There has been a lot of discussion as of late on the topic of sugar:  whether or not we should consume it; if so, how much; if there is a difference between natural sugars and added sugars; and if high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is different than plain old sugar.  Well, the debate continues today in a USA Today article.

In light of this article, we at Sip & Savor thought we would use today’s post to respond to a few of the allegations regarding sugar as it pertains to the products made by our industry:

First of all, let’s address HFCS - or high fructose corn syrup.  The name is really a misnomer. HFCS is not fructose nor is it high in fructose. HFCS is simply a liquid sweetener made from corn with a similar composition to sucrose - what we commonly call table sugar. You can learn more about HFCS on our products issue site or on a Web site developed by the Corn Refiners Association, When it comes to the caloric contribution of beverages to the American diet, today’s article had some outdated information. In fact, according to a National Cancer Institute of government data that was presented to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee just last year, the combined category of soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks and sweetened bottled water contribute only 5.5 percent of the calories in the American diet.  That means 94.5 percent of calories come from other foods and beverages.  Assuming a 2,000 calorie diet, this means that the combined categories of beverages listed above provide about 110 calories per day – that’s less than one 12-ounce can of soda. Calories from beverages uniquely promote weight gain.  Myth.  So what’s the fact?  Consuming too many calories from anything, even apples, can lead to weight gain.  There is nothing unique about the calories in beverages.  What matters is balancing the calories we get from foods and beverages with those we burn through physical activity.  And if you’re trying to cut back on the calories you’re taking in, our industry provides a wide variety of no- and low-calorie options.  In fact, according to Beverage Marketing Corporation data, beverage calories in the marketplace have decreased by 21 percent over the last decade due to this innovation. Sugar-sweetened beverages uniquely contribute to negative health outcomes.  Again, like many foods, soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages are a source of calories.  But in and of themselves, they are not a unique risk factor for obesity or other negative health outcomes, such as heart disease or diabetes.  In fact, according to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes has many known risk factors, including family history, age, weight gain, central adiposity, ethnicity and incidence of gestational diabetes – nowhere in this list of risk factors is consuming sugar-sweetened beverages.  When it comes to heart disease, the American Heart Association notes that the major risk factors are increasing age, gender (being male), genetics (including race) and being overweight.  Again, consuming sugar-sweetened beverages is not a risk factor. And while some try to point the finger at added sugars, saying Americans’ added sugars intake has greatly increased over time, this is simply not true.  In fact, added sugars intake has changed very little in the last 15 years or so.  This is supported by Economic Research Service data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

So where does this leave us?  Hopefully with a little more knowledge about sugars.  After all, sugar is sugar.