Is granulated sugar healthier than high fructose corn syrup?

Take home message

The American Medical Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics issued statements that sucrose and high fructose corn syrup are essentially equivalent. In a human diet, they are almost identical.

Likewise, honey, like table sugar, is composed of glucose and fructose. Some of the glucose or fructose isn't bonded together, but in the body, regardless of the source, they end up the same - glucose and fructose.  Honey does contain a few vitamins and minerals, but not many.  Because it is denser than table sugar, a teaspoon of honey has a few more calories (approximately 6).

However, honey, table sugar, and high fructose corn syrup are all added sugars.  A 16 oz coke contains about as much sugar as a banana, apple, and orange.  However, it is very difficult to consume too much sugar by eating fruit.  Fruit also provides other valuable nutrients such as fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and foliage.


Background

What are the urban legends?

  • There is an urban legend that fructose is more harmful than glucose.  However, legends aren't always true.
  • The name "high fructose corn syrup" means that it is high in fructose in comparison with regular sugar.  However, the name is in comparison with corn syrup (which is 100% glucose).
What are the sources of natural sugars?

The three primary sugar molecules are glucose, fructose, and galactose (milk sugar).  All other sugars contain various ratios of these three sugars.  For example, lactose is galactose and glucose.

Most plant tissues contain glucose and fructose. Four of the common sources of sugars are shown below.

Sugar HFC Juice sugar sweeteners

What is the glucose to fructose ratio in the above products?
sources of sweeteners with glocose and fructose


What happens when they enter the small intestine?

All of the above sugars enter the small intestine, where they break down to glucose and fructose molecules. All of the glucose molecules are identical, regardless of their source. All of the fructose molecules are identical, regardless of their source.


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