Q: What’s the difference between sugar (white granulated sugar) and high-fructose corn syrup? Should I limit one more than the other for health reasons?
A: High-fructose corn syrup is a corn-based sweetener. It’s about an equal blend of glucose and fructose and can be bought only by food manufacturers. Its use increased greatly around 1975 because of its low cost, and in the ensuing years it has replaced sucrose as the primary sweetener in processed foods.
Sucrose also contains equal parts glucose and fructose and is used by manufacturers in processed foods. People also use table sugar, a form of sucrose, to sweeten their foods and beverages and for baking. For the most part it comes from sugar beets and sugar cane. Fruit contains naturally occurring sucrose.
Recently concerns have been raised about potential health consequences of high-fructose corn syrup. But there’s insufficient science to vilify it. “Human studies, though short-term and small, consistently show no different impact on measures of health compared with other sugars. Though it’d be nice to have more research, we can confidently say people’s health will benefit most from limiting all sources of calorie-containing sweeteners,” says Cindy Fitch, a nutrition professor at West Virginia University and co-author of an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics position paper on the topic.