Over the weekend, 10 million shoppers at Wal-Mart stores received free cans of Sierra Mist Natural, PepsiCo’s reformulated version of its lemon-lime soda. The difference between the old pop version and the new? Sierra Mist Natural is produced with table sugar (made from beets or cane), rather than with high fructose corn syrup (made from corn), and PepsiCo is trying to convince soda drinkers there’s a difference between the two sweeteners. But those consumers have been deceived by an increasingly popular myth about corn sugar perpetuated by researchers who now admit they had it wrong. Perhaps Sierra Missed the memo that high fructose corn syrup is no different from table sugar.
The research couldn’t be any clearer that swapping out foods made with corn sugar in favor of foods made with white sugar isn’t a cure for the obesity problem. Both sweeteners have the same number of calories and virtually the same molecular structure. Both sugars are equally “natural.” Yet high fructose corn syrup takes the bulk of the blame in the battle of the bulge.
Why? A few notable nutrition researchers were a little quick on the trigger about the so-called danger of high fructose corn syrup, and only now are they starting to admit it. Last year, University of North Carolina professor Barry Popkin recanted his theories, confessing: “We were wrong in our speculations on high fructose corn syrup about their link to weight.” His co-author, George Bray, also now agrees that “sugar is sugar.”
Unfortunately, Bray and Popkin’s capitulation may be coming a little late if shoppers are still getting duped by soda giveaways. They should still get to hear the truth about corn sugar.