Beverages sweetened with cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup may affect hunger, satiety, or short-term energy intakes, suggests a new study from the US.
The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, could help support soft drink firm claims that they have been disproportionately blamed for the current obesity epidemic.
"Some companies have made a sincere effort to put sucrose back in soda," said senior author of the study, Adam Drewnowski from the University of Washington. "But there is no direct link between the type of sweetener and obesity. As far as appetite is concerned, cane and corn sugars in beverages are much the same."
Campaigners against the high fructose corn syrup ingredient point to epidemiological studies that have linked the consumption of sweetened beverages and obesity, as well as some science that claims that the body processes the syrup differently than other sugars due to the fructose content, leading to greater fat storage.
However, industry associations like the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) have repeatedly claimed there is no scientific evidence to suggest that HFCS is uniquely responsible for people becoming obese.
The new study was partly financed by the CRA, in association with the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research at the National Institutes of Health, and the American Beverage Association.
The researchers investigated if there was any difference between commercial beverages containing sucrose or HFCS on hunger, satiety, and energy intakes by assigning 37 volunteers (18 women, age range 20 to 29) to consume cola beverages.
The drinks contained the same amount of calories (215 kcal) sweetened with sucrose, 42 per cent HFCS, or 55 per cent HFCS. The drinks were compared to three controls: diet cola (2 kcal), milk containing one per cent fat (215 kcal), and no beverage, and measurements taken at 20-minutes intervals after consumption.
"We found no differences between sucrose- and HFCS-sweetened colas in perceived sweetness, hunger and satiety profiles, or energy intakes at lunch," wrote the researchers.
All four of the caloric drinks were found to partially suppress energy intakes at lunch, while the diet drink and no-beverage control did not.
"In terms of suppressing your appetite, a calorie from high-fructose corn syrup seems to be no different than a calorie from table sugar or a calorie from milk," said Monsivais.
The research was welcomed by the CRA. Audrae Erickson, CRA president 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.
"High fructose corn syrup has nearly the same composition as sugar and honey - roughly half fructose and half glucose - with each having four calories per gram. So it is not surprising that sugar and high fructose corn syrup affect the appetite in the same way."
According to figures published by the World Health Organisation (WHO), in the year 2015 some 2.3 bn adults will be overweight and more than 700 million will suffer from obesity, a pathology that is increasingly being seen in children.
Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
July 2007, Volume 86, Number 1, Pages 116-123
"Sugars and satiety: does the type of sweetener make a difference?"
Authors: P. Monsivais, M.M. Perrigue and A. Drewnowski