News Releases & Statements
No Scientific Evidence to Link Obesity and HFCS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 25, 2004
ABA Media Room
NO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE TO LINK OBESITY AND HFCS;
CULPRITS ARE TOO MANY CALORIES AND NOT ENOUGH EXERCISE
WASHINGTON—A commentary just published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggesting a link between high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a commonly used liquid sweetener made from corn, and obesity is without scientific merit.
“Suggesting that people are somehow fatter today because soft drinks and food and dairy products are sweetened with HFCS instead of sucrose, or table sugar, is totally ridiculous,” said Dr. Richard Adamson, vice president of scientific and technical affairs for the National Soft Drink Association (NSDA). “People are heavier today because they are taking in too many calories and not getting enough exercise.”
Adamson acknowledged that the use of HFCS as a sweetener has increased and sucrose, or table sugar, has decreased. However, he said this shift has not had a major impact on the amount of fructose in the U.S. diet because HFCS and sucrose each contain about the same amount of fructose.
“The human body would not know the difference between sucrose in a soft drink in 1960 and HFCS in a soft drink today,” Adamson said. “Sucrose in acid media like soft drinks converts to glucose and fructose. Therefore, when soft drinks sweetened with sucrose are consumed, they contain amounts of glucose and fructose similar to soft drinks sweetened with HFCS.”
Although the commentary cites the U.S. as the largest user of HFCS in the world, it failed to note that many European and other countries that use little or no HFCS in soft drinks and other foods are also experiencing an increase in obesity rates.
Contrary to the contention of commentary authors Drs. George Bray and Barry Popkin that the extra sweetness of soft drinks and fruit drinks containing HFCS increases caloric intake, there is little evidence to support this. In fact, a recent study by researchers at the University of Washington showed equal caloric consumption and fullness after juice, low fat milk and colas were consumed.
The commentary contains numerous other distortions, but all stem from a misconception of the composition of HFCS. HFCS is not the same as fructose. Like table sugar (sucrose) it is composed of two simple sugars: fructose and glucose. The ratio of fructose to glucose in HFCS differs only slightly from that of table sugar, making them essentially the same in composition. Even though dietary glucose and fructose are processed differently, the source of these simple sugars, whether from table sugar or HFCS, does not matter to the body.
A number of epidemiology studies have found a negative correlation between added sugar intake and body mass index. Furthermore, Adamson said, even the recent Institute of Medicine report states that there is no clear and consistent association between increased intake of added sugars and body mass index.
“Obesity is a complex problem with many causes and no single, easy solution,” Adamson said. “It is irresponsible and scientifically spurious to single out HFCS or any other food or ingredient as the chief cause of obesity. The only effective and lasting way to combat obesity is to encourage people to live a balanced lifestyle, eating a variety of foods in moderation and incorporating lots of physical activity into their daily lives.”
Richard Adamson holds a Ph.D. in pharmacology from the University of Iowa. Former Scientific Director at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), he has published more than 200 peer reviewed papers and book chapters and won numerous awards, including a Fulbright Award to St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School University of London.
The National Soft Drink Association is the trade association representing the broad spectrum of companies that manufacture and distribute non-alcoholic beverages in the United States.