For a number of products in need of a sweetener, it seems like everything old is becoming new again, particularly in beverages. Just this summer, Dr Pepper launched a limited run of its signature beverage "made with real sugar," and Dr Pepper Snapple Group was mulling sugar-sweetened versions of others in its stable, including Canada Dry, 7-Up and A&W Root Beer.

Whether justified or not, consumer concerns about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) have prompted similar switches back to sugar in a number of high-profile brands. For the past two summers, PepsiCo has marketed sugar-sweetened versions of Pepsi and Mountain Dew, marketed under the "Throwback" banner and featuring packaging designs from the 1970s and 1980s. The company's newly launched Sierra Mist Natural likewise features sugar. Similarly, Coca-Cola Co. features a kosher, sugar-sweetened Coke often around Passover.

While some consumers may be eschewing HFCS and seeking sugar-sweetened versions of their favorites, a study from earlier this year squarely blames sugar-sweetened sodas, sports drinks and fruit drinks for the uptick in the nation's increase rates of diabetes and heart disease. At the American Heart Association's 50th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention earlier this year, study lead investigator Litsa Lambrakos, M.D., internal medicine resident at the University of California--San Francisco, presented research estimating that the increased consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages between 1990 and 2000 contributed to 130,000 new cases of diabetes, 14,000 new cases of coronary heart disease (CHD), and 50,000 additional life-years burdened by coronary heart disease over the past decade. (See

Sugar-sweetened soda, sport and fruit drinks (not 100% fruit juice) contain 120-200 calories per drink, and thus play a role in the nation's rising tide of obesity, researchers said. Previous research ("Sugar-sweetened Beverages and Risk of Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes," Vasanti S. Malik, et. al, Diabetes Care, November 2011 - has linked daily consumption of these sugary beverages to an increased risk of diabetes, even apart from excessive weight gain. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommended an upper limit of half of the discretionary calorie allowance from added sugars, which for most American women is no more than 100 calories per day and, for most American men, is no more than 150 calories per day from added sugars. Sugar-sweetened beverages should be limited to 450 calories or less per week (36oz), based on a 2000-calorie per day diet, per AHA recommendations.

The world’s obesity epidemic clearly has any number of causes and results not solely from HFCS consumption. In fact, numerous health experts point to changes in lifestyles, the availability of more less-expensive food options, increased restaurant dining and a less physically active population.

From the November 1, 2010, Prepared Foods E-dition