Is Soda Higher in Fructose Than Previously Thought?

Statement of CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson

October 27, 2010

If the findings of new laboratory analysis of popular soft drinks can be replicated, the soda industry will have a lot of explaining to do. The study, fittingly published in the journal Obesity, claims that up to 65 percent of the sugars in Coca-Cola and Pepsi are fructose. That’s surprising, because the soda industry has always claimed that the high-fructose corn syrup used in soda is only 55 percent fructose—a percentage much closer to that of table sugar, or sucrose, which is 50 percent fructose.

Because the new analyses seem so improbable, confirmatory studies using the best analytical method need to be done before the alarm bells ring too loudly.

Most scientists haven’t been willing to say that high-fructose corn syrup is some kind of nutritional boogeyman that is much worse than ordinary sugar because both are roughly half fructose and half glucose. If Coke and Pepsi actually contained much higher levels of fructose, that would make those and other HFCS-sweetened drinks even more harmful than previously thought since fructose appears to be especially conducive to weight gain.

But no one should think that they’d be doing themselves a huge favor by switching to soft drinks made with sugar. Regardless of the percentage of fructose to glucose, the main problem with sugars is that they are an empty source of calories. Even worse, consumed in liquid form, those calories don’t provide the same kind of satiety solid foods do. As a result, all sugary soft drinks promote weight gain, obesity, diabetes, tooth decay, and other serious health problems.


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