Fructose content in popular beverages made with and without high-fructose corn syrup


Objective: Excess fructose consumption is hypothesized to be associated with risk for metabolic disease. Actual fructose consumption levels are difficult to estimate because of the unlabeled quantity of fructose in beverages. The aims of this study were threefold: 1) re-examine the fructose content in previously tested beverages using two additional assay methods capable of detecting other sugars, especially maltose, 2) compare data across all methods to determine the actual free fructose-to-glucose ratio in beverages made either with or without high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and 3) expand the analysis to determine fructose content in commonly consumed juice products.

Methods: Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) and fruit juice drinks that were either made with or without HFCS were analyzed in separate, independent laboratories via three different methods to determine sugar profiles.

Results: For SSBs, the three independent laboratory methods showed consistent and reproducible results. In SSBs made with HFCS, fructose constituted 60.6% ± 2.7% of sugar content. In juices sweetened with HFCS, fructose accounted for 52.1% ± 5.9% of sugar content, although in some juices made from 100% fruit, fructose concentration reached 65.35 g/L accounting for 67% of sugars.

Conclusion: Our results provide evidence of higher than expected amounts of free fructose in some beverages. Popular beverages made with HFCS have a fructose-to-glucose ratio of approximately 60:40, and thus contain 50% more fructose than glucose. Some pure fruit juices have twice as much fructose as glucose. These findings suggest that beverages made with HFCS and some juices have a sugar profile very different than sucrose, in which amounts of fructose and glucose are equivalent. Current dietary analyses may underestimate actual fructose consumption.

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Alex’s Notes: This is a study that is anything but relevant to the super human nation. However, it is still very interesting, and despite my brief rant about how there is nothing to fear from fructose, I do admit that the typical sedentary soda-guzzling Westerner is inflicting serious fructose-based damage upon their body. Americans consume more high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) than any other nation, and fructose consumption specifically has doubled over the last 30 years. Given most of this is through sugar-sweetened beverages, in consideration with the numerous detrimental health effects of excess fructose, the aims of the study at hand was simply to see how much fructose was actually in the ten most popular sodas and juices on the market.

Utilizing three independent laboratories and methodologies,

“The clearest and most consistent finding in this study was that the five most popular [18] HFCS-sweetened sodas made by companies that comprise 90% of the annual beverage market share [18] (Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew, and Sprite) have F:G ratios of 60:40, meaning they contain 50% more fructose than glucose.”

This is interesting because regular sugar is a 50:50 mix, and the most common HFCS is 55:42. We can thank the FDA and their regulations for this discrepancy, since current guidelines for use of HFCS-55 as an ingredient only require it to be a “minimum” of 55% fructose. It is both cost effective and completely legal for companies to use a 90% fructose HFCS and blend it with glucose syrup to bring down the ratio. On a related note, Mexican Coca-Cola had 50% fructose content despite not listing HFCS or fructose on the label, and Pepsi lists sucrose as an ingredient despite absolutely zero sucrose being present in the drink.

Juices, which are commonly advertised as being healthy soda alternatives, did not do any better. Despite not containing HFCS, many use fruit juice concentrates that are naturally rich in fructose (it was named for the fruits that it is most common in, after all). Sunny D and Ocean Spray 100% Cranberry Juice had 60:40 ratios identical to the HFCS sodas. I still can’t believe parents give this stuff to their kids.

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