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Michelle Obama bans corn syrup Should we bring sugar back?

Updated at: Oct 23, 2010
Exercise & Fitness
Written by: Soma DasPublished at: Oct 23, 2010
Michelle Obama bans corn syrup Should we bring sugar back?

US First Lady Michelle Obama bans jelly, cola and packaged fruit juices from the White House kitchen to cut out corn syrup. iTALK gets to the bottom of the sugar VS corn syrup battle

US First Lady Michelle Obama bans jelly, cola and packaged fruit juices from the White House kitchen to cut out corn syrup. iTALK gets to the bottom of the sugar VS corn syrup battle


Eating that divine cupcake was a harakiri for those on diet, primarily thanks to the high levels of refined sugar it contained. Countries like the US shifted to high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), adding it to everything from soft drinks to cakes. As with most trends, the US is seeing a reverse with consumers shunning corn syrup. Should we get back to good old sugar, then?


Nutritionist Anjali Peswani says there is not much difference between the two. Corn starch (used for making corn syrup) was used since it was cheaper than sugar, which had to be imported. Both have high fructose levels and are nothing but different forms of sugar.


Experts rule out banning sugar from your diet since glucose helps maintain the electrolyte balance and boosts blood sugar levels to give instant energy. In response to the rise in blood-glucose levels, the pancreas release insulin which carries glucose to cells that need extra energy.


"Sugar in the form of sucrose or fructose molecules is broken down to glucose by enzymes like Sucrase.


Fructose is present in fruits while sucrose is found in carbohydrates and sugar-free supplements," says Peswani.


However, it's best to consume sugar in moderate doses since it contains empty calories that are bereft of vitamins, minerals or fibre. Recent studies also suggest than a sugar overdose can lead to memory loss, even Alzheimer's.


According to Peswani, it's fine to have up to 2 teaspoons of sugar a day, since the remaining amount is acquired by the body through milk, bread and fruits.


As far as sugar substitutes go, experts are divided on whether they are safe or not. It makes better sense to opt for natural forms of sugar through a balanced diet. "Fruits are natural sweeteners that also contain fibre (aids digestion) and nutrients like potassium, magnesium and Vitamins A and C. They are easily absorbed, add to bone density and repair wear and tear of the body," Peswani says.


7 easy ways to cut down on sugar without compromising on taste

  • Do not add sugar to milk since it is naturally sweet.
  • If you have iced tea, ask for sugar syrup given on the side so that you can control what you consume.
  • Have fresh lime soda with salt instead of sugar.
  • Add dates and figs to milk shakes rather than sugar. They have carbohydrates and iron.
  • Instead of having your bread with jam or jelly, have it with mint or coriander chutney.
  • Add honey to iced tea and milk shakes.
  • Cut down on refined foods like maida, burger, chocolates and breads. Have dark chocolate since the cocoa content is more, sugar content less.

Artificial sweeteners are an option


Dr Shashank Shah Obesity Consultant, Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital


Corn syrup is more sweet than sugar, so, you can use half the quantity for the same sweetness. However, it is not low in calories and can leave you overweight if you are not careful. It is better than sugar but it is always advisable to consume natural sources of sugar through fruits like apples, oranges and chickoos. For those who are overweight, artificial sweeteners are an option.


What if you are diabetic?


Dr Manoj Chadha Consultant Endocrinologist, Hinduja Hospital


Sugar or maple syrup do not cause diabetes. However, by adding to empty calories they can lead to obesity which promotes Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.


Refined sugar is a carbohydrate source with a high glycaemic index (increase blood sugar levels rapidly).


Complex carbohydrates like wheat, jowar and bajra contribute (like sugar) 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate but have a lower glycaemic index. Thus, the rise in sugar levels is less and diabetic patients are encouraged to have complex carbohydrates.


Diabetics can have 1 or 2 fruit equivalent (50 calories). One fruit equivalent is a medium-sized apple, orange or 2 medium slices of pineapple or half a banana or mango. They should refrain from drinking fruit juices since they lack fibre. Opt for fresh fruits over fruit juice or fruit-flavoured drinks. Even 100% natural packaged fruit juices have high concentration of sugar.


US President Barack Obama's household will no longer see corn syrup. Wife Michelle said that over the last year, the entire family has shifted to organic food and are setting up an organic garden in the White House. The change occurred when their daughter Sasha was declared obese by a paediatrician and Michelle started looking through the kitchen cabinet and realised they were eating fast food several days a week and drinking packaged fruit juices. She read the labels to see that there's high-fructose corn syrup in everything. Now, the family gets their sugar dose from fruits, instead.



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