Panel of Experts Discuss Sweeteners at Experimental Biology 2012 Meeting

I was a consultant to the Corn Refiner’s Association when this posted, but my thoughts and opinions are my own.

I’m back from the Experimental Biology 2012 conference in San Diego. The session: “Fructose, Sucrose, and High Fructose Corn Syrup: Relevant Scientific Findings and Health Implications” created quite a buzz on Twitter. I’ll be posting my summary later this week, but thought you’d enjoy checking out some Tweets right now:

To see more of these you can check out more Tweets in David Despain’s Storify update or check out the hashtags: #EB2012, #sugarshowdown.

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April is always a busy month in the nutrition and wellness world. I’ll be attending my state nutrition conference and I also have the opportunity to be in San Diego for the American Society for Nutrition’s Scientific Sessions at Experimental Biology 2012 from April 21-25.

As a consultant to the Corn Refiners Association, I’m always keeping up on the latest sweetener research, and as you know sugar has been in the news quite a bit as of late, and it’s been a topic of great interest to the nutrition community. I’ll be attending “Fructose, Sucrose and High Fructose Corn Syrup: Relevant Scientific Findings and Health Implications,” where a panel, moderated by Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., RD (Distinguished Professor of Nutrition, The Pennsylvania State University), will explore all sides of the sugar debate.  Using scientific literature, the panel aims to determine if fructose is really a danger or if we are instead putting too much focus on one component of the diet.

Panel guests include big names in sugar science:
•    John White, Ph.D., Founder and President, White Technical Research: Fructose Metabolism in Perspective
•    George Bray, M.D., Chief Division of Clinical Obesity and Metabolism, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Baton Rouge, LA: Fructose: Pure White and Harmful? Fructose by Any Other Name Is a Health Hazard
•    Robert Lustig, M.D., Professor, Clinical Pediatrics, UCSF, San Francisco, CA: The Metabolic Consequences of Fructose: It’s Alcohol Without the Buzz
•    James Rippe, M.D., Rippe Lifestyle Institute, Shrewsbury, MA: The Health Implications of Sucrose, High Fructose Corn Syrup and Fructose: What Do We Really Know?
•    David Klurfeld, Ph.D., Program Leader, U.S. Department of Agriculture – ARS, Beltsville, MD: What Do Government Agencies Consider in the Debate over Added Sugars?

Do you have a question about sugars? If you plan to be at the Meeting, I hope you’ll join us Sunday, April 22 from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. at the San Diego Convention Center, Ballroom 20-D. If you won’t be able to make it, then send your questions my way! I’ll be sitting in on this impressive session and will be able to deliver a few of the most common questions to the panelists. It should be quite interesting, so post your question as a comment below, or if you wish, you can e-mail your questions to me and I will post them (unless you request otherwise). Please post by Thursday, April 19th so I may prepare them for the conference panel.

I’ll be posting tweets live from the panel on April 22, so be sure to follow me on Sunday, April 22 from 3-5pm PST!

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Panel of Experts Discuss Sweeteners at Experimental Biology 2012 Meeting — 13 Comments

  1. Pingback: Take-Away Points from Sugar Session at EB2012 | Chew The Facts

  2. I also consult to the Corn Refiners Association and have followed the sugar issue closely, It seems that Dr. Lustwig stirred up a hornets nest with his opinions about the dangers of sugar. I was pleased however, that he states correctly that the HFCS is not different from ( sucrose)sugar.
    I think most RDs agree that it’s the quantity of sugar consumed that’s the problem. So the issue then is, how to control it? For children that would be the parents. For adults it’s personal choice or responsibility. Banning sugar is not the answer.

    The problem to solve is how did we get to a place where necessary life skills like eating adequate amounts of healthy food and exercising have been lost or never learned and what to do about it?

    • Susan – Absolutely. Consumers need guidance on the “how” to balance eating. That’s what RDs are experts at doing – individualizing meat plans and eating strategies for all ages and sizes.
      Check out my summary, and also Dr. Klurfeld and Dr. Rippe’s sensible advice.

  3. Sugar is 50% glucose and 50% sucrose. High Fructose Corn Syrup is EITHER 55% fructose and 42% glucose OR 42% fructose and 53% glucose (this is the form used in many baking applications.) Agave nectar, the popular natural substitute for sugar, is over 70% fructose. Honey is 49% fructose and 43% glucose. Fruit juice concentrates vary between 52% and 72% fructose. On an individual OR population level, it is the quantity of all types of sugar that would potentially have some effect. However, recent USDA surveys show that we are consuming the majority of our excess calories from fats. The consumption of sugars has fallen significantly in the last 10 years.

  4. I received this question from a fellow RD and am posting for her:
    “In my mind, the crux of the issue is quantity, and they are essentially equally harmful.
    So sugar is 50% fructose and HFCS around 55% fructose, which may not make a difference on an individual basis, but what about on a global level? I can’t see how it could NOT make a difference at a population level.

    Thoughts? I’d love to get an answer to that.”
    ~Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD

    • Hi Cheryl.
      Here’s the answer to your question according to Dr. White:
      The difference in fructose composition between the two is too slight compared to the overwhelming surplus of glucose in the diet (5:1) to affect metabolism.
      Studies from 3 separate laboratories (Havel, Soenen, Rippe) comparing HFCS with sugar (sucrose) demonstrate that many metabolic markers for obesity (glucose, insulin, triglycerides, uric acid, leptin, ghrelin, blood pressure, muscle fat deposition, hunger, satiety) are virtually identical.

  5. Why is there a need to have ANY high fructose corn syrup or other sugars added to products? How much were the speakers paid from food industry? Clearly the added sugar in food products is for one thing to get us to eat more of it! I see the consequnce every day in my office with obesity, cancer and diabetes. The research is clear on the links.

    • Thanks for your question, and I appreciate your concern Linda. I’m sure the session can address this. Much of the research suggesting disease links correlate to high doses of pure fructose. More research is needed that includes sugars in the way that they are present in our actual diets. Consumers do need to understand how to make choices, but I don’t believe they need to eliminate all products with sugar – but instead learn to modify amounts consumed, and read labels to compare and choose.
      As for ‘the more you eat the more you want’ idea – there isn’t firm evidence that sugar is addicting.
      There are many reasons as to why sugar or high fructose corn syrup is used in products – In many cases HFCS serves as a functional ingredient. Sure, you may feel that nobody needs to purchase or eat a packaged chewy granola bar, but it’s the HFCS that keeps it moist, which is what appeals to consumers. Many people can consume products with sugar content and continue to eat a healthy, balanced diet, experiencing no disease. Certainly many people need to be educated to reduce overall sugar in the diet. Lifestyle intervention seems to be the best tack to take.

  6. Will there be any research done using more realistic amounts of HFCS, fructose, etc?
    From what I have understood the research shows some possible correlations but tends to be in amounts that the average human does not consume in their diet.

    • This recommendation was certainly made within the panel. Studies that use large amounts of fructose can have a roll in learning about the metabolic pathways, but are not applicable to how the human diet impacts disease. James Rippe’s research that examines how high fructose corn syrup and sucrose stack up (identically to sucrose) within a normal diet (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17383789) is a more realistic look at how sugars impacts metabolic markers. I’ll be posting a full summary later this week.

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