. A recent study that reviewed previous studies on this topic1 showed that when chocolate milk was banned, milk consumption decreased immediately by 35 percent and there was a corresponding decrease in calcium and vitamin D levels. Both calcium and vitamin D are critically important nutrients for bone building at school age when children need it the most.
  • Whether chocolate milk contains HFCS or sucrose (table sugar) makes no difference. A sugar is a sugar. HFCS is sugar made from corn and table sugar is made from sugar cane or beets. They both have the same number of calories, the same level of sweetness, and our bodies metabolize them the same way.
  • The Dietary Guideline recommendation for milk and dairy consumption is three servings a day. Currently only one-third of boys and one-fifth of girls are getting that recommended amount.

At the end of the day, I think there is enough evidence to show that banning chocolate milk has the potential to do more harm than good for children. As with all foods, I believe chocolate milk has a place in the diet of children and adults in moderation. Making something completely off-limits sends the wrong message to children. Let’s teach them portion control and balance, rather than restriction.

Disclaimer: I am a consultant to the Corn Refiners Association (CRA); however, all statements and opinions are my own.

1Patterson J, Saidel M. The removal of flavored milk in schools results in a reduction in total milk purchases in all grades, K-12. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009; 109,(9): A97.2.

Myths and Truths About Sweeteners (Part 2)

Last week I shared with you some of the top 10 sweeteners myths and I set the record straight with the facts. Here are the rest of the top 10 list.

  1. High fructose corn syrup is much worse for the body than table sugar (sucrose). This myth that some sugars are better for you than others has been disproved by many studies that have looked at the effect of sugars on levels of blood glucose,  insulin, ghrelin (a hormone that increases appetite), leptin (a hormone that decreases appetite), and triglycerides. The result: there were no significant differences in the metabolic effects of HFCS and sugar.
  2. Foods sweetened with sugar are healthier than foods with HFCS. As I mentioned in last week’s post, HFCS and sucrose are nearly identical in composition — ~50% fructose and ~50% glucose. They both provide 4 calories/gram. Once they are absorbed into the bloodstream they deliver the same sugars within the same time frame and to the same metabolic pathways.
  3. Obesity is caused primarily by HFCS. This myth makes me crazy! In my opinion, no one thing is the primary cause of obesity. In fact, since 1970, energy (calorie) intake has increased by 515 calories/day, whereas sweetener intake has only increased by 58 calories/day. Clearly sweeteners do not deserve all of the blame. Most of the increased calories come from added fats, flour, and cereal products. Keep in mind that weight gain is due to the imbalance of calories in vs. calories out. We need healthier diets, but people also need to get up and exercise!
  4. Sugar is natural, other sweeteners are too processed. Table sugar comes from sugar canes, beet sugar comes from beets, HFCS (now being called corn sugar) comes from corn, etc. All of these are natural, unprocessed ingredients.
  5. The body does not handle all sugars the same way. Experts agree that all sugars are nutritionally the same and that the body handles them in the same way. Multiple studies in 2007 tested the effect of beverages sweetened with sucrose and HFCS on fullness and found that the effect was similar for both beverages.

The bottom line from these myths is that sweeteners are all relatively equal and one should not be deemed worse or better than another. Sweetened foods should be enjoyed in moderation and the primary focus of one’s healthy diet should be fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

Has your opinion of sweeteners changed from reading these myths and truths?

Myths and Truths About Sweeteners

While I was at the ADA conference, I attended a session entitled “10 Sweetener Myths” presented by registered dietitians Carolyn O’Neil, MS, RD (you may recognize her as the “Lady of the Refrigerator” on Alton Brown’s Good Eats) and Kristine Clark, PhD, RD, FACSM, Director of Sports Nutrition at Penn State. Sweeteners always seem to be a hot topic for people — I get many questions about the safety of them, which are the best to use, do they make you crave more sweet foods, and more. I was glad to see that the sweetener myths were going to be busted, and I would like to share some of the myths and truths with you here.

One note before I begin: As always, it is important to eat sweets (like all foods) in moderation. I am not suggesting that people increase their intake of sugar and foods that are high in sugar. The point of this post is to shed light on the truths about sweeteners, sugar and high fructose corn syrup in particular.

  1. Sugars have very different compositions. This isn’t true. People think that high fructose corn syrup is very different from table sugar, but they are actually almost identical. Table sugar (sucrose) is made up of 50% fructose and 50% glucose. The most commonly used HFCS, HFCS-42, is made up of 42% fructose and 58% glucose. Compare that to honey, which is 48% fructose and 52% glucose, and agave, which is 74% fructose and 26% glucose, and you can see that HFCS is actually most similar to table sugar.
  2. Our bodies don’t know how to handle fructose. Think about how ridiculous this statement is! So many of the foods we eat, including fruits, vegetables, and nuts, naturally contain fructose. If our bodies didn’t know how to handle fructose then we’d all have trouble digesting foods we eat on a daily basis. (There are some people who have trouble with fructose-containing foods, but that’s a separate issue).
  3. Some caloric sweeteners are too sweet. The relative sweetness of sugars is as follows:
    • Pure crystalline fructose = 117
    • Sucrose (table sugar) = 100
    • HFCS-42 (described above) = 92
    • Glucose = 65

    As you can see, HFCS has virtually the same sweetness as (and is in fact less sweet than) table sugar. It is pure fructose that is sweeter than table sugar.

  4. Research confirms fructose is not safe. The studies that have shown problems with the safety of fructose looked at abnormally high levels of pure fructose, which is not representative of our diets because we consume fructose with glucose for the most part. It’s important to keep in mind that HFCS ≠ [High] Fructose. The studies that compare HFCS to sucrose have found no differences.
  5. Sugars are not needed in most food. Sugar plays many roles in food and if you experiment with cooking or baking and decrease or remove the sugar, you will see the difference in the end result. Sugar is used for the following:
    • Stabilizes ingredients
    • Promotes browning
    • Retains moisture
    • Resists crystallization
    • Lowers the freezing point
    • Softens textures

Tomorrow I will share some more myths and truths about sweeteners. What are the myths you have heard or questions you have about sweeteners?