Refiners see vindication in HFCS hunger effects study

by Josh Sosland
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WASHINGTON — A study indicating little difference between the effects on satiety of soft drinks sweetened with sugar and those containing high-fructose corn syrup or sugar should help dispel the association between HFCS and the nation’s rising obesity rates, according to the Corn Refiners Association.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, represents only the latest example within a growing body of research suggesting those seeking to understand rising obesity rates are looking in the wrong place when focusing on HFCS, the group said.

"This new study on sweetened beverages supports previous research showing there is very little difference between high-fructose corn syrup and sugar from the perspective of the human body," said Audrae Erickson, C.R.A. president.

Researchers on the study, all from the University of Washington in Seattle, were Pablo Monsivais, Martine M. Perrigue and Adam Drewnowski.

In the study, "Sugars and satiety: does the type of sweetener make a difference?" the authors noted the "introduction of corn sweeteners into the U.S. food supply is said to have contributed to the current obesity epidemic."

Noting the proliferation of HFCS nearly coincides with the beginning of a period of rising obesity rates, the authors added, "Temporal parallels between HFCS consumption patterns and body-weight trends are not sufficient to show causality." They added that obesity rates also are climbing in countries where HFCS is not a common sweetener.

In the study, funded by the American Beverage Association, the Corn Refiners Association and by a fellowship from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, 37 participants in their twenties were recruited at the University of Washington.

Potential subjects were normal-weight to overweight, did not smoke and were not following a diet to lose or gain weight. The group was screened to exclude individuals with possible eating disorders or restrained eating patterns.

The study was conducted on six occasions from 9:30 a.m. until 1:10 p.m. in sessions separated by at least one week. Subjects were asked to eat similar dinners the evening before each session and a specified breakfast at 8 a.m. before coming in for the study.

During the session, participants rated their hunger, fullness, thirst, nausea and desire to eat every 20 minutes. At 10:10 a.m. they were served one of five beverages: either Sam’s Choice cola or Cott Beverages cola, both sweetened with HFCS 42; Coca-Cola Classic, sweetened with HFCS 55; Coca-Cola Classic, sweetened with sucrose; Diet Coke, sweetened with aspartame; and Darigold 1% fat milk. In a sixth session, participants received no morning beverage.

To keep sweetness and energy consistent (except for the diet soft drink), the amount served was allowed to vary between 16 and 17.75 oz.

At 12:30 p.m., subjects were served a large meal (1,708 calories). Each meal included two grains, two types of fruit, two vegetables, two cheeses, two meats, two candies, one yogurt, one ice cream cup, hummus, chips and water (20 oz).

Subjects were told they could eat as little or as much as they liked and that they could request unlimited additional portions. Food served and food left behind was weighed and analyzed using Food Processor software.

The results indicated similar satiety levels between the colas sweetened with HFCS 42, HFCS 55 and sucrose. Energy intake at lunch also was similar between the three.

"There was no evidence that commercial cola beverages sweetened with either sucrose or HFCS have significantly different effects on hunger, satiety or short-term energy intakes," the authors said.

Ms. Erickson said the study’s results are hardly surprising since HFCS has roughly the same composition as sugar and honey, roughly half fructose and half glucose.

She said the findings were consistent with another study, from 2003, showing soft drinks, orange juice and low-fat milk all had about the same effects on hunger and three other studies finding no differences in the metabolic effects of HFCS and sucrose.

"These studies are in line with other research showing that high-fructose corn syrup is not a unique contributor to the worldwide rise in obesity and diabetes," Ms. Erickson said. "U.S. Department of Agriculture data show that per capita consumption of HFCS is actually on the decline in the United States yet obesity and diabetes rates continue to rise."

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