New research on drinks finds super high fructose levels

Posted by
June 10, 2014

sodasThe Corn Refiners Association’s long-held position that very little difference exists between high fructose corn syrup and sugar has just been blown out of the water by some damning new research.

For years, a mantra led by the CRA has held that natural sugar, or sucrose, and HFCS have nearly the same ratio of glucose to fructose, the component now widely viewed among experts as hazardous to our health. Whereas sugar contains a 50-50 fructose-glucose ratio, HFCS was said to have a 55-45 ratio, which the CRA maintained was practically the same (although it actually represents 10 percent more fructose, not 5 percent).

Now an extensive study just published in the Journal Nutrition has repudiated that claim, at least insofar as HFCS-sweetened beverages are concerned.

Led by Dr. Michael Goran of the University of Southern California, the research team, which analyzed some 34 widely consumed non-diet soft drinks and juices, including Coke and Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, Sprite and Mountain Dew, concluded that their actual ratio of fructose to glucose is 60/40 – that is, 50 percent more fructose than glucose. And those results were consistent in evaluations done by three separate laboratories using three different methods to obtain them.

“We found what ends up being consumed in these beverages is neither natural sugar nor HFCS, but instead a fructose-intense concoction that could increase one’s risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and liver disease,” said Dr. Goran, who serves as director of the Childhood Obesity Research Center (CORC) at the Keck School of Medicine.

“The human body isn’t designed to process this form of sugar at such high level,” Goran maintained, pointing out that “Unlike glucose, which serves as fuel for the body, fructose is processed almost entirely in the liver where it is converted to fat.”

Dr. Goran’s study provides Citizens for Health with powerful new evidence to back up the petition it submitted to the Food and Drug Administration back in 2012. That petition asks that the FDA take action against food and beverage manufacturers that use HFCS with fructose amounts above 55 percent (the highest amount the agency allows), and in the interim, to provide accurate label information revealing the actual fructose percentage in the HFCS formulation being used. (To read and comment on this petition at the FDA, click here.)

The need for such measures was also supported by an earlier study co-authored by Dr. Goran that revealed how high fructose corn syrup may add an “additional contributing factor” to the development of diabetes. At the time, Goran contended that the 10 percent higher fructose level permitted by the supposed 55/45 ratio was enough to constitute an added risk factor.

Also mentioned in the Citizens petition are blends with fructose levels of up to 90 percent in a form of the sweetener called HFCS 90. One brand called Cornsweet 90 is manufactured by Archer Daniels Midland.

Back then, Goran told Food Identity Theft that the petition “makes perfect sense given the broad use of high fructose corn syrup in our food supply,” adding that “consumers need to be provided with accurate label information, especially with regards to fructose content.”

Sugar-sweetened beverages also suspect

As it turns out, however, industry claims of how much actual fructose is in products containing HFCS aren’t the only ones now being challenged by the latest Goran-led study. The researchers also discovered discrepancies in the amount of fructose contained in beverages supposedly sweetened with sugar rather than HFCS.

The label on Pepsi Throwback, for instance, indicates it is made with real sugar, yet the analysis showed that it contains more than 50 percent fructose. Higher fructose concentrations than those indicated on the label were also found in Sierra Mist, Gatorade and Mexican Coca-Cola, which all supposedly are sweetened with sucrose, raising the possibility that that they might also contained “hidden” levels of HFCS.

“Given that Americans drink 45 gallons of soda a year, it’s important for us to have a more accurate understanding of what we’re actually drinking, including specific label information on the types of sugars,” Goran noted.

A report on the study from UCS noted that Americans consume more HFCS per capita than the inhabitants of any other nation, and that consumption has doubled over the last three decades., corresponding to a tripling of diabetes rates during the same period.