Dr Alan Barclay
Amidst a rash of ‘natural’ ‘cane sugar’ and ‘beet sugar’ claims on foods labels across the US, producers of high fructose corn syrups (HFCS) – one of the top of the pops candidates for the cause of the obesity epidemic in the US (according to various nutrition nannies) has decided it’s time to take action and join the label lingo game. To make their product more competitive with other sugars sold in the US, they are applying to the Food and Drug Administration to rename HFCS as ‘corn sugar’. They argue that HCFS products are not actually that high in fructose (typically 55%) – they are just higher than regular corn syrup (which is primarily glucose). And they are in fact just a ‘corn sugar’.
How does HFCS compare with sucrose (ie regular cane or beet sugar)? Well sucrose is composed of 50% fructose and 50% glucose. So on the face of it there’s not a huge difference there and that’s why some scientists maintain that sucrose and HCFS are nutritionally equivalent. You can read an interesting summary here.
What about GI? We know that the average GI for cane sugar is moderate (GI 65). As far as we know, no HFCS manufacturer has put their product to the test – certainly no data have been published. In theory the slightly higher fructose content of HFCS 55 might lead to a slightly lower glycemic impact than that of sucrose (regular cane or beet sugar). However, this may be offset by the fact that the glucose and fructose in it is “free” rather than bound together as is the case with the disaccharide sucrose. Sucrose has to be cleaved by the digestive enzyme sucrase before the individual sugars (fructose and glucose) are absorbed. On balance, it is likely that cane sugar sucrose and HCFS 55 have similar GI values.
What about being ‘nutritionally equivalent? Well, unlike ‘corn sugar’, some cane sugar products like brown sugar and raw sugar do contain small amounts of micronutrients including potassium, calcium and magnesium. As does Logicane (GI 50), the world’s first low GI sugar which retains most of the nutrients from the sugar cane, like minerals and antioxidant polyphenols, because of the innovative manufacturing process whereby raw cane sugar is sprayed with a molasses extract, a natural by-product of sugar cane manufacture.
Does this mean you can have more. Not at all. When it comes to calories (and dental caries) the rules haven’t changed. If you want a little sweetness in your life, keep it moderate whether it’s cane sugar, beet sugar or corn sugar (or honey or agave syrup etc for that matter too). What’s moderate consumption? About a teaspoon of sugar in a cup of tea or coffee, a couple of teaspoons on a high fibre, low saturated fat breakfast cereal, or a tablespoon or so in a baked product like a fruity muffin. The total should be no more than about 6–10 teaspoons a day which includes all sources of refined sugar you consume – what’s already in the foods you eat as well as what you add yourself.
If you want to know more about Logicane (currently available in Australia and NZ), drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about the GI Symbol Program
Dr Alan W Barclay, PhD
Chief Scientific Officer
Glycemic Index Foundation (Ltd)
Phone: +61 (0)2 9785 1037
Mob: +61 (0)416 111 046
Fax: +61 (0)2 9785 1037