Monday, October 19, 2009

Unrefined Cane Sugar or High Fructose Corn Syrup? The Sweetener Debate.

By David Marcheschi

Most beverages consumed by the average citizen has some sort of added sweetener. This can include products like sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners like Ace-K or aspartame. Although taste is important for most people, the safety of consuming many of these sweeteners is under the debate by food manufacturers and health officials; as well as the FDA. As a result, beverage makers and distributors have come out with new all natural versions of many products. This a good development in light of research that suggests that some sweeteners have led to health problems. However, not all natural sweeteners are as natural as they seem.

Pure Cane Sugar

All natural sugar, or unrefined sugar, is one of the healthier options for use in sweetened beverages. Although it contains very little nutritional value, it comes without the harmful potential side effects of high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners because it is generally unprocessed and left as close to its natural state as possible. There are also usually not additional chemicals added. Pure, unrefined cane sugar is brown in color and can often be found in health food stores. Fortunately, due to growing concerns about refined sugar and artificial sweeteners, its popularity is growing and chain grocery stores are beginning to stock natural sugars alongside the more traditional refined varieties.

What is High Fructose Corn Syrup?

High Fructose Corn Syrup, or HFCS, is used in many products we buy every day. It is a heavily processed sweetener comprised mainly of corn syrup, and is more cost efficient than sugar because it is much sweeter in nature than regular sugar and has a much longer shelf life, a real benefit to manufacturers.

When reading labels, youll find High Fructose Corn Syrup in many different products from things like soft drinks that you expect to contain sweeteners, to other products like iced tea and juices where its presence might surprise you. And, if you look closely at the labels, youll also notice that sometimes, products that claim to be All Natural have HFCS hidden in the ingredient list, which makes them not really all that Natural after all.

There have been some studies that show that High Fructose Corn Syrup is a big contributor to the obesity epidemic because it is processed differently by the body than other sweeteners like table sugar and Pure Cane Sugar. Some studies have also shown that the way in which HFCS is processed leads the body to produce more fat and also masks the bodys sensation of fullness, so people ingest more than they need to. In addition, it has been theorized that because High Fructose Corn Syrup is hidden in so many different products, we all unknowingly over-consume it.

Some studies fight against these claims, however, stating that high fructose corn syrup is no more harmful than table sugar and that all sweeteners, regardless of where they are originated, should be consumed in moderation. This, in fact, is true as only 10% of daily caloric intake should be comprised of any sweetener, including natural varieties.

Acesulfame Potassium

Ace-K, also known as acesulfame potassium, is an calorie free sweetener that is often found in diet soft drinks and other beverages. Ace-K fits into the same category as other non-calorie sweeteners such as sucralose and aspartame. They all contain no calories and no fat, making them appealing for dieters and diabetics.

Normally Ace-K is used in conjunction with other artificial sweeteners. This helps increase the sweetness of each product and enhance the overall flavor, making diet treats more appealing to consumers. Using more than one sweetener together normally results in a more naturally sweet flavor than using Ace-K alone.

Ace-K and similar products are especially beneficial to diabetics because they do not raise blood sugar the way sugar does. They also do not contribute to tooth decay. However, despite these benefits, all artificial sweeteners should be used in moderation.

In the end, while one sweetener may seem to have less negative effects than another, any sweetener is best when consumed sparingly. Most importantly though, read the labels on the products that you buy, so that regardless of the sweetener in the beverage you choose, you can monitor how much sweetener of any kind youre putting in your system.

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