Last week, you published a column by Chuck Norris titled, "Is America's favorite food really evil?" with a tagline "Chuck Norris delivers straight answers on sweeteners." After reading the article, it seems Mr. Norris did little more than recap highlights from the "60 Minutes" story, instilling unnecessary fear among readers. As a dietitian, I hope to provide some perspective.
While it is true Americans need to reduce caloric intake, it is misguided to simply suggest that added sugars, including HFCS, are the culprits of weight gain. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, added sugar consumption has declined in the American diet by 39 percent between 1998-2010, but obesity rates still continue to climb.
Further, sugar and HFCS are almost molecularly identical; half glucose and half fructose. In 2008, the American Medical Association's Council on Science and Public Health concluded that "because the composition of high fructose corn syrup and sucrose are so similar, it appears unlikely that high fructose corn syrup contributes more to obesity or other conditions than sucrose."
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Norris' article claims that these sugars – fructose and glucose – are similar to poisonous substances. This only serves to scare and confuse consumers, which is unfortunate because these sugars are perfectly safe in our diets as long as we are practicing moderation and consuming sensible portions.
All calories count when managing weight, including those from sugars like fructose, thus it is very important for individuals to balance calorie intake with energy output along with adding more whole foods and fiber.
Donna Shields, MS, RD
Consultant to the food and beverage companies including The Coca-Cola Company