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HFCS does not cause obesity or diabetes: report

By Laura Crowley , 16-Jun-2008

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) has released a science policy paper to correct misconceptions that abound in the industry regarding the safety of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

There is no evidence to suggest the nutritive sweetener contributes to obesity or that is causes diabetes, said scientists at the GMA.



"Consumers can be reassured that HFCS is just like any other caloric sweetener to be enjoyed in moderation in the context of a health-promoting lifestyle," said Robert Brackett, chief science officer for the GMA.



In fact, he said the sweetener has numerous positive attributes ranging from "taste, texture and versatility".



The paper is one in a series of GMA publications designed to approach the science behind the most talked-about food issues among consumers and policymakers.



It includes significant peer-reviewed articles, regulatory considerations, food and beverage applications and market insights.



Responding to misconceptions



HFCS is made from corn and is similar in composition to sucrose (table sugar). They also contain the same amount of calories - four calories per gram.



The product was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1983, and that decision was reaffirmed in 1996.



The report says: "The role of carbohydrates in diet and health, in particular sugars, is not understood well by the public. Misperceptions abound about HFCS, and are not supported by a well-established body of rigorous nutritional science."



Over the past few years, scientists have suggested that increased consumption of HFCS has contributed to the rise in numbers of overweight and obese people in the US.



The Center for Food, Nutrition and Agriculture Policy (CFNAP) at the University of Maryland convened an expert panel to review the scientific evidence that had built up around the issue.



It concluded: "HFCS does not appear to contribute to overweight and obesity any differently than any other energy sources."



It added that further research is needed.



While research has shown that sugars do not cause diabetes, there have been many recent studies hypothesizing that HFCS may have a role to play in the development of the disease. However, the paper disputes this.



Similarly, it says there is limited scientific evidence suggesting added sugars may contribute to colorectal cancer, but not other forms of cancer.



Benefits



HFCS is generally less expensive than other sweeteners on the market. However, it has often been chosen for positive attributes that extend beyond cost, said the report.



It is said to have a similar sweetness and flavor profile to sucrose, but able to better control microbial growth and crystallization.



HFCS is also considered to help retain texture in canned and baked goods, promote controlled browning in baked goods and breakfast cereals, remain stable in temperature fluctuations and to blend easily with other ingredients.



Additionally, it has a lower freezing point, making frozen beverage concentrates more easy to more, and is more readily fermentable than sucrose in yeast-leavened breads.



This portrayal of sugar as the natural alternative is important in today's health conscious, greener, market. However, the FDA has said that it does not consider HFCS to be natural.



The largest user of HFCS is the US soft drink industry, followed by the processed food and baking industries.



According to recent comments made by Simon Bentley, head of research into sugars, sweeteners and starches at business consultancy LMC International, some food and beverage manufacturers may switch from HFCS to sugar as a result of high corn prices, but this is only likely to be the case for relatively small scale users.



To access GMA's science policy paper on High Fructose Corn Syrup visit: http://www.gmabrands.com/publications/SciPol_HFCS_0602.pdf .

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