High-fructose corn syrup has long been portrayed as a major villain in the American diet. But a new school of thought contends that plain old table sugar or even all-natural honey can be just as harmful to a person's health.
Any source of excess sugar contributes to obesity and diabetes, and singling out high-fructose corn syrup might distract consumers from the real health hazards posed by any and all added sugars, many dietitians now say.
For example, people swigging all-natural sodas sweetened with pure cane sugar are still doing themselves harm, just as if the sodas had been loaded instead with high-fructose corn syrup, said Mario Kratz, a research associate professor at the University of Washington School of Public Health in Seattle.
"The science is pretty clear that normal household sugar doesn't differ from high-fructose corn syrup," said Kratz, who specializes in nutrition and metabolism. "They are equally bad when consumed in sugar-sweetened beverages."
Some researchers, such as Shreela Sharma, maintain that high-fructose corn syrup poses a unique health threat. They are concerned that the human body may process high-fructose corn syrup differently than regular sugar, in a way that contributes to obesity and its attendant problems, such as diabetes and heart disease.
"In the end, sugar is sugar when it comes to calories, but it's not the same when your body is metabolizing these different sugars," said Sharma, a registered dietitian and associate professor at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston. "To me, these small differences ultimately do end up making a big difference." But such views are now being challenged by other researchers and nutritionists who say that all sugars used in food are pretty much the same.
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