We've all heard negative news about sugar. With our nation's elevated incidences of obesity, diabetes and general ill-health, consumers are keenly aware sugar is something that perhaps should be curtailed or, in certain cases, avoided. Add to this the theory that refined corn sugar has helped contribute some of those pounds, and it's no wonder consumers are a bit confused about the role sugar and other sweeteners have in our daily lives.

Apparently, a series of commercials that recently aired--which included a spot where one mom gently chastises the other for serving juice with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), but then is enlightened by the second mom--didn't have the impact the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) expected. According to an item in Prepared Foods' Daily News (9/16/10), independent research showed nearly 58% of respondents believed HFCS has more fructose than other table sugar, despite the fact that [HFCS] and table sugar contain approximately the same amount of fructose.

Realizing a new tactic is needed, the CRA last month petitioned the FDA to allow food and beverage manufacturers to use the alternative name corn sugar, instead of HFCS. The association's president, Audrae Erickson, was quoted as saying the new term "succinctly and accurately describes what this natural ingredient is and where it comes from--corn."  Furthermore, a press release from the CRA states HFCS is "not high in fructose when compared with other commonly used nutritive sweeteners, including table sugar, honey and fruit juice concentrates. Like table sugar, it is roughly half glucose and half fructose and is metabolized by the body in the same way as regular table sugar...In fact...[it] is lower in fructose than table sugar."

Perhaps that is where the issue lies. It's not that HFCS is necessarily a "bad" ingredient; it's simply that most Americans aren't familiar with the many forms of sugar in our food and drink, or the suggested daily limits (9 teaspoons, 150Kcal, for men; and about 6 teaspoons, 100Kcal, for women). I think giving consumers more information about how HFCS compares to other sweeteners is a good strategy.

In 2008, the American Dietetic Association agreed HFCS is "nutritionally equivalent to sucrose" and that it also contains the same number of calories per gram. The ADA also stated the two sweeteners were indistinguishable, once they were absorbed into the bloodstream. I think this is the type of information many educated consumers would like to know; it helps level the playing field for sugar ingredients.