Sugar vs. HFCS: Are Sugar-Sweetened Drinks the Way to Go?


If you go by the rate at which beverages sweetened with sugar, not high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), are being introduced, you might think there are real advantages to switching your purchasing habits.

A recent study at the University of California at Davis, reported in Science Daily, also supports that idea.  For 10 weeks, overweight and obese individuals consumed 25% of their calories as either fructose (HFCS)- or glucose (sugar)-sweetened drinks.  While both groups gained similar amounts of weight, only those who imbibed the fructose saw an increase in their intra-abdominal fat (the kind that increases risk for health problems).  They also became less sensitive to insulin and showed more blood lipid problems but the sugar drinkers didn’t.

Seems like a real shout-out for sugar in our drinks.

Except when you think about it.

Does the Dose Make the Poison?

In this case, even the researchers say dose-response studies are needed to discover the level of fructose associated with the negative changes they saw.

Certainly, consuming one-quarter of our calories in the form of a sweetened drink — regardless of the type of sweetener it contains — exceeds anyone’s idea of healthy eating.

I recognize there may be environmental advantages to switching sweeteners, given the way corn is produced in this country.  But I wonder if it makes any difference to our nutritional health what the sweetener is if we’re using it in moderation, that is, minimally.

Methinks not.

I also wonder whether folks will think they’re doing something really positive for their health simply by making the switch from HFCS to sugar.

Methinks maybe they’ll think that.  But I don’t.

What do you think?

3 responses to “Sugar vs. HFCS: Are Sugar-Sweetened Drinks the Way to Go?”

  1. glamah says:

    I think we all just have to consume sugar in moderation. Avoid the HFCS, but don’t gop overboard with the regular sugar. People are always looking for the magic fix, but we need to just more disciplined in our choices and show some restraint rather than go overboard.

  2. Marsha says:

    Moderation is definitely where it’s at. Problem is, many folks equate moderation with restriction. But it’s really very freeing. Let’s us eat what we want and feel great, too! Thanks for your comment, glamah. Btw, she’s got some some yummy recipes on her blog for things to eat — in moderation, of course :).

  3. Riayn says:

    Sugar sweetened drinks are not the way to go. HFCS is sweeter than sugar, hence to get the same sweetness as HFCS companies will need to add more sugar and hence sugar drinks will probably have more calories than HFCS drinks. That isn’t to say that HFCS is the way to go either due to the nasty side effects.
    I would stay well away from any sweetened drinks and just stick to water or milk.

About the Author

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

If you’re looking for an embodiment of dedication disguised as obsession, look no further. Marsha is a registered dietitian who has spent the last four decades working to help women give up dieting rules and understand how to truly take care of themselves. Her mission in life is to help women learn to enjoy eating and living well, without worries about their weight. She encourages women to embrace their love of food, which you might call being a foodie. If so, it’s appropriate because being a foodie means you pay attention when you eat. That’s a recipe made in heaven for eating well. Marsha is the President and Co-Owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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